US Catholic Faith in Real Life

The Dark Knight

By Patrick McCormick |

Directed by Christopher Nolan (Warner Brothers, 2008)

The truth understood by every 14-year-old comic book fan is that we love superheroes not because they are “faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound,” but because these steel-bodied crusaders can beat the living daylights out of the most satanic boogeymen.

The Geography of Light

By Heidi Schlumpf |

Carrie Newcomer (Rounder, 2008)

Back when I used to sort my CDs into categories (back when I still bought CDs), one section was devoted to inspirational female artists whose lyrics spoke to my life’s experiences. Too bad I didn’t know about Carrie Newcomer back then. She would have fit in perfectly with the Indigo Girls, Alanis Morissette, and Dar Williams.


By Patrick T. Reardon |

By Ron Hansen (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008)

The pivotal moment in Ron Hansen's Exiles comes almost exactly midway through the 225-page book.

A fellow Jesuit seminarian scans a poem that Gerard Manley Hopkins is writing about the 1875 shipwreck of the German passenger ship the Deutschland and expresses befuddlement at its odd rhymes and rhythms. Yes, Hopkins says, those are so odd that poetry magazines will never publish the work.

A Long Retreat: In Search of a Religious Life

By James T. Keane, S.J. |

By Andrew Krivak (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008)

What happens when a young person in a secular age feels God calling him to a decidedly countercultural way of life? The minutiae of such journeys have formed many a memoir. In A Long Retreat: In Search of a Religious Life, writer Andrew Krivak looks back on eight years in the Society of Jesus with fondness, wonder, and occasional misgivings, but most of all with refreshing self-awareness and candor.

Smart People

By Patrick McCormick |

Directed by Noam Murro (Miramax, 2008)

In a land where brains and hard work are supposed to produce success and happiness, there are a lot of smart, miserable failures. Noam Murro's dark but heartfelt comedy about a widowed and depressed literature professor and his dysfunctional brood takes a long, loving look at a clan of bright but clueless souls who keep stomping on one another's toes in their quest for love.


By Danny Duncan Collum |

Kathy Mattea (R.E.D. Distribution, 2008)

Kathy Mattea has always been an odd country music star. She's an environmental activist in a genre that often glorifies gas-guzzling trucks. She's a classically trained singer with folk leanings in a business now dominated by simplistic pop-rock. And she's a Catholic in a world in which most of the artists, and their audiences, are evangelical Protestants.

Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life

By Heidi Schlumpf |

By Kathleen Norris (Riverhead, 2008)

Did you know there used to be eight deadly sins? In the era of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, monks called them "bad thoughts" and included acedia (ah-SEE-dia), later subsumed into "sloth," which eventually emphasized physical, rather than spiritual laziness. Acedia has been defined as absence of care, soul weariness, melancholy, ennui, or despair.