Archive | July, 2015

Is hunting lions a bad idea?

July 30, 2015

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Licensed under the Creative Commons

Licensed under Creative Commons Public License

This is generally a slow time of year when it comes to hunting. Up until yesterday, when a firestorm of emotional reaction accompanied a story about local dentist Dr. Walter Palmer shooting a collared lion in Zimbabwe that ended up being, not only collared for research, but well-known and adored by locals.

I have never understood the trophy hunting mentality that drives someone to pay $50,000 to shoot an animal so that they can display it in their trophy. I am not necessarily against trophy hunting, but for me, there’s much more to it than just getting a cape or a set of horns.

For the most part, I hunt for the experience and the opportunity to harvest an animal that I can use to feed family and friends. I am not nearly as selective as some. When I am in a deer stand, for example, I am more likely than not to take a shot at a deer that walks by, if it is a legal deer.

Yet, I have no problem with a hunter who passes on a smaller buck in order to try for a bigger one. The key for me is fair chase and following the rules and regulations. That’s what makes hunting both legitimate and noble.

Seems like there may have been some rules violations in the case of the lion. If that ends up being the case, then I support due process in investigating the incident and taking appropriate law enforcement action.

But, that’s all. Going crazy on social media, protesting in front of Palmer’s house, and making threats to him and his legitimate dental practice is going way too far. This is my biggest problem with the animal rights movement. They want to go after and villify people who engage in hunting. This incident is their opportunity.

I’m fine with them writing essays, blog posts and letters to the editor of newspapers and magazines. By all means, make your point. But then, please show respect for others and don’t try to harass and persecute someone.

I can’t help but wonder how these animal rights activists feel about what’s going on at Planned Parenthood. I suspect they have no problem with abortion. For me, that’s a huge disconnect.

Years ago, someone from Greenpeace came to my home to talk about the slaughter of whales. When I asked her how she felt about abortion, she said, “Well, that’s a woman’s choice.”

I can’t imagine such a line would satisfy animal rights activists today: “Well, that’s a hunter’s choice.”

So, what’s the difference between a lion and an unborn child? Why is it considered evil to shoot a collared lion for sport, but perfectly fine to kill an unborn child and sell the body parts for profit?

That is the question I wish I could discuss with any animal rights advocate.

My final thought on the matter is this: As a professional photographer, I would much rather shoot a lion with my camera than my gun or bow. In fact, an African photo safari is something I hope to do in my lifetime.

If I am able to put a lion on my wall, I want it to be a beautiful, framed picture.

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Rare and awesome bow hunting advice

July 14, 2015

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I first met Jim Hill back in the early 1990s. I was working as a sports editor at the Bloomington Sun-Current chain of weekly newspapers, and a reader suggested I do a story on Hill, who lives in the western suburbs and works in Eden Prairie.

I was told Hill had shot not one giant whitetail buck, but two, in the same season, one in Minnesota and one in a neighboring state. Thought it was worth looking into, so I called Jim and went to pay him a visit.

He showed me photos of the two bruisers he took with his bow, and I published one of them, the Minnesota buck. I also got some valuable hunting lessons that day, plus a Scent-Lok suit from Jim, who was a rep for the company (I think he still is).

I stored those lessons, and have met up with Jim a few times since. He even went scouting with me a while back on a property near Red Wing where I hunt.

I caught up with him last week and told him I had taken up bow hunting five years ago and managed to take three deer with a bow over the last two seasons.

I was itching for more knowledge and asked Jim if we could sit down and talk. He gladly agreed, and we had a very productive conversation at a local Perkins restaurant in Bloomington.

It’s rare to meet a bow hunter of Jim’s caliber, rarer still to sit down and get some tips. Not only that, he agreed to go out with me to a new property I’ll be hunting this fall near Red Wing.

How cool is that? This is a guy who routinely shoots bucks bigger than anything I may ever see. Last fall, for example, he shot a giant buck in Kansas that he says had a gross antler score of 200-plus inches. Wow! He showed me a picture on his phone, and I don’t think he was exaggerating one bit.

I made it clear to him that I am not looking for something like that. Rather, I want to have close encounters with deer and, hopefully, get a nice-sized buck this fall. In the area where I hunt, a buck has to have at least four antler points on one side to be legal. So, I will be passing on the smaller bucks.

But, if any legal buck passes by and offers a good shot, I likely will take it. Jim was not judgmental in the least, and fully supported my goal. After all, I’m still relatively new to archery hunting, and I want to have more practice at taking shots at deer. Thus, I don’t think passing up legal deer is a good idea for me.

I’m hoping Jim can help me have success. I believe he can, especially if he comes down to scout with me. In return, I will try to help him find a place to hunt down there. Because of the antler restriction, I know there are big bucks running around — and lots of them.

Are there the huge bucks Jim goes after? Hard to say. These giants are rare no matter where you hunt, and it takes a hunter with special skill — and patience — to take them.

Jim definitely is that kind of hunter. I am very, very grateful that he has offered to help me. If he can identify the right stand locations, and give me tips on how to set up and hunt, I should have a fun fall!

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Best books in the Catholic Press, 2014

July 14, 2015

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Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 2.04.06 PMIf you’re looking for worthwhile reading in several religious genre — faith formation, spirituality, theology, liturgy, teens and young readers, Catholic novels and many more — those who judge the annual book awards of the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada have chosen these as the best of their class in the books published in 2014.

The judges’ comments make the list particularly valuable for those of us who have to be selective in our reading choices. Here goes:

B01: POPULAR PRESENTATION OF THE CATHOLIC FAITH

First Place

The Jesuit Post by Patrick Gilger, SJ, Orbis Books

Lively, witty, entertaining–modern, “with it” and of-the-moment writing likely to appeal to a contemporary audience geared to new ways of communicating. James Martin’s introduction is a plus to these compelling personal essays on faith and religious practices.

Second Place

Walking God’s Earth by David Cloutier, Liturgical Press

Important and impressive in its treatment of the Christian obligation to care for God’s creation yet written in a lyrical and literary style likely to appeal to a wide audience, including academics and professionals. The opening invitation to “take a walk” is irresistible.

Third Place

Sexuality and Morality: Answers for Modern Catholics by Charles E. Bouchard, OP, Liguori Publications

A useful, handy and modern consideration of sexual morality and sacramental marriage written with candor and understanding of contemporary concerns and realities.

Honorable Mention

Being on Fire by Richard G. Malloy, SJ, Orbis Books

Subtitled “The Top Ten Essentials of Catholic Faith,” this book commends itself for its light, personal style, leaning on stories about people and events to make its points.

Honorable Mention

This is Our Faith by Thomas P. Rausch, SJ, Paulist Press

A thorough, well-organized and reliable presentation written in a scholarly style without being pedantic.

B02a: SPIRITUALITY: Soft Cover

First Place

Good Saint John XXIII by Bro. Mickey McGrath, OSFS, Clear Faith Publishing

The book is artistically creative. A wide audience of readers – people of all ages and of various stages of interest in books about spirituality will find it appealing on many levels. Its content features quotes from Pope John XX111 and Pope Francis that radiate a contagious joy. It isn’t often that one can pick up a book on spirituality and find that each quote on each page engenders enthusiasm and encouragement for pursuing the spiritual life. Persons who pick up the book for the first time will find themselves picking it up again and again.

Second Place

The Beggar’s Banquet: A Personal Retreat on Christ, His Mother, the Spiritual Life, and the Saints by Regis Martin, Emmaus Road Publishing

How rare to find a book that’s — all at once — poetic, theologically rich, entertaining, and accessible. Martin draws from voices as diverse as Eliot, Pascal, Dickens, Balthasar, Barth (and countless canonized saints) to make his points. But he’s always telling stories, and always relating his reading to his own struggles, and so the book never feels academic. His humor is a singularity in the Catholic world and should probably be protected by UNESCO. He uses it to good effect and for the best purposes. For that especially this judge is deeply grateful.

Third Place

Signs: Seven Words of Hope by Jean Vanier, Paulist Press

Jean Vanier is an author every Christian should come to know. He founded the L’Arche communities and recently received the prestigious Templeton Prize. This book can serve as an excellent introduction to his particular spirit. He offers a profound and practical vision for reforming society — reforming community — through love expressed in simple deeds. He worries that Catholics are losing their steam, their zeal and enthusiasm, and he offers these brief meditations as a way to help us regain our vitality and effectiveness. The book will certainly succeed with those who read it. The world will be better for that.

Honorable Mention

The Song That I Am by Élisabeth-Paule Labat, Liturgical Press

Unusual, beautiful, intelligent.

Honorable Mention

A Book of Uncommon Prayer by Brian Doyle, Ave Maria Press

Brian Doyle writes prayers with a directness and in a manner unadorned with traditional piety. He speaks out of the circumstances of his life and his prayers reflect the raw emotions that arise from these circumstances. Doyle is a gifted writer who has the ability to engage the reader in the story of his life that is revealed in his prayers. The honesty with which he prays has the effect of enticing the reader to consider praying out of one’s own experiences – realizing that the most authentic prayers are drawn from the cloth of ordinary life.

B02b: SPIRITUALITY: Hard Cover

First Place

Sacred Fire by Ronald Rolheiser, OMI, Image, Penguin Random House

In his newest book, Ronald Rolheiser continues from where his contemporary classic The Holy Longing left off – how to go beyond the essential basics and seek a more mature Christian discipleship. In this second phase of discipleship – “the struggle to give our lives away” – Rolheiser uses invitations from the Gospels to guide us in our search, discusses the role of blessings in mature discipleship, and presents ten commandments for mature living. This book is a must for anyone who desires a deeper understanding of discipleship and spiritual awareness.

Second Place

The Church of Mercy by Pope Francis, Loyola Press

Excerpts from homilies, addresses and papers are beautifully organized and presented in this first Vatican-authorized book detailing Pope Francis’ vision for the Catholic Church. A must read for not only Catholics but anyone who wants to understand Pope Francis’ message of mercy and hope.

Third Place

Jesus: A Pilgrimage by James Martin, HarperOne

Another winner from the gifted spiritual writer James Martin. This time join him in a journey through the Gospels on Martin’s pilgrimage through the Holy Land. Insightful, touching, funny. When you are done, you will know Jesus in a deeper, more personal way.

Honorable Mention

The Way of Serenity: Finding Peace and Happiness in the Serenity Prayer by Jonathan Morris, HarperOne

A welcome new look at a popular and powerful prayer. Father Jonathan Morris explores each line of the Serenity Prayer in depth, helping his readers gain a new spiritual understanding and deeper discernment through personal stories, biblical passages and historical anecdotes.

B03: THEOLOGY

First Place

Mary’s Bodily Assumption by Matthew Levering, University of Notre Dame Press

In taking up Catholic teaching on the Assumption, Levering engages in a theological development that touches on Scripture, magisterial teaching, critical scholarship and objections in a manner that speaks to theological process and faith development. The mind is enlightened and the heart inspired in this work that provides a solid basis for understanding the Church’s dogmatic teaching that Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven.

Second Place

Mercy: The Essence of the Gospel and the Key to Christian Life by Cardinal Walter Kasper, Paulist Press

With his typical clarity and impressive ability to synthesize a broad range of material (biblical, historical, theological, and ethical), Cardinal Kasper provides a compelling vision of God’s mercy in Christian life. Given the upcoming Jubilee Year of Mercy, the book is also timely.

Third Place

Catholic Moral Theology and Social Ethics by Maria Christina A. Astorga, Orbis Books

Combining a remarkable array of methods and trends since the Second Vatican Council, along with an emphasis on Ignatian discernment, this volume lays out a rich account of moral theology and social ethics that is especially attuned to the complex issues of globalization.

Honorable Mention

Discovering the Human Person: In Conversation with John Paul II by Stanis?aw Grygiel, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

No one in this present age of the Church has not been touched at some level by the life, teaching and witness of St. Pope John Paul II. Grygiel opens the window into the person of Karol Wojtyla – a man “who lived day in and day out a profound Christian personalism” which formed the foundation for his vision of the human person and the life of faith. We are given a glimpse into this extraordinary conversation and friendship that reveals John Paul II’s conviction that it is the communion of persons that embraces human freedom and where the truth is revealed.

B04a: SCRIPTURE: Popular Studies

First Place

Sunday Homilies, Saint Vincent Archabbey, Cycle B by Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B., and Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B., Saint Vincent Archabbey Publications

In this book, two fine scholars write simple, practical homily reflections for every Sunday of the Liturgical year. Each homily reflection provides a concise, insightful summary of the Gospel, obviously the fruit of years of study and contemplation of the passage! Each reflection also includes a wise life application that truly enables the Sunday Gospel to be lived in the ordinary moments of life that occur every day of the week. The insights in to the human heart provided in the “Life Implication” section of each chapter are profound. There are no excess words, which provides an excellent example for homilists.

Second Place

Sick, And You Cared For Me by Rob Bell, James Martin, SJ, Jan Richardson, Richard Rohr, OFM, et al, Clear Faith Publishing

The quality of writing, particularly of story telling is superb. Several of the most talented homilies of our time are featured in this compilation. It inspires those who may be looking for new material for effective preaching as well as the casual reader. Although the chapters are designed to be read for each Sunday of the Liturgical calendar, I could not put it down and read the entire year in an afternoon. Additionally the proceeds of this book, in the spirit of our Pope Francis, will go to benefit the homeless.

Third Place

Welcome to the Feast by Clifford Yeary, Liturgical Press

Synthesizing biblical and eucharistic theology in readable language is a gift the the Church. The charts are brilliant. At times the language is a bit too technical for the popular reader.

Honorable Mention

Faith in the Face of Empire by Mitri Raheb, Orbis Books

Honorable Mention

Living the Word in Lent 2014 by Alan J. Hommerding, World Library Publications

B04b: SCRIPTURE: Academic Studies

First Place

True and Holy by Leo Lefebure, Orbis Books

This book makes an invaluable contribution to the field of interreligious relationships by proposing a generous and hospitable way of interpreting the Bible rather than a way of hostility and contention. Lefebure ably constructs a bridge to mutual respect and understanding that will encourage open, positive interreligious dialogue.

Marked by in-depth scholarship, this timely book will reward the reader with a deepened understanding of the history of Christian relations with other major religions. It underscores the connection between biblical interpretation and the interplay with differing faiths and their holy books.

In the ongoing drama involving contentious interreligious relations, this book will play an important role in mitigating long-held hostile biblical interpretations and fostering hospitable ones. This is truly a book whose time has come!

Second Place

The Jesus Movement and Its Expansion: Meaning and Mission by Sean Freyne, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

This book offers readers the opportunity to take a trip into the time of Jesus that will vastly expand their knowledge and understanding of the living, dynamic environment of the world in which Jesus lived. Freyne shows how a knowledge of this ancient world brings a deepened understanding of the Gospel stories. His narrative is enriched by the skillful interweaving of the most recent archeological and literary research with the matrix in which Jesus lived. The reader is greatly helped to follow the narrative by referring to the Tables of significant dates and events that are strategically placed in the text.  

This book combines the awesome scholarship of the author with his remarkable ability to express his work in an interesting and fascinating manner. Anyone who is fortunate enough to read this book will be rewarded with a newly-found appreciation of the life and times of Jesus.

Third Place

Biblical Essays in Honor of Daniel J. Harrington, SJ, and Richard J. Clifford, SJ: Opportunity for No Little Instruction by Edited by Christopher G. Frechette, Christopher R. Matthews, and Thomas D. Stegman, SJ, Paulist Press

This book is a fitting tribute to Richard J. Clifford, SJ and Daniel J. Harrington, SJ, two eminent biblical scholars, renowned for their skillful pedagogical ability. Distinguished contemporary scholars have collaborated to produce this volume of essays that reflect the broad interests of both honorees. It is seldom that one has the opportunity to read scholarly discussions on a wide range of relevant biblical topics written by eighteen of the foremost biblical scholars of today.

For those who are interested in biblical scholarship related to a variety of topics, this book contains “something for everyone.” Without doubt it can be recommended as a biblical literary feast!

Honorable Mention

Letter & Spirit, Vol. 9: Christ and the Unity of Scripture by St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, Emmaus Road Publishing

This compilation of essays makes the case that salvation history is unified by the fact that Christ is present from the stories of the Old Testament through the stories of the New Testament. A scholarly work of great importance!

Honorable Mention

Saint Paul: Master of the Spiritual Life “in Christ” by Elliott C. Maloney, Liturgical Press

This book reveals Paul, his life and his teaching in a way that is bound to deeply affect the reader. Through the scholarly work of Maloney, readers will come to understand Paul and his writings in a way that will profoundly enrich their spiritual lives “in Christ.”

B05: LITURGY

First Place

Local Worship, Global Church by Mark R. Francis, Liturgical Press

One of the ongoing liturgical issues in the Catholic Church today is the influence and relationship of culture and liturgy. Using a historical approach to explore this issue Mark Francis provides a thorough and well researched treatment of the influences of popular piety on Catholic liturgy. Through his knowledge and insights on official Church documents and his first hand experience of a variety of cultural ritual events he draws the reader into this fascinating conversation about what he terms “liturgical inculturation. Only a very few liturgical theologians in the Church today have the the ability to explore this topic and make it relevant; Francis is one of the best.

Second Place

Chrismation by Nicholas E. Denysenko, Liturgical Press

Nicholas Denysenko’s exploration of the practice and theology of Chrismation in the Orthodox Christian communities is a scholarly and unique treatment of a topic that has few if any comparable works. One of the excellent aspects of this work is that it goes beyond an Orthodox frame of reference and puts hie tradition in conversation with rites of anointing, particularly Confirmation in the Roman Catholic tradition. His conclusions on how these two traditions could enrich each other offer a worthy agenda for future pastoral and theological and ecumenical unity.

Third Place

Worship with Gladness: Understanding Worship from the Heart by Joyce Ann Zimmerman, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

The phrase “full, active and conscious” participation in the liturgy is probably one of the most familiar from the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. Zimmerman uses this vision as her reason for writing this book. She is especially concerned with how those who do participate understand what they are doing and if that understanding is translated into a fuller participation that comes from the heart. Zimmerman is a well known liturgical scholar with a passion for the Church’s liturgy; this is a must read for those who share her enthusiasm for it.

Honorable Mention

In These or Similar Words by Paul Turner, World Library Publications

Honorable Mention

Sick, And You Cared For Me: Homilies and Refections for Cycle B by Rob Bell, James Martin, SJ, Jan Richardson, Richard Rohr, OFM, et al, Clear Faith Publishing

B06: PASTORAL MINISTRY

First Place

A Pastor’s Toolbox by Paul A. Holmes, Editor, Liturgical Press

This is great book for any person in pastoral leadership. The book is geared to Pope Francis and his commitment to evangelization. It encourages and outlines simply the various processes of moving a parish into the unfolding missionary church.

Second Place

Divine Renovation: From a Maintenance to a Missional Parish by Fr. James Mallon, Novalis

This is a very good book for parish leaders. It examines how to move a parish into the new evangelization of Pope Francis. The suggestions are practical and encouraging to those who know that they must move the parish forward but lack the knowledge, energy, or insight on how to do that.

Third Place

A Life of Daring Simplicity by Edited by Michael A. Becker, Liturgical Press

This is a very good book of daily meditations for priests. It is based heavily on Saint John Paul II. It is targeted to those priests of the Saint John Paul II generation. I think it would have been more relevant if it was based more on Pope Francis and his new evangelization. Every priest has a dozen of these kinds of books.

Honorable Mention

An Imprisoned Heart by Petra Alexander and Gerardo Gomez, World Library Publications

This is a little jewel of a book. It is targeted to a population that is usually underserved by the church. It offers a spiritual path for those who suffer with a loved one in Prison. This is a valuable resource for Church leaders to give to those who have loved ones in prison.

B07: PROFESSIONAL BOOKS

First Place

Imagining Abundance by Kerry Alys Robinson, Liturgical Press

This work is excellent in all regards: inspirational, practical and workable for the audience. A recommended primer for fund-raisers and for dealing with issues covered. Author at Thomas More Center at Yale and various Yale faculty were involved in its creation and testing. Top-flight team working with author.

Second Place

Becoming Beholders by Edited by Karen E. Eifler and Thomas M. Landy, Liturgical Press

Excellent for lay teachers in college and advanced high school classes.

Third Place

A Catechism for Business: Tough Ethical Questions & Insights from Catholic Teaching by Andrew V. Abela and Joseph E. Capizzi, The Catholic University of America Press

A paucity of intellectual discernment in the context of everyday, living issues. Too doctrinaire for wide circulation. The interpretation of theological and philosophical writing is not applied all that well. Interesting and timely topic but approach is too rigid.

B09a: CHILDREN’S BOOKS AND BOOKS FOR TEENS: Children’s Books

First Place

Discover at Dawn – Gospel Time Trekkers Series by Maria Grace Dateno, FSP, Pauline Books & Media

I think this book would appeal to a vast age group. The idea of time travel is one that most find fascinating. I enjoyed the authors use of children as the explorers who discover the passion of Christ. Questions that children may have were explained in a simple and poignant manner. Especially enjoyable was the last chapter and the references to the Bible readers could use to delve deeper and continue their discovery of the life of Christ.

Second Place

The Story of Saint John Paul II, The Boy Who Became Pope by Fabiola Garza, Pauline Books & Media

I chose this book as a second place recipient because it was such a well written story of the life of John Paul II. It begins with his birth and continues with his life until he was elected Pope. I think it could serve as a source of inspiration to young people who may decide to enter into a religious order. The artwork was beautiful and the story was captivating.

Third Place

Sisters of the Last Straw Book 3: The Case of the Stolen Rosaries by Karen Kelly Boyce, Chesterton Press

I chose this book as my third place recipient. While longer than all the other entries in this catalog this story was a quick read. I think children would enjoy reading it and having discussions about solving the mystery. This could lead to conversations about giving forgiveness when it is difficult, something very relevant in today’s world.

Honorable Mention

The Legend of Saint Nicholas by Anselm Grün, illustrated by Giuliano Ferri, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

B09b: CHILDREN’S BOOKS AND BOOKS FOR TEENS: Books for Teens & Young Adults

First Place

Chastity Is for Lovers by Arleen Spenceley, Ave Maria Press

Aimed at older teens and young adults, Chastity Is For Lovers presents a straightforward argument that single people need not be involved in a sexual relationship in order to be healthy or “normal.” Instead, it promotes Catholic teaching on chastity for all states of life without unduly preaching, talking down to the audience, or condemning anyone as “impure.” The author offers personal experience as well as research to back up her premise that chastity is not only possible but helpful not only for those in celibate vocations but also for those who hope to marry. Competently written, edited and designed, this book is a clear winner.

Second Place

Erin’s Ring by Laura H. Pearl, Bezalel Books

Presented as a story-within-a-story, Erin’s Ring offers an historical novel set within the story of two contemporary teen-age friends from very different kinds of families. Both stories have elements of Catholicism offered as ordinary and important parts of life. The small town setting is appealing and the characters are multi-dimensional. Erin’s Ring would appeal to younger teens and older ones looking for light reading.

Third Place

Real Life Faith: Bible Companions for Catholic Teens by Mary Elizabeth Sperry, Liguori Publications

Real Life Faith offers 19 brief profiles of biblical figures, including a number of lesser-known characters, each paired with a fictional example of how the biblical character’s virtue could surface in or affect the life of a contemporary teen-ager. Each includes discussion questions and a prayer. This book would provide excellent discussion-starters for a teen youth group or religion class.

B10: FIRST TIME AUTHOR OF A BOOK

First Place

Mercy in the City: How to Feed the Hungry, Give Drink to the Thirsty, Visit the Imprisoned, and Keep Your Day Job by Kerry Weber, Loyola Press

A young New Yorker’s account of her efforts to do each of the seven Corporal Works of Mercy during Lent is a graceful blend of personal experience and theological insight. Helping others turns out to be frustrating and ambiguous–and a surprising way to know oneself.

Second Place

The Prodigal You Love by Theresa Aletheia Noble, FSP, Pauline Books & Media

A wise and thought-provoking book aimed at Catholics who badly want their friends and loved ones to return to the Church.

Third Place

The Oblate’s Confession by William Peak, Secant Publishing

An ambitious novel–serious religious themes explored in a remote historical setting (7th century England). The pace is slow and the writing is ponderous at times, but Peak’s work is impressive.

Honorable Mention

Connected toward Communion by Daniella Zsupan-Jerome, Liturgical Press

B11: FAMILY LIFE

First Place

Mortal Blessings by Angela Alaimo O’Donnell, Ave Maria Press

Recognizing and celebrating “signs of the sacred” in the midst of caring for a dying relative a special gift and grace. Mortal Blessings is beautifully written and O’Donnell is refreshingly honest in relating her experiences. It is wonderful to see such a moving book, since so many of us will experience being caretakers of loved ones in their final journey in life.

Second Place

Everyday Sacrament by Laura Kelly Fanucci, Liturgical Press

Finding God in the midst of taking care of young children can be a real challenge. Fanucci has done a fine job of discovering grace in the messy moments of parenting and showing her readers how to find signs of each of the 7 Catholic sacraments in everyday life. Well-written, honest, easy to relate to. Lots of great stories and slices of life.

Third Place

Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive: A preparatory catechesis for the World Meeting of Families by The Pontifical Council for the Family and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Our Sunday Visitor

While this compact book was produced for preparatory catechesis for the World Meeting of Families in September 2015, it also serves as a learning tool for all Catholic families who are interested in learning more about how the Church views its families and how Catholic families can serve the Church. Fresh and insightful, it outlines Catholic teaching regarding sex, marriage and family in an accessible way. The questions at the end of each chapter are great discussion starters.

B12: MARRIAGE

First Place

Catholic and Married: Leaning Into Love by Art and Laraine Bennett, Editors, Our Sunday Visitor

Only two entries in this very important category and this one leads the pair. A group of talented writers herein focus on marriage as a lifelong journey, maybe with problems and failures along the way, but also with joy and success resulting from life-long love and sharing by the married partners. It tackles present-day marriage challenges: marrying young, cohabitation, contraception, divorce, but also affirms the gift of children, commitment to the other and especially that love factor as the key for successful marriage today.

Second Place

Vocation to Virtue: Christian Marriage as a Consecrated Life by Kent J. Lasnoski, The Catholic University of America Press

Clearly intended for a more limited academic audience, this entry concerns itself with the theological aspects of marriage. Its focus is on the Second Vatican Council’s declaration that all in the church are called to Christian perfection, and how married couples can achieve that vocation. It is thus beyond the everyday concerns of an average Catholic married couple. That narrower focus, and its more sophisticated writing, put it in second place.

B13: HISTORY

First Place

Christianity in Roman Africa: The Development of Its Practices and Beliefs by J. Patout Burns Jr. and Robin M. Jensen, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

This is the most outstanding work submitted in this important category. Well deserving of a #1 Catholic Book Award. Magnificent design and quality manufacturing with 4-color graphics, clearly drawn maps and other resources. Fine reference for any Catholic or public library, of great interest to classics scholars. Very well written and edited.

Second Place

When Saint Francis Saved the Church by Jon M. Sweeney, Ave Maria Press

Anengagingly popular story of, arguably, our most popular saint. In the manner of Thomas Cahill’s How the Irish Saved Civilization, Jon Sweeney brings Francis to life as we continue our fascination with his namesake, Pope Francis, in 2015. The Holy father reaches out to the poor and marginated as the converted troubadour did from 1205-1219 when he, in fact, changed the church. A quick read but based on the best that history has recorded and deserving of the attention it will command in the general and religious markets.

Third Place

What They Wished For: American Catholics and American Presidents, 1960–2004 by Lawrence J. McAndrews, University of Georgia Press

Catholicism and the modern presidency is quite a timely topic, more so since the days of JFK. Though the time period covered is only 1960-2004, religion and politics have found their way into the news regularly since and this work does a fine job of presenting the ramifications to the public. Readable, accurate without bias. With an update through the Obama years and second GW Bush presidencies it would have a strong general appeal in the election year 2016.

Honorable Mention

Thomas Aquinas’s Summa theologiae: A Biography by Bernard McGinn, Princeton University Press

A remarkable editing job by a master, Fr. Bernard McGinn of the Univ. of Chicago. Aquinas needs to be known by students in the 21st C as he has been for centuries in the Church. An abridged version of the massive five volume Summa in a handy paperbound format for student and lay study. Important introduction by McGinn sets the context for this “biography”of a classic by a modern classical scholar.

B14: BIOGRAPHY

First Place

Pope Francis: Life and Revolution by Elisabetta Piqué, Loyola Press

This year several entries focused on Pope Francis, our new media star in the Catholic world — indeed the world at-large. This excellent work by a native Italian who is an experienced Vatican reporter for Argentina’s major newspaper, stands out. Elizabetta Pique’s longtime friendship with Francis gives her book superior authority and her warm writing style makes it an engrossing report on her friend the Pope, now our hugely popular spiritual leader.

Second Place

Katharine Drexel: The Riches-to-Rags Story of an American Catholic Saint by Cheryl C. D. Hughes, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

This is a solid traditional biography, deeply researched and documented and strongly-written — a major resource covering the full span of the subject’s life and career and her importance in Catholic life in America and the Catholic Church at large. It’s a strong, absorbing story, with good illustrations. which tells us Katherine Drexel’s role as teacher, builder, religious order founder, fighter against racism and American saint. A close second in this group.

Third Place

The Franciscan Heart of Thomas Merton by Daniel P. Horan, O.F.M., Ave Maria Press

This book is a delightful surprise, as it connects two of Catholicism’s most popular figures, Saint Francis of Assisi and Thomas Merton of Gethsemani. The author successfully and delightfully show how these two giants of the Church were connected in thought, spirituality and influence in a readable attractive volume.

Honorable Mention

Oscar Romero by Kevin Clarke, Liturgical Press

B15: GENDER ISSUES

First Place

Gay and Catholic by Eve Tushnet, Ave Maria Press

For those who may still consider gay Catholic to be an oxymoron, Eve’s honest, expansive coverage of this “touchy” subject is healing balm for those who are in or out of the closet and could be a mind- and heart-opener and a stepping off point for open discussion of an otherwise taboo subject. Whether or not minds are changed to be more accepting, understanding, loving to those who are same-sex attracted will not be the benchmark of success for Eve’s story. Telling her story as a faithful lesbian woman of the Church and being published by a Catholic press are award-winning in and of themselves. Kudos to Eve and Ave Maria Press.

Second Place

Feminist Catholic Theological Ethics by Linda Hogan and A.E. Orobator, Orbis Books

This is a fascinating compendium of theological discourse from across the globe that addresses both traditional and progressive women’s issues. For those who desire to expand their minds and hearts in order to better identify and remedy the needs of 21st century women, this book is critical. Despite the profound and diverse voices gathered in this text, it is highly readable and engaging.

Third Place

Spiritual Leadership for Challenging Times by Annmarie Sanders, Orbis Books

These addresses were given over 30 tempestuous years by women religious who have gained respect and placement at the top of the prestigious Leadership Conference of Women Religious. They encompass hundreds of years of history and contributions of countless faithful women. Readers should not only applaud their extraordinary efforts in so many areas of society but use the wisdom and knowledge they impart that has come through their hard work and difficult circumstances to better respond to the people and Church they so successfully serve.

Honorable Mention

Man Up! Becoming the New Catholic Renaissance Man by Jared Zimmerer, Bezalel Books

Honorable Mention

Joan Chittister: Essential Writings by Mary Lou Kownacki and Mary Hembrow-Snyder, Orbis Books

This book tries to do too many things and in the end doesn’t hit the mark on Gender Issues. The lengthy Introduction detailing the life of Joan Chittister is worthy of a small volume on this wise and productive religious woman. The section on Passion for Justice fits the bill. The majority of the essays however are a better fit for a spiritual life category.

B16: REFERENCE BOOKS

First Place

Being in the World: A Quotable Maritain Reader by Edited by Mario O. D’Souza, C.S.B., with Jonathan R. Seiling, University of Notre Dame Press

The editors of this collection of the writings of Jacques Maritain, one of th eoutstanding philosopher / theologians of the mid-twentieth centruy, provide a readable and “Quotable” resource for contemporary students, scholars, and theologians. D’Souza reread fifty-five of Jacques Maritain’s works, took over 1700 pages of notes, and organized them into a quotable corpus of forty topics from “Airstotle” to “Wisdom.” The result is what well may be a classic study.

Second Place

The Catholic Teacher’s Companion by Les Miller, Novalis

To help teachers of religious education, Les Miller offers an alphabetical listing of the key terms and the fundamentals of Catholic teaching. Intended primarily for teachers of religious education, Les Miller presents 94 entries from Advent to Way of Prayer. The terms used follow the Institute for Catholic Education for Ontario Catholic schools. Miller assures all religious education teachers that they will find these terms very helpful.

 

B19: BEST BOOK BY A SMALL PUBLISHER

First Place

Theology of the Body, Extended: The Spiritual Signs of Birth, Impairment, and Dying by Susan Windley-Daoust, Lectio Publishing

This book is well-written and insightful. It applies the Theology of the Body to themes that are rarely discussed and illustrates how God’s grace lifts up the suffering, dying, and those with disabilities. The author combines compelling research with beautiful reflections on what it means to be a person in communion with God and with others.

Second Place

Love Awakened by Love: The Liberating Ascent of Saint John of the Cross by Mark O’Keefe, OSB, ICS Publications

While the scope of the book is narrow (it is a companion book to “The Ascent of Mount Carmel” by St. John of the Cross), it is compelling and well-written. Since many readers find St. John of the Cross’s works to be difficult, this is a helpful volume that will assist many Catholics in their spiritual journey.

Third Place

Edith Stein: Letters to Roman Ingarden (the Collected Works vol. 12; Edith Stein: Self-Portrait in Letters) by Edith Stein/ translated by Hugh Candler Hunt, ICS Publications

This publication of Edith Stein’s letters in English reveals a lesser-known period of her life and her intimate thoughts as she converted to Catholicism and entered the Carmelite cloister. The book is professionally crafted and is interesting and spiritually engaging.

Honorable Mention

The End of the Fiery Sword: Adam & Eve and Jesus & Mary by Maura Roan McKeegan, Emmaus Road Publishing

B20: CATHOLIC SOCIAL TEACHING

First Place

The Vision of Catholic Social Thought: The Virtue of Solidarity and the Praxis of Human Rights by Meghan J. Clark, Fortress Press

Clark creatively and critically advances our understanding of solidarity in Catholic Social Teaching as an essential counter-point to the global human rights movement.

Second Place

Jesus Christ, Peacemaker by Terrence J. Rynne, Orbis Books

Rynne crafts a compelling presentation of the trajectory of peacemaking in Catholic social thought and action.

Third Place

Seek Justice That You May Live by John R. Donahue, Paulist Press

Donahue has given readers a valuable handbook for study and reflection, teasing out the pervasive focus on social justice in the diverse books of the Bible.

B21: FAITH AND SCIENCE

First Place

Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial? by Guy Consolmagno, SJ and Paul Mueller, SJ, Image, Penguin Random House

In an engaging and accessible dialogue, Consolmagno and Mueller tackle some of the thorniest issues confronting Christians about science and faith, including the origins of the universe, the compatibility of belief in God and science, and the Church’s treatment of Galileo. One particular strength of this work is the authors’ ability to treat profound topics seriously, with playful and clever humor! Great read.

Second Place

Teilhard’s Mysticism by Kathleen Duffy, SSJ, Orbis Books

With insight reflective of a keen understanding, Duffy provides an enthusiastic and wide-ranging reflection on Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and his life work. Duffy skillfully brings the readers to a deeper understanding of the “inner face of the world,” which framed Teilhard’s mystical journey.

Third Place

Do Monkeys Go to Heaven? by Fr. John McCarthy, S.J., Novalis

With deceptive simplicity, this series of essays easily invites the lay reader into an intimate dialogue between faith and science. Rather than arguing their compatibility, McCarthy’s personal anecdotes provide food for personal reflection and meditation on God’s presence in all creation. Don’t let the title turn you away!

Honorable Mention

The Wisdom of the Liminal: Evolution and Other Animals in Human Becoming by Celia Deane-Drummond, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

With depth and insight, Deane-Drummond shows how evolutionary cosmology and Thomistic philosophy can be harmonized to enhance our understanding of our incarnational nature and what it means to be made in the image of God.

B22: 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF VATICAN II

First Place

From Vatican II to Pope Francis by Fr. Paul Crowley, Orbis Books

A collection of essays, the fruit of a university course, this book by scholars well known and less well known provides a broad overview of Vatican II, its effects and the seeds it has sown which may grow in the Church in the future. It can be read straight through or the chapters may be taken separately to be digested and discussed. It would be suitable for a competently led course for motivated lay parishioners. The book is well though not intrusively footnoted and includes an index.

Second Place

The Church in the Modern World by Michael G. Lawler, Todd A. Salzman, and Eileen Burke-Sullivan, Liturgical Press

The Church in the Modern World: Gaudium et Spes Then and Now offers an in-depth look at the history, development and effects of one of the most important documents of Vatican II. Each chapter offers questions for reflection and an extensive index is provided. The chapter on marriage is especially interesting, but the whole book is accessible to readers who are not professional theologians. This book is a suitable celebration of the jubilee of the Council.

Third Place

Sacramental Theology: 50 Years After Vatican II by Kenan B. Osborne, OFM, Lectio Publishing, Inc.

Probably of greatest interest to Church professionals (clergy, liturgists, etc.), Sacramental Theology: 50 Years After Vatican II is nevertheless an accessible treatment of its subject. It offers an historical outline of the development of the sacraments and, in a broader sense, of the notion of sacrament (e.g. the Church as sacrament); a treatment of Vatican II’s teaching on sacramental theology; and summaries of the modern history of sacraments and contemporary thought on the liturgy. It is wide-ranging without being excessively long.

B24: FAITHFUL CITIZENSHIP/RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

First Place

Crucified People by John P. Neafsey, Orbis Books

This is a very powerful book. It is small but mighty. It was a special gift to read this book during the last days of Lent, as it is truly about Christ crucified and Christ rising from the dead over and over in the many faces and stories that John Neafsey places before his audience. The use of beautiful, diverse and poignant poetry enhances his examples of the tortured ones. Dealing with such a painful subject as torture, he finds a piece of the resurrection story in each person that he introduces to the reader. It is a book that is nicely written, easy to read from a stylistic view, but heart wrenching at the same time as he points out the inhumanity that continues until this very day. His victims are crucified just as Our Lord was crucified, but they surely do Rise. I recommend this as a great book for political science and history classes for the consciousness raising that it provides as well as for religion classes because of its underlying basis in faith. Even though there is Good Friday, it is surely followed by an Easter Sunday.

B27: COFFEE TABLE BOOK

First Place

Meditations on Vatican Art: Angels by Mark Haydu, LC, STL, Liguori Publications

Mark Haydu’s book is reader friendly: appealing to the eye, to the mind and to the spirit. Although structured in approach to the Ignatian 30-day retreat form, it is open-ended in terms of reader participation via reflections and meditations. Art and text are beautifully blended. This is a book to pick up and savor daily.

Second Place

Splendors of Christmas by Pierre-Marie Dumont – Fr. Frederic Curnier-Laroche, Magnificat

This exploration of various aspects of the Nativity story as interpreted by various artists is artistically instructive and visually appealing, unveiling the mysteries of faith and the creative genius of the artists. Unfortunately, the book’s severe vertical format compromises some of the art and too frequently separates the art from the explanatory text.

B28: CATHOLIC NOVELS

First Place

Master of Ceremonies by Donald Cozzens, ACTA Publications/In Extenso Press

Cozzens scores high marks on all the important aspects of fiction writing: plot, character development, suspense and intrigue. He takes an overly treated topic–clergy sexual abuse–and with the help of some very sleazy, secret “brothers,” one very smart and courageous woman, and a few faithful men of the cloth–dishes up a very believable,very scary–story. Separating fact from fiction is the real work of the reader who may want to sprinkle some holy water on themselves or say a decade before each chapter and pray for those abused, their abusers, and our Holy Mother Church.

Second Place

The Oblate’s Confession by William Peak, Secant Publishing

Not quite an epic tale, but very well researched and detailed, Peak has produced a solid first-time novel. Tending to be needlessly wordy at times, the pace picks up with excellent weaving of imagination and history throughout. First rate character development that exposes the mind, body and spirit of the main characters paired with mystical people and places provides a winning combination for the reader of facts and faith for the reader.

Third Place

Erin’s Ring by Laura H. Pearl, Bezalel Books

This is a charming story, beginning with a charming cover and with a good measure of history,contemporary drama, and spirituality between the covers. It is highly readable and can be used effectively as an evangelization tool for young people who would otherwise never open a book that espoused Catholic morals and teachings.

 

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Knocking us out of our comfort zones

July 8, 2015

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Pope Francis is shown praying at an Austro-Hungarian cemetery for fall soldiers of World War I in Fogliano di Redipuglia, northern Italy, Sept. 13, 2014. The pope in his encyclical "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home," released June 18, said all cr eation is singing God's praise but people are silencing it. CNS

Pope Francis is shown praying at an Austro-Hungarian cemetery for fall soldiers of World War I in Fogliano di Redipuglia, northern Italy, Sept. 13, 2014. The pope in his encyclical “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,” released June 18, said all cr eation is singing God’s praise but people are silencing it. CNS

Pope Francis’ encyclical letter “Laudato Si'” is addressed to all people who share our common home, the earth. Not that it will be well received by all people. Specifically mentioned in many passages, religious conservatives may well wonder why the Pope of all people, has made so free as to weigh in on Climate Change, Economics, the Free Market, and Private Property. Those on the “left” will find the Pope’s linking the degradation of our earth, and her rights, with the degradation of the unborn and the elderly, and their rights little more than a political bait and switch, gaining an international audience and ear on the subject of eco-conversion, and finding the Pope quoting Pope Benedict and other Popes as often as he brings forth something of his own, as for example in section 217 when he calls for an interior conversion as an answer for solving our eco-crisis. “The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast.” (Benedict XVI, Homily for the Solemn Inauguration of the Petrine Ministry, April 24, 2005)

Indeed one could call this encyclical co-authored. So many other bishops from around the world and past Popes are cited, John Paul II and Benedict the XVI especially, it truly represents the mind of the church, past and present, and often reads as a tutorial on the traditional longstanding Thomistic understanding of the common good, and private property. But old teachings applied to fresh new situations can yield much insight, and especially self-discovery.

Promoting Dialogue and Mutual Responsibility

The purpose of the encyclical is to promote dialogue between men of all faiths and political persuasions about how best to care for the earth, and for each other in the safeguarding of the earth’s precious resources. It is evident that the Pope’s eyes are on the poor, whose livelihoods are most at risk in the exploitation of the resources in the developing world, and in the gearing of economies to big businesses, which not only box the smaller producers out of the market, but create infrastructure and products with profit in mind, and not the long view of the well being of local economies, watersheds, and communities. It is a personal note to each citizen of the earth: a call to “Dare to turn what is happening to our world into our own personal suffering.” (Section 19) It is something that many on the left have been doing for a while, but the Pope calls even them to a deeper ecological consciousness and friendship, as he links our maltreatment of the earth to our maltreatment of human beings, the deterioration of nature with the deterioration of our culture.

It is a simple and almost fatherly reminder to become students of Nature. It is the cyclical order and pattern in nature herself that provides the whys and wherefores for recycling and composting and re-using. As more and more of the world’s population is becoming city-dwelling, it is often easy to forget the closed circle of fertility that occurs in natural ecosystems, as the Pope reminds us of in section 22, plants synthesize nutrients which feed herbivores; these in turn become food for carnivores, which produce significant quantities of organic waste which give rise to new generations of plants.” The industrial system does not emulate this model, found in nature. The Pope is suggesting we stop buying into the “modern myth” which presupposes unlimited material growth as undeniably good for us all, and which gives the industrial system a pass in the name of that myth, despite the waste and injustices, which such a system incurs in its process. He is asking us to question this system, and to use our modern talents and ingenuity to devise new means of production that place the long term good of both the earth and its inhabitants at their core, rather than profit. “Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption.” (Section 23)

The Problem of Over-Consumption

Specifically the Pope draws attention to several issues in which human over consumption has contributed to. Among them: water pollution and waste, Climate Change, extinction of various species, loss of marine and forest ecosystems of the world, and also mental pollution (brought on by the modern “technocracy”.)

Speaking to people of Christian faiths, he explores Genesis to show that God’s gift of reason, which sets man apart from His other creations, is not to encourage domination on the part of human beings, but rather stewardship. God’s words to Adam and Eve in the garden, charging them to “till and keep” creation, refer not to domineering exploitation, but to working it and keeping/protecting it. “(The creation accounts in Genesis) suggest that human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbor and with the earth itself.” (Section 66) The Pope points to sin as that which causes the ruptures in these three relationships, both inward and outwardly.

In Section 95 the Pope quotes the New Zealand Bishops who suggest that the over consumption of the developed world is a sin against the 5th commandment, “Thou Shalt Not Kill.” It’s a sobering thought. One that is backed up by big guns, the likes of Pope Benedict XVI. Pope Francis quotes him in section 206, when he urges us to vote with our food dollars for a more eco-friendly world: “Purchasing is always a moral-and not simply economic-act.” (Caritas in Veritate 2006)

Reminding us of our universal solidarity with all men and creatures on this planet, the Pope has some important reminders about private property: “If we make something our own, it is only to administer it for the good of all. “ Section 95 And “The Christian tradition has never recognized the right to private property as absolute or inviolable, and has stressed the social purpose of all forms of private property.” (Section 93). This may prove to be something of a shocker to many politically conservative Christians. Which brings us to perhaps the crux of this encyclical and why it’s proving to be so pesky to so many. This letter suggests that there is really no distinction and separation between what we do financially and what we do morally, that our consumption is a civic act, not a private one. It suggests that our Religious beliefs and our environmental actions are interconnected more that we might care to think, that the action of buying mass-produced Chinese goods in a big box store which underpays it’s workers, and contributes to massive amounts of material waste, flooding lives with goods that are not needed, and often discarded after a few uses, that this may not indeed be the action of a Christian.

Any time the church seeks to infiltrate the part of our lives spent outside of the pews, it gets pesky. Things get uncomfortable. At rock bottom, we like our lives to be neatly separated into Tupperware containers, faith and worship over here, shopping over there, what goes on in our bedrooms in this box, and what we eat over in this other one. In his encyclical the Pope is reminding us of the interconnectedness of things. Our relationship with the earth is connected to our relationship with our fellow human beings, and vice versa. What we believe in church affects where we should shop, and what we should buy. It is not simply a matter of looking into the companies that produce the goods we buy, we ought to ask ourselves how we can better pursue a path of simplicity, and in this, we can be inspired by people of other faiths and political persuasions, who have chosen to invest in time to contemplate and renewable energy sources, and lifestyles which involve less consumption as a whole.

Technocracy and the “Modern Myth”

One of the most interesting critiques of the encyclical is the one of modern technology. The Pope points out that over-mechinization has not only unemployed a great deal of humanity, it has also furthered our ability to dominate nature while at the same time separating us farther from it. “Technological products are not neutral, for they create a framework which ends up conditioning lifestyles and shaping social possibilities along the lines dictated by the interests of certain powerful groups.” (Section 107) He points to the fruits of the Technocracy as bitter indeed. Already they are clearly seen: “ environmental degradation, anxiety, loss of the purpose of life, and of community living.”(Section 110) The fragmented knowledge imparted in this modern technocracy that we live in, often leaves us with no clear sense of the whole, nor any means with which to answer deeper questions of philosophy and ethics, which underpin the whole of our existence on earth. Life in a technocracy also lends itself to a frenetic pace, we are constantly “connected” electronically, and consequently never really in one place wholly, for any amount of time, a fraction of ourselves somewhere else via text, or twitter, or any of the other social media outlets. #Half There Anywhere. In response to the technocracy the Pope advocates a big SLOW DOWN, a recovering “of the values and the great goals swept away by our unrestrained delusions of grandeur.” (Section 114) He reminds us to reacquaint ourselves with reality, and its limits. Limits, which our over-consumption and our use of technology in the pursuit of our wants have obscured.

 

The free market is profit driven, and is governed by wants rather than needs. This is why, the Pope points out, it is insufficient to leave to the “invisible hands” of the free-market the job of governing the economy and solving the eco-crises we find ourselves in today.

The Dignity of Work

One of the ways  to self govern our impulse toward over consumption is developing a vivifying understanding of work. If more people choose to do more for themselves, and not rely on the expensive and elaborate system of distribution of goods and food that we find ourselves in in the developed world, there would be less of a burden placed on local economies, many of which, (in developing nations), export commodity crops to their detriment. “We were created with a vocation to work. The goal should not be that technological progress increasingly replace human work, for this would be detrimental to humanity. Work is a necessity, part of the meaning of life on this earth, a path to growth, human development and personal fulfillment.” (Section 128)

Global Eco-Initiatives and Oversight

Some global goals that the pope sets are:

  1. Sustainable and Diverse agriculture
  2. Renewable Energy
  3. Efficient Use of Energy
  4. Better use of Marine and Forest Resources of the World
  5. Universal Access to Drinking water. (Section 164)

Regarding Energy:

  1. Favoring Production with maximum energy efficiency
  2. Diminishing the Use of Raw Materials
  3. Removing from the market products which are less energy efficient or more polluting
  4. Improving transport systems
  5. Encouraging construction and repair of buildings aimed at reducing energy consumption and pollution. (Section 180)

He makes it very clear that there needs to be global authority (with the claws and teeth necessary to enforce the laws) to hold nations and states and businesses accountable with regard to eco-abuse. The responsibility is Universal, but the developed world, being as it has helped itself to more of a piece of the global resource pie, has a responsibility to contribute more to these efforts at accountability.

Personal Responsibility and New Paths of Simplicity

While making it very clear that the actions of concerned individuals will not be enough to stave off further ecological disaster, and coming class and resource wars, he does encourage us to follow the example of St. Therese of Lisiuex, performing little acts with great love, in solidarity with our fellow man and with the earth we co-inhabit. Using less energy, avoiding plastic and paper, reducing water consumption, recycling, composting, using public transportation or carpooling whenever we can, planting trees, turning out lights when not using them, all these things “reflect a generous and worthy creativity which brings out the best in human beings. They benefit society, often unbeknownst to us for they call forth a goodness which albeit unseen, inevitably tends to spread.” (Sections 211, 212)

In the end, Pope Francis reminds us that “though capable of the worst, (we) are also capable of rising above (ourselves), choosing again what is good and making a new start…I appeal to everyone throughout the world not to forget this dignity which is ours.” 

It is hoped, that in following paths of greater simplicity we will be freed up to respond to the poverty our heedless actions have caused in our neighbors, our planet, and in our own hearts. Listening to and deeply considering the words of Pope Francis in his encyclical “Laudato Si’” will help carve out a space in us internally, and in our lives externally, which love will fill.

Chiara Dowell farms with her husband, Shane, at Little Flower Farm near Skandia and worships at St. Peter in Forest Lake, and St. Mary and St. Michael in Stillwater. 

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Finally. . . let the fishing begin

July 7, 2015

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On the first fishing trip of the year in Minnesota, this nice bass provided a fun fight.

On the first fishing trip of the year in Minnesota, this nice bass provided a fun fight.

I usually don’t wait until July to buy my Minnesota fishing license. So, making the purchase on July 3 this year is out of character for me. In fact, I bought a fishing license for Montana before I got one for my home state.

Who would have thought? In a normal year, I would start my fishing season in late May or early June. This year, I just didn’t get around to it. Plus, the weather had some wild mood swings last month, which can throw fish patterns out of whack and make catching them tough.

I decided simply not to mess with these unstable conditions and just wait. As I have learned over the years, timing is everything.

Finally, a good stretch of warm, stable weather settled in last week, so I turned my thoughts to getting out in my boat for the first time this season. Plus, my brother Paul and his two sons Matthew and Michael had the itch pretty bad.

I happily obliged, and we went to the southwest metro to fish a small bass lake called O’Dowd. It’s pretty shallow, which makes it easier to find fish. Simply cruise weed edges and toss plastic worms or a jig-and-pig, and usually you’ll connect with bass at some point.

Unfortunately, a number of pleasure boaters joined us on the lake. That isn’t always a problem, but on a small, shallow lake, it’s definitely more of a challenge.

What’s more, some of these folks think nothing of buzzing past very close at high speeds. I am continually amazed at such rudeness.

I think that was our biggest challenge on this day. Finding quiet water was tough, and boats zipped over some of my favorite spots repeatedly.

In the midst of all that activity, a few bass chose to respond to our offerings. I caught a chunky, feisty fighter that measured 17 1/2 inches. Very respectable. I know the lake holds bigger, as I landed a 19-incher several years ago. Lots of metro lakes contain bass this size, which is good news for avid bass anglers like me.

I hope to get out on the water again soon. For me, mid to late July and August are prime time. That’s when the deep weedline pattern I like so much begins to heat up. So, the best is yet to come!

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11 things to know about Archbishop Hebda

July 7, 2015

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Coadjutor Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of Newark, N.J., and a priest pose for a photo Nov. 5, 2013, following a Mass of welcome for Archbishop Hebda at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark. CNS

Coadjutor Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of Newark, N.J., and a priest pose for a photo Nov. 5, 2013, following a Mass of welcome for Archbishop Hebda at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark. CNS

After two quick trips to the Twin Cities since his June 15 appointment, Archbishop Bernard Hebda is spending his first full week in Minnesota. He plans to say the 10 a.m. Mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul July 12 — which can be heard on Relevant Radio 1330. Here are 11 things to know about our new apostolic administrator.

  1. His last name is Polish. His paternal grandparents immigrated to the U.S. from southeast Poland. “Hebda” was also a common last name of people who lived near the medieval Norbertine Monastery of Our Lady of the Assumption in Hebdów, in southern Poland near Krakow. Hopefully his first tour of the archdiocese includes a stop at Holy Cross and lunch from Sikora’s in Nordeast.
  1. He’s an ivy leaguer. Archbishop Hebda studied political science at Harvard and law at Columbia, both ivy league schools. As an undergraduate, he was on staff of the Harvard International Review, a publication of the Harvard International Relations Council, and was an editorial board member and articles editor for the Harvard Yearbook. It was while he was attending daily Mass at Columbia that he rediscovered an interest in the priesthood he first had as a child.
  1. He’s steeped in the law. He earned a degree in civil law from Columbia and practiced in a law firm for a year before joining seminary in 1984. Six years later, he earned a licentiate in canon law from the Pontificial Gregorian University in Rome. From 1992 to 1996, he served as a judge for Diocese of Pittburgh’s tribunal, which deals with canon law matters including marriage annulments. In 1996, he returned to Rome to serve on the Pontifical Council for Legal Texts, which interprets Church law, being named in 2003 its undersecretary, or third-ranking official. He left the position in 2009 to serve as the fourth bishop of Gaylord, Michigan.
  1. He loves Cardinal Newman and the Missionaries of Charity. For his coat of arms, Archbishop Hebda chose the motto “Only Jesus,” a phrase based on the Gospel of Mark, chapter 9. According to an explanation of his coat’s heraldry, the motto was inspired by a prayer written by Cardinal John Henry Newman, whom Archbishop Hebda admires. The prayer is prayed daily by the Missionaries of Charity, as was the practice of their foundress, Blessed Teresa of Kolkata. While he was working for the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts in Rome, Archbishop Hebda served as a confessor for the Missionaries of Charity postulants and their sisters who worked in a home for unwed mothers. The sisters made a deep impression. The archbishop chose the motto as a reminder of their “exemplary humility, obedience and fidelity” and “that the episcopal ministry of teaching, sanctifying and governing is ultimately to lead the faithful to an encounter with Christ himself.”
  1. He also loves the Capuchin Franciscans. In an interview published in the November 2013 edition of The Catholic Advocate in Newark, he attributed his priestly vocation in part to a vocations club the Capuchin Franciscans ran in his Catholic grade school. He wanted to go to their seminary after high school, but they steered him to Harvard instead.
  1. He has a devotion to Our Lady of the Rosary. Archbishop Hebda was named a bishop on Oct. 7, 2009, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, to whom he entrusted his ministry as a bishop.
  1. He does the electric slide. Or so says Rocco Palmo, the uncannily observant Philadelphia-based Church chronicler at his blog, “Whispers in the Loggia.”
  1. He’s one of seven sitting bishops who call Steel City home. The others are Bishop Paul Bradley of Kalamazoo, Michigan; Bishop Edward Burns of Juneau, Alaska; Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston; Cardinal Adam Maida of Detroit; Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island; and Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. In seminary, Archbishop Hebda studied one year under Cardinal DiNardo, then a patristics scholar at the St. Paul Seminary in Pittsburgh.
  1. He’s done urban and rural ministry. The Diocese of Gaylord is small and rural, and Newark, well, is not. The Diocese of Gaylord covers 21 counties of Michigan’s northern lower peninsula and includes about 66,000 Catholics with 80 parishes. The Archdiocese of Newark covers four counties, more than 1.3 million Catholics, and about 220 parishes.
  1. He loved his mom’s cooking. He told The Catholic Advocate, “Nothing compares with my mom’s pierogi or potato pancakes. Now that my Mom has gone to God, there’s nothing that I would prefer to a plate of carbonara. After 18 years in Rome, I love anything Italian.”
  1. His friends call him “Bernie.”
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A convert faces the confessional

July 6, 2015

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Penitents wait in line to receive the sacrament of reconciliation at Sts. Philip and James Church in St. James, N.Y., March 25, 2013. Sts. Philip and James and all other parishes in the Dioceses of Rockville Centre, N.Y, and Brooklyn, N.Y., and the Archdiocese of New York participate annually in Reconciliation Monday, which falls during Holy Week and offers the opportunity for confession from midafternoon into the evening. CNS

Penitents wait in line to receive the sacrament of reconciliation at Sts. Philip and James Church in St. James, N.Y., March 25, 2013. Sts. Philip and James and all other parishes in the Dioceses of Rockville Centre, N.Y, and Brooklyn, N.Y., and the Archdiocese of New York participate annually in Reconciliation Monday, which falls during Holy Week and offers the opportunity for confession from midafternoon into the evening. CNS

Most converts shrink from the idea of confessing their sins to a priest. Most Catholics, too, I suspect. Who doesn’t shrink from the confessional? A French philosopher once said it would do us all good to go about proclaiming our vices and weaknesses in the same loud voice we use to brag about our accomplishments and our virtues.

Well, here was my opportunity.

I was an odd convert. It was for confession that I had become a Catholic, among other attractions. I knew that the Protestant way was too easy. For me, at least, it was too easy to imagine a God who was not watching me too closely when I sinned or listening too closely when I asked for forgiveness. So, I had the double disadvantage of taking my sins more lightly than I should and not ever being quite sure I had been forgiven.

I was drawn to the idea of confession ever since I read the autobiography of the great psychologist Carl Jung, in which he admits that all he really did for people was to listen to them tell their story. When I thought about that, I realized that we have all experienced the power of someone else’s presence. Think of the times you were quietly depressed, all by yourself, and maybe not even really aware of how sad you were feeling until someone came over to you and asked you how you were doing, and you burst into tears. The presence of a sympathetic human being brings emotions to the surface, and in telling our story our inarticulate, half-understood thoughts and feelings become understandable to us because we are forced to utter them in words.

I knew that Jung was right and that the Catholic practice of confession must be keeping a lot of Catholics off psychiatrists’ couches. The Catholic way offered the sinner accountability, a palpable rite of forgiveness and the healing that comes of utterance.

When the time came for my first confession, I who had longed for the confessional found myself balking in terror. It wasn’t easy, at the age of 60, even to face a lifetime of one’s sins, let alone telling them aloud to a priest. With furious embarrassment I imagined holding up everyone else in line while I took forever to unburden myself, then emerging from the confessional, all eyes on this big sinner who took more than her share of time.

So it was with great relief that I learned I could make an appointment to see a priest in his office. I was more than willing to abandon my romantic image of myself as a mantilla-shrouded penitent kneeling in the cool anonymity of the confessional at dusk. The thought of that anonymity had been comforting, but in my mind, it hadn’t ever been sufficient. Disguise my voice? Go to a different parish to confess, where I am unknown? Best just to face the priest, look him in the eye, and face the humbling reality of my sinful nature.

So I found myself one afternoon sitting before a priest, Kleenex in hand, sobbing my way through my misspent life, while a pair of quiet, gentle, nonjudgmental eyes gazed at me in sympathy.

All of it? Am I truly forgiven for all of it?

There was someone in the room with me to say, yes — all of it. It’s God’s free gift. And, by the way, here’s your penance.

Penance! I had forgotten about that. And I learned about making amends, which would show God and my fellow creatures that I meant business, that I believed however falteringly in the possibility of Christ’s command to “go, and sin no more.”

It wasn’t long before I understood that for continuity I needed a single confessor. I needed someone who would come to know me, know my persistent failures, help me with my struggles, cluck sympathetically, “Yes, that again.” But most importantly, I confess (it becomes a habit), I couldn’t imagine broadcasting my sins among all of our priests. The idea of every resident priest knowing a portion of my depravity was more than I could bear. How this thought exposed and embarrassed my vanity!

I chose a confessor and came to meet with him for reconciliation every month or two. After the first few euphoric visits I began to feel discouraged. I heard myself confessing the same old sins over and over. What was the matter with me? Wasn’t I serious about reforming?

My confessor counseled patience and self-forgiveness. I thought he was being too easy on me. That was the whole thing about this Catholic God. He was too loving! He was a pushover for a penitent tear or two. But over the months, in wrestling with my resurgent demons, I gained insight. The battle lines were mostly drawn, and I was forced to recognize the true power of the old, ingrained habits I was struggling against. I took the measure of my enemy and it soon became apparent I needed to fight harder, and smarter.

It was also discouraging to discover I was more sinful than I thought. In preparation for reconciliation, I used various guides to the examination of conscience, and I discovered the looming reality of sins of omission. Here was a bottomless pit of potential sin. How ever could I do all the things love and conscience told me to do?

Yet, in a small way I began to do some of the things I was now aware I had been neglecting. Sometimes, truly, seeing is doing, and struggle is subverted. I learned that freedom from sin is not just a matter of avoiding doing wrong. It is also filling our lives with right actions.

There have been great benefits to my regular appointments with my dark side. Confession is the mark of my commitment to fearless self-searching, to conscious effort to become the person I want to be and to seeking spiritual guidance in this process of self-transformation.

And it works.

As in any struggle to change, it’s easy to feel I’m not getting anywhere until one day I notice that the view from my window is different, and it’s because I’m standing in a new place.

Each time I go to reconciliation, I am reminded that I have God’s unfailing forgiveness and support, the Church’s unfailing support, and the support of one wonderful holy person whose eyes are love. Once I even blurted out in the midst of my confession, “I can’t believe there’s a person whose job it is to do this — that alone is enough to make me believe in God!”

I have become more forgiving of myself because of confession. After all, I have a priest commanding me in the name of God to forgive myself! This is a sacrament of repeated forgiveness, of palpable, embodied forgiveness. I find myself again and again in the presence of this God who is just love, and whose love is truly unconditional. It makes me want to ease up on myself — and others, too.

I am returned again and again to my community. I am reminded that I am not alone in my troubles, and that my sins do not harm me alone, that reparations are in order, that I am important to the community and my good works are needed. I leave with a lightness of spirit, a feeling of having been released, filled with hope for the future and a sense of my place in the great and interconnected human brotherhood. (I also feel this way when I leave the dentist.)

I’m not much better at resisting sin, but temptation seems to come around less often, probably because I’m much better at throwing myself into the path of grace. As a convert, I am dazzled by the profusion of channels of grace in the Catholic Church. Channels and rivulets and cascades and waterfalls of grace! Of these, reconciliation is a wide river I drink from, an anchor point, a regular return to God embedded in my routine life, and it is one of the greatest gifts of the Catholic tradition. It is God inviting me to turn back toward him again and again, over and over, until one day I never turn my face away at all.

A few centuries again, when every self-respecting Protestant middle-class family had servants, it was well known among these families that if you wanted an honest, hard-working servant, you hired a Catholic.

And people knew why, too: Catholics had to face the confessional.

Virginia Chase Sanderson is a retired college instructor of literature and writing who lives in Minneapolis. The essay is based on a talk she gave at St. Stephen in Anoka.

 

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Hope amid upheaval

July 2, 2015

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The Cathedral of St. Paul, cathedral of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis

The Cathedral of St. Paul, cathedral of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis

I woke up the morning of June 15, and in typical morning fashion I scrolled my newsfeed. The first story I came across was the news that both Archbishop John Nienstedt and Bishop Lee Piché had resigned. I then read the comments that followed. Some were of those who had been advocating (and hoping) for resignation, and others were from those who felt they were mourning the loss of their shepherds.

I then began to examine my own conscience.

“What opinion do I have of this situation? What opinion should I have? I work in the trenches of the Church daily. My co-workers, our parishioners, the teens I serve — they will be talking, and Michelle, you need to be ready. You need an opinion — and a good, well-articulated one! What will you say if you someone asks you if it was right that they resigned?”

Neitzke

Michelle Neitzke

After some self reflection, I realized I didn’t have all the answers I wanted. I want to believe that truth will have its reign, that justice will be made known and that mercy will follow. I want to trust the decision of the bishops who resigned and that they were cooperating with their consciences. I want to trust that the Holy Spirit will appoint the right bishop to serve our archdiocese.

As of yet, those were the only conclusions I could come to. I resolved that this situation was, in a way, beyond me. I want answers just as much as the next person, but as of now, I still remain a spectator.

The questions that became pertinent to me were: How do I minister to the faithful who may be confused or hurt? How do I as a faithful daughter of the church, speak hope and truth to a local church that is bruised and hurting? How do I show them that I have trust and faith in the Church, the hierarchy, and the office of the episcopate, but yet at the same time realize the humanity and frailty of those who are appointed?

How do I show them that the church is constant, strong and as history shows, capable of enduring a storm? How do I tell of a God, who is full of mercy and who weeps with those who weep, a God whose heart beats with love and that bleeds with compassion for his children?

And yet, I know the world is watching, and local Church is asking:

Will the archdiocese recover?

Where do I place blame?

Can the Church withstand this?

In times turmoil, angst and scandal it is easy to look to the outside for answers and consolation. The answers do not come from the outside, but from the inside, and not even within those who hold offices in the Church, but in the Church herself, and how she prevails against the cursory and transient epochs of her time here on earth.

I believe that there is hope amidst upheaval and that the Church will endure.

The church can withstand this — but not because of the actions of man, but by the power of Christ and what is promised to us. The Church is not merely an institution — who is certainly subject to the struggle and sins of her human members — but a body of believers, who groan and travail until our final sanctification.

She exists now, and there at the same time.

She is in time, but rooted eternity,

is immanent, yet transcendent.

Suffering, while at the same time gloriously triumphant.

A shelter for its members, but is not contained by her walls.

She is ever ancient, and ever new.

And until the end of time, she will remain so.

And she will prevail.

I have promised and I will do it, says the Lord.

I really do believe this. I realize to many the beliefs I hold and the life I live is one of wonder. I have spent six years studying theology. I’m in my 20s and I have chosen to work for the Catholic Church, and so far, I have dedicated my career to it.

Many people unabashedly ask me, “Why would you work for that Church? The Church that can’t stay out of the headlines, and has many times been wounded by its own members?”

My answer to them is the same as it is to those who are angry, hurt and confused by the current events in our archdiocese.

The Church is a human body, but also a mystical body — mystical because its head is the one who is Glory Himself. Our Church is a pilgrim, susceptible to the failings of its members but never defeated by them. Imperfect now, but perfect then, and continually holding on to the promise of restoration and renewal. Christ will not abandon his church and the Holy Spirit will not be quenched. Renewal and sanctification are not far off possibilities but obtainable realities.

Hope is not mere sentimentality but a virtue, which certainly requires humility and trust. Hope demands that we trust not in ourselves, but in the power of God. Hope is not weak, but rooted in an expectant faith. Hope believes that God will deliver what he has promised. We hope in the glory to come, but are also aware that this glory can be present here and now, just as the sun  peeks rays of its light, God will show his glory through cloudy and dim circumstances. He will make things new.

My prayers are with the Church, and those who are confused, suffering, hurt and lost.

My hope is in Christ.

Michelle Neitzke is the director of senior high faith formation at All Saints in Lakeville.

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Fit for God

July 1, 2015

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abc_fitbit_flex_design_jt_130523_wmainI have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. ~ 2 Timothy 4:7

I received a Fitbit for Mother’s Day. This little tool tracks my steps, my sleep and if I input the information, it tracks my calorie intake also. This tracking device comes in a variety of brands and names and no; this is not a commercial endorsement but a reflection on how this little tool has changed my life.

Here is how it works.   If I make my daily goal of 10,000 steps I get a congratulatory e-mail and a buzz on my wrist device to give me an “Atta boy!” It is amazing what I will do for a little atta boy or girl as in my case! The positive reinforcement and reminders have been a good thing to keep me on track with my fitness goals.  We have become a Fitbit family now since I bought my son one for his birthday and my husband one for Father’s Day. Our daily routine includes Fitbit challenges with family and friends trying to outdo one another in daily goals! With our good natured family competition, our evening greeting has now become – “How many steps did you get?” instead of “Hi honey, I am home.”

Recently I read an opinion piece saying “You don’t own your Fitbit – it owns you!” While it may be true that I get a cheap thrill when I get my congratulations e-mail or if I am at 9500 steps at the end of the day I choose to walk around the living room or find reasons to jaunt over to the neighbor’s house just to make my 10,000 steps, my Fitbit doesn’t own me!  At least I don’t think so.

Unlike the critical article about how the Fitbit owns me, I feel the Fitbit is doing its job.  The goal is to change some of my bad behavior into good behavior.  This started me wondering if this same process could be used to help me have a more “fit” spiritual life.

Instead of putting on my Fitbit each day – How do I put on Christ each day to make Him a priority in my life?

Instead of reminding me to take my 10,000 steps each day – How can I be reminded to pray my 10 minutes a day?

Simple reminders and small changes in behavior can make big changes in my overall well-being physically and spiritually.  Since I need prompts and support, I am trying to attach a spiritual devotion or reminder to everyday things.

Here are a few:

  • I place a picture and a prayer card next to the mirror in my bathroom and pray when I brush my teeth.
  • I wear a cross necklace and when I absently grab it and fiddle with it, I silently place into God’s hands the worries I am fretting about.
  • When my Fitbit buzzes and I have reached my goal – I move my thoughts to the great gratitude I have for all God has given me.
  • Included in my Fitbit challenges are text messages of love, support and prayers for family and friends.
  • I have even included a walk to the adoration chapel on a weekly basis to have some time to “recharge.”

Living out your faith every day doesn’t need to be hard or complicated but like my overall physical health, big changes can happen over time with little adjustments on a daily basis.   What devices and supports can you put into place to up your game?

 

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