The National Catholic Review

Catholic Book Club

  • Some years back, I enrolled in a graduate seminar in Analytic Philosophy. At the start of the first class, the professor posed the question—what makes you you? What is the core of your identity? If one were to teleport you through time and space, what part of you would need to be transferred so that it would actually be you that stands at the other end of the Star Trek-like shipment? Would it have to be your DNA sequence—some sort of recipe of proteins? Would it be your feelings...

  • Amazon currently sells a 5-volume, 3,020 page (11.6 lbs.) hardcover version of Thomas Aquinas’s Summa theologiae for $198.46. Before you go out to buy the set and strive to finish reading through the double columned pages before Labor Day, it would behoove you to read Bernard McGinn’s fine introduction to the structure of the book, the man and the age that produced it, and the history of the book’s reception during the last 740 years.

  • In the 1980s, the American short story writer Raymond Carver penned a story called “A Small, Good Thing.” It is a haunting story that includes, at once, the death of a child and an ending that illustrates the hope of companionship: the breaking of bread together. The bread served to the grieving parents becomes an instrument of reconciliation, nourishment, conversation and healing. The bread is “a small, good thing.”

  • Over his lifetime, J. F. Powers published dozens of stories and two novels—the first at age 43 (April’s Catholic Book Club selection) and the second at age 71. Powers agonized over his second novel for 25 years. In a sense, Wheat That Springeth Green conveys the anguish of a writer trying to make sense of the world from the early 1960s to the late 1980s.

  • What makes a priest or consecrated religious worldly? Is it care for finances or fundraising? Is it a taste for fine clothing, food and drink? Is it love of opera or devotion to televised sports? Does a worldly priest or religious simply mean an individual whose spiritual life collapses into a prayerful reading of The New York Times? Actually, can a priest or religious, as hard as they might try, ever be worldly?

  • Part II of the Discussion (Pages 165-463)

    Read Part I here.

  • Part I of the Discussion (Pages 1-164)

    Read part II here.

  • Augustine’s Confessions is the story of a soul. It is the account of a soul that once had a rigid, fairly intelligible story for itself. For some thirty years, Augustine told the same story of his soul—to himself, to others—until that story was torn up and reconstituted in his conversion. After Augustine’s conversion, his soul’s story became that of the Prodigal Son. The story was given to him, and he realized its truth. He began to make sense of his life in the light of his soul’s...

  • The word “someone” is indefinite and ordinary. It is a word that stands in for or anticipates another more vivid concept. It almost always denotes a person: “Someone will pick me up.” “Someone will know how to get there.” It is a subtle word that carries a great deal of meaning. Someone is the title of Alice McDermott’s new novel that tells the life of someone whose life is indefinite, ordinary, uncertain, but elegant and rich with meaning. It is the story of woman’s life—someone...

  • Recently, Randy Boyagoda, a professor of English and a writer of fiction and essays, offered a provocative call to reflective Christians to put down their Flannery O’Connor and Dostoyevsky and pick up some hard cover fiction in order to revive the Christian literary imagination and Catholic literature. While I do not agree with his criticism of Mr. Paul Elie, who is—I think—presently working quite hard to accomplish...