The National Catholic Review

Books

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  • August 29-September 6, 2016

    Good books, the story goes, started Ignatius on the path to sainthood. During his convalescence from battle wounds, he asked for tales of chivalry but instead received the lives of Christ and the saints. Reading them awakened him to the spiritual battle, and he emerged from his recovery as the man who would go on to change the course of the church and the world.

    As an English teacher, I would like to believe that there is an Ignatius...

  • August 29-September 6, 2016

    Few saints have so firmly captured the collective Christian imagination and had such enduring impact as Francis of Assisi. The current pope not only adopted the mystic and reformer’s name; he has also drawn theological and pastoral orientation from Francis’ love of creation and of evangelical poverty. The saint’s charism still animates numerous religious orders that bear his name. He is honored (if that is the word) in countless garden statues, to say nothing of the...

  • August 29-September 6, 2016

    Most people would think that the idea of a Catholic Enlightenment was a contradiction in terms. Was not the Enlightenment essentially anti-religious and specifically anti-Catholic? Did not the Catholic Church prove itself to be the bitterest enemy and strongest opponent of Enlightenment ideas and values in politics, philosophy and culture, culminating in denunciations of all that the Enlightenment stood for in documents like the “Syllabus of Errors” (1864)?...

  • August 15-22, 2016

    Parents should know where their children are not only physically but “existentially,” says Pope Francis in “The Joy of Love,” and he calls for a church that goes out to the “existential peripheries.” Whether he read the major figures of the movement chronicled by Sarah Bakewell or not, he was influenced by them as a young Jesuit in the mid-20th century.

    Bakewell read the existentialists in the 1980s, when they were already...

  • August 15-22, 2016

    In the final chapter of Joan Chittister: Her Journey From Certainty to Faith , Joan Chittister, O.S.B., advises religious communities to ponder the following questions about the future of religious life: “Is there energy of heart shining out of the eyes there? Is there a pounding commitment to a wild and unruly gospel there? Is the spiritual life aglow there? Is there risk there? Is there unflagging commitment, undying intensity, unequivocal determination to be what...

  • August 15-22, 2016

    Step back to a town with a sizable Roman garrison holding the eastern front along the Euphrates River in the early to mid-third century of the Christian Era. Who would not jump at the chance to accompany the catechumen Isseos through the sacred rites of Christian baptism? Or to wonder about others whose names appear connected to the artistic decoration of the baptistery? We meet a soldier named Pontus who commissioned a David slaying Goliath, and a woman...

  • In the academic world, it sometimes seems untoward for religion scholars to be enthusiastic about religion. It’s fine for specialists in the social sciences or arts to revel in some particular school of thought. But, it seems to me, a certain distance is expected from the religious studies expert—to view the subject of the transcendent as an entirely human construct.

    In his new book History and Presence , the historian Robert A. Orsi argues for an approach to...

  • August 1-8, 2016

    David Means, the author of four critically acclaimed collections of short stories, has written his first novel, and it is a tour de force of imagination. Freudian psychology, de-centered Vietnam vets and nonsensical bureaucratic language are rich ores for a novelist to mine. In particular, the languages of bureaucrats and stoners, entwined with one another, set up a hilarity that is almost joyful until we realize how soaked in menace the story is. We may...

  • August 1-8, 2016

    Another character-driven novel by Jonathan Franzen, Purity proposes a system in which morality is a performance and a frustration of desire. His newest book was highly anticipated after the success of The Corrections (2001), which won the National Book Award, and the highly praised Freedom (2010). Since Corrections Franzen has worn all the laurels as the darling of American letters. The hype is well deserved, though, as he continues the tradition of the large...

  • August 1-8, 2016

    Thanks to Isadore Nikunge, I can attest to the power of international perspective when it comes to troubling moral issues.

    In the early 1960s, Isadore was a foreign exchange student at Fordham University. He had come from Kenya (the actual Kenyan nation, not the State of Hawaii). Our family, living two blocks west of Fordham, befriended him.

    At the time, folks like Malcolm X were bluntly...