For Lent this year, I committed to completing Vinita Hampton Wright’s Set the World on Fire: A 4-Week Personal Retreat with the Female Doctors of the Church. It was an incredible opportunity to get to know four powerhouse saints who … Continue reading
Bishop Athanasius Schneider’s book “The Catholic Mass” is an incredible testament to the beauty and symbolism of the Catholic Mass. While some might argue that Bishop Schneider is longing for a past that has passed, I believe that he does a wonderful job of showing how the Catholic Mass has always been intended as the sacred union of the human and divine, the temporal and the eternal, the physical and the spiritual. Though he definitely has a strong preference for the Traditional Latin Mass over the Novus Ordo, many of his assertions can be applied to the new rite just as easily as they can be applied to the old.
Bishop Schneider advocates for the importance of beauty. The Catholic Mass is meant to be beautiful. Beauty, as one of the transcendentals, has the power to draw man to Truth and Goodness. It is intimately linked with man’s desire for truth, and his desire to be good. Since we live in a world that seems to be pride itself in its ability to create ugliness, it should come as no surprise that we also live in a world that embraces relativism in matters pertaining to both truth and goodness. The world tries to convince us that what is true for you might not be true for me, and what is good for you might not be good for me. The Catholic Mass should remind us that we as human persons are naturally drawn to the true, good, and beautiful. To do that, the Mass must be beautiful itself. But as long as we keep choosing ugly architecture, ugly vestments, and ugly music, man’s search for God will be hindered. And the Catholic Mass should never be a hindrance in man’s search for God.
Bishop Schneider advocates for the importance of history. One of my favorite things about this book was that Bishop Schneider backed up all of his assertions with history. Curious when Catholics began receiving Holy Communion on the hand? This book will tell you when and why the change was made (and why it shouldn’t have been made). I wasn’t convinced of every assertion he made, but I certainly can’t claim that Bishop Schneider doesn’t know his history. The Catholic Mass should be a seamless representation of the Church’s existence, both past and present. When we celebrate the Mass, we should be able to see where we’ve come from, and Mass should not be filled with innovations that make it difficult to recognize as the same Mass that was celebrated by the apostles and early martyrs, as well as the later mystics and theologians. The Catholic Mass should draw us into a Communion of Saints that spans millennia.
Bishop Schneider advocates for the importance of symbolism. Catholicism is so rich in symbolism, and the Mass is just as rich in its sacramentality. Everything is meant to communicate more than just itself to us. Water has the power to forgive sins. Bread and wine can become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Chapel veils remind us of the sacredness of the Church, the Bride of Christ. Facing East reminds us of the promise that came with the sunrise on that first Easter morning. Bishop Schneider does an incredible job of reminding us how symbolic the Mass can be, if done well. The Catholic Mass, in any form, is meant to draw man to God, and its rich symbolism has so much power to do that for us.
Finally, Bishop Schneider advocates for the importance of reverence for the sacred. Man satisfies the deepest pull of his nature when he worships God. Man was created for worship. The Catholic Mass is a sacred liturgy, the joining of heaven and earth, the gathering of the entire Church- the Church militant, the Church suffering, and the Church triumphant- for the purpose of worshipping God. Yes, the Mass is where we are filled with God’s life. Yes, we do “get something” when we go to Mass, but that’s not the whole point. We are also meant to give. We are meant to give God praise and worship, to love and adore Him. God does not need anything from us, but we need to worship Him to the best of our ability. It’s what we were made to do, and as Bishop Athanasius Schneider so beautifully demonstrates, the Mass was given to us to help us do just that. So if you’re looking to read something to remind you of your God-given call to worship, this is the book for you.
When we consider some of the most popular saints- St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Francis of Assisi, and St. John of the Cross, just to name a few- we contemplate the lives of holy men and women living in Catholic Europe. If we had to name five saints that came from America, we’d probably struggle to do so. Our nation is still young, especially when compared to countries like Spain, France, and Italy, where Catholicism has existed and dominated for millennia. We can only claim a handful of canonized saints as American.
Michael O’Neill’s new book, They Might Be Saints: On the Path to Sainthood in America, provides short biographies for all American blesseds and venerables who are currently on the path to sainthood in the Catholic Church, along with a list of all the Servants of God who have ties to the United States. Some of these men and women lived centuries ago; others died just years ago. Many of them with priests and religious, but a handful of them were single or married laypeople. All of them lived incredibly holy lives, and right here in America. If we want examples of what it means to be both Catholic and America, we need look no further.
Michael O’Neil also provides a very succinct but informative description of the history and process of canonization in the Catholic Church. He describes how the process has transformed over the years, slowly taking the form that we recognize today. He defines all the terms, outlining what exactly we mean when we consider the saints and the process of canonization. Finally, in addition to providing helpful biographies of these holy men and women, he provides prayers to them as well as the contact information for reporting favors and miracles attributed to each saint.
If you’re looking for some new saint biographies, this is a fantastic book to read. It is so encouraging to read about the lives of saints who lived right here in the United States, who were born in raised in our home states, who could have walked the same streets we walk today. America might be young, and it might not be a Catholic powerhouse like the European countries of Italy, France, and Spain, but we live in a country that has been entrusted to Our Lady and the fruits of her labors here are readily visible in the lives of the saints described in this book.
One of the most misunderstood relationships in this world is that between faith and reason, religion and science. Many of us know people who assert that their faith in science has made the need to believe in anything else obsolete. Some of us at least know of people who consider science to be Satan’s attempt to lead God’s people astray. The relationship between faith and reason seems to be an either/or to most people. Either you’re religious, or you value science. But in reality, it’s a both/and situation. We need religion and science. As Baglow suggests at the beginning of his book, science explains the how of the universe, and faith provides the why.
Christopher T. Baglow’s book, Creation: A Catholic’s Guide to God and the Universe, does a wonderful job demonstrating how science and religion are supposed to relate to one another. He shows how these areas of study are meant to be complementary, one shining light on the other. Baglow does this by considering a handful of common topics of debate: creation and evolution, the existence of Adam and Eve, the role of sin and suffering in this world, the resurrection of Christ, and the resurrection of all humanity, just to name a few.
If you’re looking for a short book that explains topics relating to science and religion in simple, yet accurate, terms, this is a great book to read. Combining recent scientific findings with sound philosophical and theological insights, Baglow does a wonderful job showing that Truth lies at the center of both faith and reason, and that God, as Truth Himself, is the foundation and Creator of both science and religion.
When Meg Hunter-Kilmer’s “Pray for Us: 75 Saints Who Sinned, Suffered, and Struggled on Their Way to Holiness” arrived in the mail, I couldn’t wait to start it. Literally. I put away the book I was already halfway through, and … Continue reading
I first came across St. Louis de Montfort’s “True Devotion to Mary” when I was in high school. I successfully completed the consecration for the first time about a decade later. In those ten years, I probably attempted the consecration … Continue reading
Kathryn Rombs’ book “Motherhood: An Extraordinary Vocation” is the book that every Catholic mom living in today’s culture needs to read. It’s actually the book that every Catholic woman needs to read. I wish that this book had existed back … Continue reading
Nicole M. Caruso’s “Worthy of Wearing” is the book for every Catholic woman trying to figure out how she is meant to relate to style, beauty, and her clothing. I should begin by saying that I am not a girl … Continue reading
Vicki Burbach’s “The Lost Art of Sacrifice” is the book that every Catholic (and Christian) living the cushy life in America needs to read. Surrounded by all the wonderful modern comforts of 21st century America, it’s hard to find a … Continue reading
I have always been enamored by St. Augustine’s writings. I’ve read his Confessions multiple times, as well as many of his other works. “Rejoice in the Lord, “ a 30-day reflection booklet based on the writings of St. Augustine, was … Continue reading