Tides of faith roll out, but they always come back

 Earthly Powers: The Clash of Religion and Politics in Europe, from the French Revolution to the Great War,  by Michael Burleigh. (HarperCollins Canada, 530 pages, hardcover, $26.37 at amazon.ca).

The tides roll out. They also return. The metaphor of tides slipping away from a beach became a favourite of writers and commentators after Matthew Arnold penned his famous lines in Dover Beach (1867) about the loss of faith and religion. What is sometimes forgotten about this analogy is that tides return, though probably never in exactly the same way.

    Jesus’ mystery revealed through John the Baptist

     John the Baptist: Prophet and Disciple, by Alexander J. Burke Jr. (St. Anthony Messenger Press, 232 pages; $15.27 at amazon.ca).

    In the flood of books on the historical Jesus published over the last 20 years, it is remarkable so little has been written about John the Baptist. After Jesus, Peter and Paul, John the Baptist is one of the most prominent figures in the New Testament, and yet he has been largely eclipsed by the interest in his more famous relative, Jesus. In this new book, Alexander Burke attempts to end John’s time in the shadows by presenting a thoughtful interdisciplinary look at the forerunner of the Lord.

      Fall Reading Guide: Across the editor’s desk

       The United States Library of Congress estimates it has catalogued 29 million books over the last 200 years. The International Standard Book Number System currently has 628,795 publishers in 248 countries listed. The Vatican

        Lowering the boom on Bibby

        {mosimage}The Boomer Factor by Reginald W. Bibby (Bastian Books, 246 pages, soft cover, $19.95).

        If, as Reginald Bibby suggests, there has been a cultural shift from “we” to “me” which has accompanied the baby boomers, then is it not obvious that there would be negative social repercussions to such a shift? Bibby’s newest book, The Boomer Factor, proposes that the change has been mostly positive and does not offer sufficient explanation of the negative consequences.

          The spirituality of Margaret Laurence

          {mosimage}Margaret Laurence. A Gift of Grace: A Spiritual Biography, by Noelle Boughton (Women Who Rock Series, Women’s Press, 208 pages, softcover. $19.95.)

          Margaret Laurence wrote with a sense of vocation. She experienced writing as a “gift of grace.” Her Christian faith taught her respect for the “unique and irreplaceable” nature of each character in her fiction. Those familiar with Laurence’s autobiographical writings may already know these facts and much of the rest of what Noelle Boughton tells us. However, those who know Laurence through having read a novel or two, or simply by reputation as an activist, feminist author whose works some have wanted withdrawn from high school classrooms will be intrigued to learn how deep the spiritual dimension runs in her work.

            Exploring the myth of Jews as killers of Christ

            {mosimage}Christ Killers: The Jews and the Passion from the Bible to the Big Screen by Jeremy Cohen (Oxford University Press, 337 pages, hardcover, $34.95).

            There aren’t many of us who would walk into Chapters or Book City and ask for the book Christ Killers. It is a difficult title to get our heads and hearts around. Which is a shame, because Jeremy Cohen has written a remarkable book.

              Scorsese’s movie vision shaped by religion

              {mosimage}Gangster Priest: The Italian American Cinema of Martin Scorsese by Robert Casillo (University of Toronto Press, 600 pages, softcover, $39.95).

              This year Italian-American director Martin Scorsese won his first Oscar for The Departed — a Catholic version of the Buddhist Asian film Infernal Affairs. Both dealt with a fallen world in which the dynamics of law and crime reveal the same patterns of manipulation, abuse and duplicity. This is Lenten fare, for as the psalmist says, “Put not your trust in those in power, in mortals in whom there is no help” (Psalm 146:3).

                How to say yes by saying no

                {mosimage}The Thrill of The Chaste, by Dawn Eden (W Publishing Group, 212 pages, soft cover $13.99 U.S.).

                In a world where Sex and the City infiltrates television sets and one-night stands are the every day norm comes Dawn Eden’s The Thrill of The Chaste. This book talks about an almost unheard of way of looking at love and relationships in the 21st century.

                  Partners missing from debate

                  {mosimage}Catholic Women in Ministry: Changing the Way Things Are by Marie-Louise Ternier-Gommers (Novalis, 216 pages, softcover, $21.95).

                  “The laity, however, are given this special vocation: to make the church present and fruitful in those places and circumstances where it is only through them that it can become the salt of the earth.” - Lumen Gentium, 33

                  The Second Vatican Council document, Lumen Gentium, defines the special role of laypeople in the church. It is now more than 40 years since the Council told the laity to make its contribution to “the sanctification of the world,” and the response has been monumental. It is everywhere around us — in volunteer ministry in our parishes and in professional ministry where the shortage of priests has created opportunities for laypeople to exercise their gifts in hospital, prison and school chaplaincy, in pastoral work in parishes and in education, music and liturgy.

                    Through the pages of a Jesuit life

                    {mosimage}The Greater Glory, Thirty-Seven Years With the Jesuits by Stephen Casey (McGill-Queen’s University Press, hardcover, 243 pages, $34.95).

                    The immigrants to Canada in the mid-1800s brought with them their skills, dreams, fears, languages, customs, foods and their religions. As they clung to their heritage and memory from the Old World, they implanted what they considered to be the best of what they had known in Europe. This immigration married their religious expectations and traditions, for better or for worse, with those of the French Canadians who had preceded them in the flight from Europe.

                      Following Christ’s lead on devotion to peace

                      transfigurationTransfiguration: A Meditation on Transforming Ourselves and Our World by John Dear (Image Books, soft cover, 238 pages, $14.95 list)

                      If there is one lesson we can never learn too many times it is how to read the Bible. Jesuit Father John Dear’s Transfiguration shows us clearly and concretely how it’s done.