Questioning some common beliefs

{mosimage}Tall Tales About The Mind & Brain, Separating Fact From Fiction edited by Sergio Della Sala (Oxford University Press, 548 pages, hardcover, $64.95).

Having a set of beliefs does not mean we stop thinking or questioning our deepest held assumptions. One of the primary reasons I love Catholicism is that it encourages critical thinking. Catholics are required not to simply believe but to understand reasons behind their beliefs. There is a healthy role that doubt and questioning play in being able to appreciate the mystery in all things.

Making Mohammed real for 21st century

{mosimage}In the Footsteps of the Prophet: Lessons from the Life of Mohammed by Tariq Ramadan (Oxford University Press, hardcover, 256 pages, $28.95).

Many years ago, well before I ever became a priest, I found myself living a crisis of faith. In my searching I decided to make a detailed examination of other religions along with my own. In the end I concluded that only the Catholic faith could have a claim to being the truth, but I also came away with a healthy respect for the other world religions.

Across the editor’s desk

Every week at least half a dozen books drift across the editor’s desk at The Catholic Register. Most weeks we have barely enough space to thoughtfully review one. So, in the interest of fuller disclosure, here’s a few notes about some of the books we haven’t sent out for review.

American psychologists give tools to achieve goals

{mosimage}It’s Not My Fault, by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend (Integrity Publishers, 241 pages, softcover $19.13).

TORONTO - It’s Not My Fault is a book for those who are seeking goals they cannot seem to reach, but goals they still would like to achieve. Authors Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend say the problem doesn’t stem from circumstances around a person, but from within themselves.

Sharing the contradictions of a poet-priest

The Forgotten World of R.J. MacSween: A Life by Stewart Donovan (Cape Breton University Press, softcover, 280 pages, $23.95 list).

Stewart Donovan’s biography of his former St. Francis Xavier University professor, priest-poet Roderick MacSween, is a sincere, elegant and thorough account of an unusual life. The Forgotten World of R.J. MacSween is written in a lucid, unassuming style that reflects something of its subject — MacSween’s poetry is characterized by a plainness that modestly conceals the erudition of the professor. Donovan’s book, transporting us to rural Nova Scotia in the last century, provides a soothing retreat from the hurly-burly of most contemporary lives.

Books to make an ex-pat homesick


{mosimage}Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill (HarperCollins, 330 pages, $17.50).

Soucouyant by David Chariandy (Arsenal, 200 pages, $19.95).

Helpless by Barbara Gowdy (HarperCollins, 306 pages, $32.95).

Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje (McClelland and Stewart, 273 pages, $34.99).

The Assassin’s Song by M.G. Vassanji (Doubleday Canada, 314 pages, $34.95).
While studying theology in Boston I felt so homesick I thought I’d go crazy. I would delay the journey back to Canada as long as I could, but then I’d snap, call an airline agent or rush to South Station. If I flew to Toronto, I’d watch out the car window leaving the airport for the first Canadian flag. If I crossed the Quebec border, I’d long to hug the surly customs officers. I couldn’t do that, of course, so I spoke French to them instead.

History repeats

{mosimage}Sacred Causes: The Clash of Religion and Politics From the Great War to the War on Terror by Michael Burleigh (HarperCollins, 557 pages, hardcover, $34.95.)

In his first volume of two on the co-mingling of European culture and faith covering the late 18th century to modern times, the encyclopedic and masterful British scholar Michael Burleigh laid down a basic theory to ground his work: “The more things change, the more they remain the same.” In other words, the tides of history roll out, but they also return. Faith may seem to disappear, but in fact it does not.

Patchett’s Boston beautiful but wrong

{mosimage}Run by Ann Patchett (Harper Collins, 295 pages, $32.95).

Ann Patchett’s latest novel, Run, will fly out of bookstores. And well it should, for it is a beautiful book. It is a non-Catholic novel about semi-pagan Catholics, but both the plot and the characters are engaging. The tone is as gentle and musical as the soundtrack on its promotional DVD. If you have a soft heart and an ear for good writing, you will be entranced and moved by Run.


Exploring the roots of the Messiah

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Here is an excellent introduction into the concept of the Messiah in the Bible. It allows us to understand how the Christian understanding of Christ is rooted in the Jewish tradition, but goes beyond it. This new Christian understanding was formed by the disciples’ experience of Jesus and His work.

Possibilities, dangers of Islam’s rise in Europe

{mosimage}God’s Continent: Christianity, Islam and Europe’s Religious Crisis by Philip Jenkins (Oxford University Press, 340 pages, hardcover $31.95).

They thought he was a cranky crackpot in his time, but Hillaire Belloc’s 1938 prophecy has come back to haunt Europe today: “Anyone with a knowledge of history is bound to ask himself whether we shall not see in the future a revival of Mohammedan political power, and the renewal of the old pressure of Islam upon Christendom.”

The reproduction industry

{mosimage}Everything Conceivable: How Assisted Reproduction is Changing Men, Women and the World, by Liza Mundy (Alfred A Knopf, hardcover, 406 pages. $34.95).

This book tells gripping stories about virtually unregulated U.S. industries assisting human reproduction. It challenges pro-lifers to find new language for abiding concerns in rapidly changing contexts. It gives insight into probable future assaults on Canadian law.