Bridging the Catholic-Jewish gap

Jews and Catholics Together: Celebrating the Legacy of Nostra Aetate, edited by Michael Attridge (Novalis, softcover, 180 pages, $19.95).

{mosimage}It’s hard to imagine just how abysmal Jewish-Catholic relations were before the Second Vatican Council, but abysmal they were. Merely 40 years ago, Jews were often viewed as “Christ-killers,” condemned to wander the Earth because of their refusal to accept Jesus as the Messiah. There was also a longstanding and largely unresolved debate within Christianity over “supersessionism,” the view that the Jewish covenant with God was nullified by the covenant in Christ, thus making Judaism a false religion. Consequently, Jews were targeted by missionaries for conversion. And then there is the question, still being grappled with today, of how centuries of Christian anti-Semitism provided fertile soil for the Holocaust.

Generosity is the art of living right

{mosimage}Being Generous: The Art of Right Living by Lucinda Vardey and John Dalla Costa (Knopf Canada, hardcover, 320 pages, $25).

The title of this book caught my eye. I had to stop and ponder what I understood by the expression “being generous.” I discovered, as the authors so clearly point out, that I had a very limited notion of this very rich and transforming phrase.

Real, raw, rugged life stories - book cover

{mosimage}I Choose God, by Chris Cuddy, Peter Ericksen (St. Anthony Messenger Press, 130 pg., $10.99).

The novel I Choose God is an enjoyable read of 21 testimonies by young people about how they struggled to overcome difficult situations and find God.

Afghanistan's moral reality

{mosimage}The Taliban and the Crisis of Afghanistan by Robert D. Crews and Amin Tarzi eds. (Harvard University Press, hard cover, 430 pages, $30).

If Canada is going to have a debate about what its soldiers are doing in Afghanistan, or what Canada as a country should be doing in Afghanistan, that debate need not be conducted on the basis of vague mythology.

A Jewish take on sanctity of life

{mosimage}The Sanctity of Human Life by David Novak (Georgetown University Press, 186 pages, hardcover, $35).

Rabbi David Novak is a professor of religion and philosophy at the University of Toronto. His doctoral degree (and his publisher) are from Georgetown University, a Jesuit university in Washington, D.C. Readers who appreciate erudite arguments and rigourous scholarship will be interested in this book, which explores from a Jewish point of view some of the same topics as Pope John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life).

Adding puzzling mystery to Jesus' story

The Good Man Jesus and The Scoundrel ChristThe Good Man Jesus and The Scoundrel Christ, by Philip Pullman (Knopf, 256 pages, hardcover, $27.)

Well-known authors have tried to retell the Jesus story in fictional form over the last few decades. Some, like C.S. Lewis in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, used a highly imaginative and metaphorical setting. Nikos Kazantzakis with his very earthy Jesus in The Last Temptation of Christ and Anne Rice with her recent and much more prosaic rendering in the Christ The Lord series both chose a literal retelling of the Gospel.

A simple book fails through its simplicity

 …Here comes a sea followed by an ocean…: Very simple reflections on the Second Vatican Council, after 40 years, by Fr. Gianni Carparelli (Caritas Project Publishing, softcover, 179 pages, $15.00 by phone at 416-294-2327)

A book praising Vatican II should prosper. Unfortunately, this one might be hurt because its reflections on Vatican II are not just “very simple,” as the title says, but too simple and fragmented. These reflections have also been marred by careless editing. 

God and the battle between mind and brain

{mosimage}The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Case for the Existence of the Soul, by Mario Beauregard and Denyse O’Leary (HarperCollins, 368 pages, hardcover, $31.50).

Materialists are legion in the universities, and it is a favourite sport of materialists to make fun of us credulous people who believe in God. Materialists, especially the 19-year-olds, are amazed that religious people even bother to go to university. What materialists don’t realize, of course, is that materialism is itself a belief system whose claims have not been scientifically verified.

Fouling the message with the method

{mosimage}Journeys to the Heart of  Catholicism, by Ted Schmidt (Seraphim Editions, softcover, 200 pages, $19.95).

I am the mother of teenagers and, according to my kids, doing a pretty lousy job. So bad, in fact, that I turned to the experts and bought some parenting books. One in particular gave me some very practical advice that I am trying (unsuccessfully) to follow: If shouting doesn’t work, shouting louder really won’t either. There were certain times while reading Journeys to the Heart of Catholicsm I felt like saying to Teddy Schmidt — “Stop shouting.”

Roche looks at the bright side of life

Global Conscience by Douglas Roche (Novalis, softcover, 208 pages, $22.95).

{mosimage}When we think about the state of the world today, it’s difficult to ward off encroaching despair. The deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan haunt us. We worry about developments in Pakistan and Burma. Almost daily, there are warnings about the shrinking polar ice cap. Meanwhile, homeless people sleep rough on Canadian streets.

Commonality, differences with Protestants

{mosimage}Hope in Troubled Times: A New Vision for Confronting World Crises by Bob Goudzwaard, Mark Vander Vennen and Van Heemst David (Baker Book House, softcover, 256 pages, $24.99).

Compassion, Justice and the Christian Life: Rethinking Ministry to the Poor
by Robert D. Lupton, (Gospel Light and Regal Books, softcover, 139 pages, $12.50).

Theology for Non-Theologians: An Engaging
, Accessible and Relevant Guide, by James Cantelon (Wiley, softcover, 336 pages, $26.99).

As Roman Catholics we are aware of the unity and, at the same time, the separation that exists among Christians. We all follow Jesus, the one Lord, yet the different Christian communities have different outlooks and interpretations about how to go about this. It is interesting, therefore, to have a look every once in a while at what authors from other Christian denominations are writing about.