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.

Jesus still provocative after all these years

{mosimage}The One Who Is To Come  by Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J. (Wm B. Eerdmans, 183 pages, softcover, $22.99).

Of the distinguished trio of Catholic scholars (Raymond Brown, Roland Murphy and Joseph Fitzmyer) who edited both the Jerome Biblical Commentary (1968) and its successor, the New Jerome (1990), today Fitzmyer is the sole survivor, and unquestionably the éminence grise of Catholic exegetes. Almost 87 years old, Fr. Fitzmyer remains one of the most formidable scholarly minds in the field of Scripture, an expert in ancient Aramaic and Hebrew, a specialist in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the author of dozens of books on the Bible.

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).