Final text for a course in church history I'm taking, this is a brilliant, fascinating summary of one of the great religious events in modern times, wFinal text for a course in church history I'm taking, this is a brilliant, fascinating summary of one of the great religious events in modern times, written at the moment by one on the Council's "progressive" advisors. Hard to believe that 40 years later, as Pope Benedict, he was derided by so many as a right-winger! If you want to know what happened at the time, this is the book. If you want to know what we all made of the Council in the aftermath, well that's a different book....more
Having worked my way through the novels of Dickens and having heard for years that Trollope might be a similar treat, I was finally steered toward "ThHaving worked my way through the novels of Dickens and having heard for years that Trollope might be a similar treat, I was finally steered toward "The Way We Live Now" by a NYT Book column in which Rufus Wainwright opined that it was one of the ten books he would want on a desert island. I don't customarily turn to Mr. Wainwright for advice, but somehow this word was just enough to tip my balance and send me tumbling into an 800-page masterpiece.
Imagine "The Big Short" written with three or even six surrounding love triangles, sort of like a complex organic molecule with all its rings, and you'll have something like "The Way We Live Now." There is a financial deal—ok, it's hardly a spoiler, a financial swindle—at the heart of the plot but once that is resolved (around page 650) at least 20 percent of the book is left to sort out all the love tangles.
I'm left thinking on the differences between Trollope and Dickens. They are distinct, but I am still sorting them out. Dickens is a theatrical performance artist, each of his characters a memorable grotesque prancing before his or her vivid scenery. Trollope is more the dispassionate dissector of human minds and hearts, with no less humor, though a dryer sort, and what a lot there is to dissect here!
My next projects are (1) to draw up a character diagram of "The Way We Live Now," with the scheming Lady Carbury and her two children at the epicenter; then (2) to begin the six-volume "Barchester Chronicles" with "The Warden." I've decided to read the "Barchester" books as books in my lap, not as buds in my ears or as screens burning my eyeballs. There is a distinctly old-timey joy to reading Anthony Trollope, and I'm going to settle down for some real enjoyment this spring. ...more
A good, balanced summary of the religious tsunami that hit Europe in the 16th century, including both the anti-Catholic reform movements (Lutheran, CaA good, balanced summary of the religious tsunami that hit Europe in the 16th century, including both the anti-Catholic reform movements (Lutheran, Calvinist, anabaptist, et al) and the efforts at reform within Catholicism itself (the so-called Counter-Reformation). Good bios of key figures from Luther to Ignatius of Loyola. ...more
Recently I finished another "Case for" book, "The Case for Christ" by Lee Strobel. This is a very different animal.
Strobel is a former legal reporterRecently I finished another "Case for" book, "The Case for Christ" by Lee Strobel. This is a very different animal.
Strobel is a former legal reporter for a major newspaper and writes like it. He treats questions of the Gospels (e.g. "Was the tomb empty?") like matters in a lurid murder trial for which dramatic evidence must be mustered. He even has a chapter titled "The Fingerprint Evidence," when of course Christ left no fingerprints.
"The Case for Jesus" is written by an academic (a Scripture scholar at Notre Dame) and for the first third or so, it reads like it: dry and repetitive and yawn-inducing. The author hammers at a few basic points that seem to need far less proof or repetition. But he ultimately makes a very persuasive case and with logic that I have not read before.
The logic is this. C.S. Lewis's famous "trilemma"—that Jesus must have been a lunatic, liar, or Lord—is compelling (Google it if you don't know it); but the trilemma falls flat unless two things hold. (a) The Gospels must be reliable, accurate history. (b) Jesus must actually have claimed to be "Lord," i.e. the son of the living God—and preferably not in the Gospel of John alone, but in the Synoptics as well. "The Case for Jesus" is dedicated to proving these two points, convincingly.
It does so by insisting that the Gospels be looked at from a 1st-century Jewish perspective. Why does Jesus refer to himself as "the son of Man"? Why does he rely heavily on Psalm 110 in his teaching (and Psalm 22 while on the Cross)? What does Jesus mean when he says in Matthew 12 that "no sign shall be given . . . except the sign of Jonah."
Pitre's proof rests heavily on showing how 1st-century Jews (Jesus's real-time audience) would have interpreted these questions. I began bored and ended convinced.
The book concludes with an afterword by the scholar and now bishop Robert Barron, who suggested the idea of this book to Pitre ten years ago. Barron ends with this recommendation: "Any prospective teacher, catechist, or evangelist who wants to deepen his or her knowledge of and passion for the Lord Jesus should read this book—and use it."...more
If you want a short briefing on Jean Vanier and the spirit of L'Arche, the movement he founded in 1964, you couldn't ask for briefer. I didn't know thIf you want a short briefing on Jean Vanier and the spirit of L'Arche, the movement he founded in 1964, you couldn't ask for briefer. I didn't know this book was only 52 pages when I bought it, but I'm glad I did. It serves a fine purpose: condensing the wisdom of Vanier's seminal work, "Community and Growth," into two short essays.
The essays were originally a pair of talks at Harvard Divinity School in 1988. I dearly would like to have been a fly on that wall. Vanier comments on the "absurdity" of speaking before a group of intellectually gifted people about his work with folks with developmental disabilities. There may also have been a certain disconnect between Vanier's devout Catholic p.o.v. and the Unitarianish attitudes of the D Schoolers.
But like any man with a mission, he plunged ahead, witnessing to the truth he had discerned in L'Arche: "that Jesus brought the good news to the poor, not to those who serve the poor!"; that we cannot "truly enter into our own inner pain and wounds and open our hearts to others unless we have had an experience of God, unless we have been touched by God"; that "one person, all alone, can never heal another. . . . It is important to bring broken people into a community of love"; that community should never be idealized, that community is a place of pain and conflict; that "at the heart of community, as we learn to care for our brothers and sisters, there is forgiveness"; and that "community is not an end or a final goal in itself. It is the place where we can meet Christ and discover his love for humanity and for every person." ...more
I gobbled up this 18-year-old book recommended to me by a friend who had found it compelling. I did too. Strobel is a former legal editor at the ChicaI gobbled up this 18-year-old book recommended to me by a friend who had found it compelling. I did too. Strobel is a former legal editor at the Chicago Tribune who treats the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as though investigating a crime or making a case in court.
The evidence is convincing: from historical studies proving the earliness and likely veracity of the Gospels and New Testament Letters, to evidence that Christ did die on the cross, that the tomb was empty, and that he was resurrected and did appear to his followers.
Strobel is also an Evangelical Protestant, which makes the book read odd, skewed, and incomplete to the Catholic reader, i.e. me. (This accounts for the 4-star rating, not 5.) For example, it is odd to read such a "case" without finding a single reference to the first- and second-century Apostolic Fathers like Clement, Ignatius, and Polycarp, whose testimonies and martyrdoms are studied closely by Catholic historians.
I was also struck with the final formula by which Strobel claims the non-believer might come to Jesus or be saved: "believe + receive = become." Believe, here, means rational belief; receive means "in a sincere prayer of penance," i.e. all at once. Through this simplistic equation, Strobel says, we can be not only convinced but saved.
To a Catholic this is too pat, and of course it lacks any reference to good works or community, i.e. the Church. No surprise there.
Still I was surprised how compelling the evidence for Jesus's divinity and resurrection really is. ...more
This should have been the Dickens novel I cared about; instead, it was for me what it has been for generations: unlovable.
I should have loved “BarnabThis should have been the Dickens novel I cared about; instead, it was for me what it has been for generations: unlovable.
I should have loved “Barnaby Rudge” because it is a pro-Catholic novel, or at least it is anti-anti-Catholic. Set during the Gordon Riots in London in 1780, it shows a mob growing frenzied around the cause of No Popery and destroying half of London while broadening its purpose until it signified nothing but destruction.
It is also the novel whose title character is intellectually disabled—although Dickens uses 19th-century terms. Swept up in the riots by his own enthusiastic misunderstanding, poor Barnaby is sent to the gallows for his innocent exuberance. I have recently begun working in a L’Arche community, so I should logically sympathize with Barnaby, as I should with fellow papists.
Instead, everyone left me cold except for Mr. Dennis the state hangman, because he is by far the most convincingly and curiously drawn. Dennis considers his calling a high one indeed, until he is called to receive, not give, a hangman’s services.
The problem: This book is about a mob, not its characters, most of whom are thin and ultimately lifeless—even poor Barnaby. I would guess that Dickens, who had no trouble identifying with paupers, men who lose sisters, swains in love, unhappy husbands, and artists—because he was all of these and more—could find little love in his heart for papists or those with disabilities.
Dickens saw a fascinating historic moment, wanted to make it dramatic, did so—and failed to populate it with real human beings....more
I had read all but four Dickens novels, ignoring this and three others as "secondary." But "Martin Chuzzlewit" impressed me far more than I expected.I had read all but four Dickens novels, ignoring this and three others as "secondary." But "Martin Chuzzlewit" impressed me far more than I expected. I give it four, not five stars only because there is certainly better Dickens—although middling Dickens is more worthwhile than almost-anyone-else.
I listened to the audio version narrated brilliantly by Sean Barrett, which, if you don't listen fast and all at once, which I did not, leads one to forget who certain characters are. But the major lines of "Martin Chuzzlewit" are clear to me, and I love them.
One feels Dickens the master puppeteer behind the scenes of "MC," pulling strings, bringing his characters together secretly, coincidentally, never randomly—especially during the last three chapters when every single, last one is dragged onstage for a tumultuous and satisfying resolution of the many subplots.
Many of the stock Dickens characters are here.. The cockney sidekick Mark Tapley differs from Sam Weller of "The Pickwick Papers" by a slender degree. Tom Pinch is the same Christian-hearted (though never avowedly Christian) person (sometimes female) that you find in almost every Dickens.
The one notably religious (or at least moralistic) character is one of Dickens's great villains, Seth Pecksniff. And is there a better, more delusional drunk than Sarah Gamp, with her imaginary friend, Mrs. Harris?
One of the treats here is that there are two Martin Chuzzlewits, grandfather and grandson. "MC" is partly about whether the ancestral selfishness embodied by the grandfather will be shaken by the grandson, but a bigger question—until the very end—is which Martin is meant to be the central character.
Please note that I have not yet mentioned the thing that distinguishes "MC" from all other Dickens. This is the Dickens-goes-to-and-trashes-America novel, through the eyes of the young Martin and his traveling mate, Mark Tapley. Let me just say—without taking sides—that Dickens seems to have time-traveled and met Donald Trump and returned to the 19th century to create many of his most, um, endearing American villains. ...more
The main textbook for a church history course I am taking, this is a sort of chronological encyclopedia. Each paragraph is a separate section or subseThe main textbook for a church history course I am taking, this is a sort of chronological encyclopedia. Each paragraph is a separate section or subsection with its own heading. While the material is well organized and clearly written, and while the whole adds up to a history, this book lacks a narrative thread or voice which I have come to expect from "history." I'm sure I will use it as a reference in future--although on second thought, I never look at the World Book on my shelves as I once did. So maybe I'll never look at this again either. Just Google. Comprehensive, authoritative, but ultimately unsatisfactory....more