This is an exceptional history of the early Church weaving the stories of two dozen fathers—from Clement and his first letter to the Corinthians lateThis is an exceptional history of the early Church weaving the stories of two dozen fathers—from Clement and his first letter to the Corinthians late in the first century thru Popes Leo (who negotiated peace with Attila the Hun) and Gregory (of chant fame) five hundred years later.
I listened to the audio version and have now ordered the print edition because I want to have the text as a ready resource. D’Ambrosio explains so much about the early Church, its development, the heresies that challenged it and the Councils that corrected it, and the beginnings of the split between East and West as the Roman Empire came to pieces. Few books have made me want to read so many others, including many of the early texts and (finally, I promise) Newman’s “Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine.” It’s hard to read the story of the early Church and accept the notion of sola scriptura—that the only authority is Scripture itself. If the Church fixed the canon (taking somewhere from 170 to 370 years to do so), how could the Church be considered unreliable? If unreliable, then why is the canon the canon?
But then Cardinal Newman himself said, “To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.”...more
I recently reviewed another book by Vanier, "Community and Growth," saying that it is the rare religious/spiritual book concerned not with the self (gI recently reviewed another book by Vanier, "Community and Growth," saying that it is the rare religious/spiritual book concerned not with the self (getting closer to God) but with community.
"Becoming Human" is a sort of inverse of "Community and Growth" and perhaps should be read in tandem with it. "Becoming Human" is about what happens to the self in a community like the L’Arche kind, founded by Vanier in 1964. Life in L’Arche, writes Vanier, “has helped me become more human”; and he spends all of this short book explaining how and why.
The first two chapters begin with two facts of our humanity: we are all lonely, and we all need (genuine) belonging. These and subsequent lessons—the final one is about forgiveness—all stem from Vanier’s rich experience living with people with intellectual disabilities for the past half-century.
If, like me, you have had Weigel’s massive biography of John Paul II on your book shelf for years without cracking it, you might consider the 9-hour,If, like me, you have had Weigel’s massive biography of John Paul II on your book shelf for years without cracking it, you might consider the 9-hour, 15-minute audio abridgment, as I did. It is jaw-dropping, without wrist-wrenching.
Simply to review the times, and the accomplishments within his times, of JP II is a great history lesson. You cannot put down this book in any form without agreeing that the recently canonized Polish pope was history-making.
Weigel completed this biography in 1998, on the 20th anniversary of JP II’s election and after many years’ proximity to the Vatican and to the pope himself; the book was written with the John Paul’s cooperation, including many hours of personal interview; yet the book is clearly not a sanitized, “Vatican-authorized” version of the story. Pro–JP II, “Witness to Hope” nonetheless addresses the most pointed criticisms of the pontificate, from left and right, from inside the Church and from outside it.
In the end, we are given the vision of a man who was “a Carmelite at heart” (deeply contemplative) while taking part in some of the most vigorous actions of the late 20th century, including a leading role in the fall of Communism.
I always find the lives of saints instructive and inspiring, and of course Pope John Paul II is now a saint himself.
Great, important stuff. And much more concise than the book, which I can now use to pursue particular questions and areas of interest. ...more
Still in search of a complete and satisfying biography of Henri Nouwen, I will reserve a 5-star rating for that better book, if I ever find it. MichaeStill in search of a complete and satisfying biography of Henri Nouwen, I will reserve a 5-star rating for that better book, if I ever find it. Michael O’Laughlin’s “Spiritual Biography,” which I recently reviewed, earned only 2 stars. I am starting to realize that it may be in the nature of Nouwen to defy biographers seeking to pin him down.
Higgins’s bio, co-authored by Kevin Burns, is very good, but it is handicapped by its purpose. It was published as a companion piece to a Canadian radio series on Nouwen, produced a few years ago, and so it rests mostly on long quotations from interviews with people who knew Nouwen. These of course had to be living people ten years ago when the interviewing began. Thus the only witness to Nouwen’s first 25 years is his brother Laurent; and this period of his life gets short shrift.
Higgins and Burns take up the story in the late 1950s when Nouwen, already ordained a Catholic priest in his native Holland, came to the USA to pursue studies in psychology. Most of the book focuses on Nouwen’s last 25 years (1971–1996), when he taught at Yale and Harvard Divinity Schools and then moved into the L’Arche Daybreak community in Toronto. The final chapter includes a good treatment of Nouwen’s book on The Return of the Prodigal Son, one of his last and arguably his best.
Higgins and Burns hit on an interesting image to summarize Nouwen, the jongleur de Dieu, French for an acrobat or tumbler in the service of God. The term comes from G. K. Chesterton’s biography of St. Francis, to whom the authors liken Nouwen. It is a good metaphor for a passionate and prayerful performer who was never at rest, always in action—jumping, flying, and trusting like the circus acrobats Nouwen admired.
Very good book, it could be the best, but I’ll keep looking. ...more