Bookshelf

Everything is Grace: the LIfe and Way of Therese of Lisieux

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One of my favorite saints is St. Therese of Lisieux. She is known for her “little way” that strives to find joy in all the little things as an expression and appreciation for God’s love. Recently, I picked up a book as a spiritual read titled, "Everything is Grace: the Life and Way of Therese of Lisieux." by Joseph Schmidt, FSC. One of the pages I marked as being significant. I sat on this paragraph for quite a bit and share it with you for your own pondering:

Therese says to modern people, burdened with a sense of homelessness in life and suffering a sense of quiet despair, "You are searching in the face of death for meaning in your life, for authentic existence, for liberation, for happiness, for freedom, and for truth; you are looking for love and transcendence, for connectedness and companionship, for affirmation and a sense of fulfillment. I have discovered what you search for: it is God, it is divine love stooping down to embrace you. And I know a way that will lead you out of your darkness and suffering. The way is the path of accepting divine love into your life. Of willing to be available to the beloved God even in our weakness and despair. It is the way of being aware of your need for love, willing to give yourself to God’s loving embrace like a child abandons itself with confidence and love into the arms of its loving parent, and the freely sharing love with others in creative good works of peace and justice. It is the willingness to be the person God calls you to be."

There is so much in our world that zaps us of the simplicity required to put God first. Just imagine if we focused on nothing but loving God and loving others what a wonderful world this would be.

Pope Peter: Defending the Church's Most Distinctive Doctrine in a Time of Crisis

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Besides Mary and the Eucharist, the Office of the Papacy is among the most misunderstood and maligned teachings of the Catholic Church. Detractors, particularly Protestants, charge that the entire idea of a pope is completely unbiblical. However, as author Joe Heschmeyer, a former DC litigator and then seminarian, explains throughout his book Pope Peter: Defending the Church’s Most Distinctive Doctrine in a Time of Crisis, the papacy is entirely scriptural and based on many passages, not just the “Upon this rock” passage most commonly used to defend it (see Matthew 16:18-19 in particular). Rather, as Heschmeyer shows, the evidence for the office of the Pope - and the unique relationship between Jesus and Peter - spans the entire New Testament, lending a legitimate claim that Jesus certainly did intend to found the Church not on, say, Peter’s confession of faith but on the person and role of Peter.

For many faith-filled Catholics, the conclusions which Heschmeyer is working towards throughout his book will be sensical. The bonus for Catholics reading this is that Heschmeyer spends time drawing out the scripture passages that show the unique role Peter had among the Apostles, thus providing an excellent resource for readers who want to better understand the founding of the Papacy. 

And for readers who find themselves confronted with objections to the Papacy from Protestant friends or family members, each chapter includes a section entitled “How might a Protestant respond?” By including prominent Protestant theologians from history to better understand the objections, Heschmeyer provides a very well-rounded look at the scriptural evidence for the Office of the Pope, while also refuting misunderstandings that have arisen among non-Catholics.

While I found the book started off a bit slow, it quickly picked up steam. Heschmeyer provides some very rich intellectual and theological information but is able to present it in an easy-to-read style. I recommend Pope Peter by Joe Heschmeyer for Catholic adults and young adults who want to better understand and/or defend the Papacy.

Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper

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As a 2019 Pew Research study suggests, just one-third of American Catholics believe that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, but the transubstantiation is a unique and differentiating component of Catholicism compared to other Christian denominations who view the bread and wine as symbols of Jesus Christ, not the actual Divine Person. Of those two-thirds who do not believe, there is much confusion. Many do not know or understand this fundamental Catholic teaching. So what to do? Enter: Dr. Brant Pitre and his book, Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper

This book really is a must-read for Catholics, whether they are confident in their faith and want to help share the wonder and beauty of the Eucharist with family and friends, or if they struggle with this teaching and want to learn more about it. While Pitre has the chops to write a book that is highly academic, he makes Jewish Roots both intellectually satisfying while also keeping the style easy to read, making this a book that anyone from high school age and up would benefit from and enjoy.

Pitre doesn’t shy away from the hard truths, doing an excellent job of explaining the richness of scriptural texts, from the foreshadowing of the Eucharist in the Old Testament through to its institution at the Last Supper in the New Testament. The beauty of our Catholic faith comes from the meeting of Scripture and Tradition. Pitre relies on both, and offers guidance with a discussion guide and questions listed in the back of the book for anyone who would like to follow along with them or go deeper into the text. 

A great book, whether you’re reading it on your own, with family, or in a study group, Dr. Brant Pitre’s Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist, should be on every Catholics Must Read Book List.

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