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Catholic book review: 2011 Catholic Almanac

2011 Catholic Almanac
Our Sunday Vistor ©2011
ISBN 978-1-59276-786-1

Have you ever wanted a complete listing of Catholic shrines in the United States? Need a timeline of dates and events in Catholic history from the first century to the present? Perhaps you’re looking for a retreat center in Boise, Idaho, or you might just be curious about the state of the Church in Latvia. The 2011 Catholic Almanac has all this and more. Much more!

With over 600 pages of up-to-date information, the 2011 Catholic Almanac is a comprehensive guide to the Catholic Church. The Almanac is broken into four sections: News and Events, The Teaching of the Catholic Church, The Church Universal, and The Life of the Church in the World.

Topics include: a year in review, the journeys of Pope Benedict XVI, latest information on the sex abuse crisis, the renewal of the Legionaries of Christ , the health care debate, life issues, Church doctrine, the Vatican investigation of Medjugorje, encyclicals, Church calendar, Canon Law, liturgical developments, sacraments, Canonizations and Beatifications, Church history, the Papacy, Roman Curia, national and world statistics, and much, much more.

Published annually by Our Sunday Visitor, the 2011 Catholic Almanac puts a wealth of accurate and timely Catholic information at your fingertips. Ideal for students, teachers, writers, religious and lay, it makes a wonderful addition to any Catholic library. The 2011 Catholic Almanac is your ultimate guide to everything Catholic.

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This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on 2011 Catholic Almanac . They are also a great source for serenity prayer and baptism gifts.

Catholic book review: Sharing Christ’s Priesthood

holy souls

Sharing Christ’s Priesthood
by Mike Aquilina
Our Sunday Vistor ©2009
ISBN 1-59276-678-9

“We are all priests of God; each one of us called to serve God in our own way”

Sharing Christ’s Priesthood is a light bible study that focuses on how we, as Catholics, share in Christ’s priesthood. Designed for use privately, or in study groups, Aquilina presents a very organized outline designed to give participants a greater understanding of exactly what a priest is.

Aquilina explains that seemingly conflicting ideas of the priesthood are not conflicting at all. We are all called to some aspect of the priesthood: whether is be the ordained; the common; and/or the priesthood of Christ.

Using scripture readings, Church teaching, and history, Aquilina takes readers from Genesis to the New Testament. Each session begins with an assigned Bible reading and thoughtful questions intended to bring the readings into perspective. Each session ends with an “In Practice” section which suggests ways to actually apply the various aspects of Christ’s priesthood to your own daily life.

Once again, Aquilina has presented a complicated idea in an easy to grasp and thought-provoking way.

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This review was written as part of the Catholic book Reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Sharing Christ’s Priesthood.

Catholic book review: Praying with the Saints for the Holy Souls in Purgatory

holy souls

Praying with the Saints for the Holy Souls in Purgatory
by Susan Tassone
Our Sunday Vistor ©2009
ISBN 978-1-59276-551-5

“The souls in purgatory are silent voices that beg and implore our help. They suffer day and night 24/7, 365 days a year, without any relief.”

The tradition of offering up prayers for the souls in purgatory is an ancient one. Faithful Jews prayed for the deceased and there are inscriptions in the early Christian catacombs testifying to the practice of asking for prayers for the departed.

This small book, dedicated to the author’s own ancestors, answers numerous questions about the practice of praying for, and with, the holy souls in purgatory. In a simple question and answer format, Susan Tassone presents the Church Suffering in a way that will inspire you to begin a new approach to your prayers.

The cover art, by Jed Gibbons, is a beautiful representation of what is in store for the reader. By using Church teachings and the writings of Saints, Tassone stresses the value that our prayers for the dead have:

“Souls must undergo purification necessary for heaven, and they beg for our prayers, suffrages, and good works. Their time of personal merit is up. They can do nothing — nothing — for their deliverance. . . . They depend entirely on our charity. Are we listening?”

But, this value is not just for the dead, but for the living as well:

“It is impossible to describe the gratitude the holy souls feel for those who help them. Filled with immense desire to repay the favors done them, they pray for you with a fervor so great, so intense, so constant, that God refuses them nothing.”

Many saints have had first-hand experiences with purgatory and the holy souls. Tassone has collected the fascinating stories of over 25 saints and blesseds regarding purgatory. These stories will inspire you to join your prayers with those of the saints and become “Apostles of Purgatory.” To assist you in your new mission of prayer, Tassone has even included a section of prayers and devotions for various seasons of the year. This is a wonderful addition to any Catholic library.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.

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This review was written as part of the Catholic book Reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Praying with the Saints for the Holy Souls in Purgatory.

Catholic book review: St. Joseph, My Real Estate Agent

st joe

St. Joseph, My Real Estate Agent
by Stephen J. Binz
Servant Books ©2003
ISBN 1-56955-361-0

The intercession of St. Joseph is sought in all sorts of family matters, including the sale of a home. It is now a popular belief that burying a St. Joseph statue on your property can help you in the sale of your house. As webmaster of the Virtual St. Joseph Altar, I get many questions about burying St. Joseph. It was my hope that St. Joseph, My Real Estate Agent would shed a bit more light on this increasingly popular practice.

Author Stephen J. Binz presents a light and sometimes personal look at the life of St. Joseph. Although not much is actually known or written about St. Joseph, Binz, a Catholic biblical scholar, brings the reader to the town of Nazareth where he explores the details of the daily life of the foster-father of Jesus. St. Joseph becomes your friend as his life as a carpenter, husband, and father unfolds. The author shares with the reader his own personal journey towards true devotion to St. Joseph.

Only a small portion of the book delves into the actual practice of burying a statue of St. Joseph. Binz rightly encourages the reader to get to know St. Joseph and cultivate a friendship with him. This is not a superstitious ritual and it must be approached with faith and sincerity. In fact, you don’t even need to bury the statue. At the back of the book there is a section of prayers which includes: a prayer service for the burial of a St. Joseph statue; blessing a home; a spouse’s prayer; a parent’s prayer; and a prayer for daily work.

Binz confirms that the statue burying ritual has no endorsement by the Church and no one knows how or where it began, but I have my own theory. The tradition may have began hundreds of years ago during the time when St.Teresa of Avila was opening Carmelite Convents throughout Europe. Taking only the bare necessities and their statue of St. Joseph, her nuns would set out in search of land or buildings suitable for a new convent. St. Teresa of Avila always encouraged her nuns to pray to St. Joseph. It is believed that, on one particular search, the nuns found a piece of property perfect for their needs. Having no money, the nuns immediately started to petition St. Joseph for the funds needed to buy the property. In the meantime, having no place to stay, the nuns decided to bury their statue of St. Joseph on the property so he would not get stolen or broken. After the nuns prayed to St. Joseph, someone purchased the land and built them a convent. When it was finished, the sisters dug up the statue and built a beautiful shrine inside in honor of St. Joseph.

St. Joseph’s popularity is on the rise and not just because of his so-called home selling skills. Binz states:

. . . Our society has been described as father-hungry. We have too many absent fathers, deadbeat dads, daughters without fathers to encourage them, and sons without dads to look up to. . . . For the father-hungry people of the world, for the million deprived of a healthy, fulfilling relationship with a father, Joseph is an ideal foster father. When we need the attention that only a father can give, the man that Jesus called Dad is ready to listen.

St. Joseph is a saint for today. Seek his intercession and you will be pleasantly surprised. When asking for the intercession of St Joseph to sell your home, the emphasis should properly be placed on our belief in the communion of the Saints and our desire to do all things according to the will of God.

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This review was written as part of the Catholic book Reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on St. Joseph, My Real Estate Agent.

Catholic book review: Fire of God's Love


Fire of God’s Love – 120 Reflections on the Eucharist
by Mike Aquilina
Servant Books ©2009
ISBN 978-0-86716-923-2

The mystery of the Eucharist is something that has been pondered by the saints, noted theologians, and ordinary Catholics for centuries. Mike Aquilina’s Fire of God’s Love – 120 Reflections on the Eucharist, encourages and inspires the reader to become a part of this mystery.

“Through the Eucharist God changes us as surely as he changed the elements of bread and wine into himself. He forms us as living stones in the temple of his Church. He builds up a eucharistic culture to replace the culture of death.”

In Fire of God’s Love, 80 voices, both ancient and modern, speak to us on the Eucharist. These voices include: St John Vianney, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Richard John Neuhaus, Romano Guardini, G.K. Chesterton, St. Thomas Aquinas, and many, many more.

Take this wonderful little book to take to Adoration. You will find these thought-provoking reflections are much-needed food for the soul. Aquilina states, “God will make limitless poetry out of the prose of your life, and he will renew the face of the earth, beginning with your little corner.”

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This review was written as part of the Catholic book Reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Fire of God’s Love – 120 Reflections on the Eucharist.

Catholic book review: Our Lady of Guadalupe


Our Lady of Guadalupe — Mother of the Civilization of Love
by Carl Anderson and Eduardo Chavez
Doubleday ©2009
ISBN 978-0-385-52772-9

Mexico, 1531 was a land in need of evangelization and conversion. Although human sacrifices had been prohibited and many Atzec temples destroyed, missionary efforts were still not very successful. In Our Lady of Guadalupe — Mother of the Civilization of Love, authors Carl Anderson and Eduardo Chavez present a detailed historical account of the visions, a thorough explanation of the symbolism within the tilma image itself, and a philisophical treatise on the Virgin’s message of love and conversion.

The appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe marks a turning point in the history of the new world:

Although we often recognize Our Lady of Guadalupe’s apparition as a defining moment in the life of St. Juan Diego, it was also a critical turning point for the Indians, Spaniards, and Zumarraga himself, whose constant conflicts had led him to despair about the future of the land.

Taken from the original Nican Mopohua, written in 1548, the historical accounts of the apparitions are the most detailed I have read. The translation is enhanced and enjoyable, and for the first time I feel I have gotten to know and understand St. Juan Diego.

The tilma is described as an Nahuatl codex which the indigenous people immediately understood. The book describes in detail the floral design that overlays the Virgin’s tunic which includes a four-petaled jasmine, eight-petaled flowers, and flower clusters. Through her image on Juan Diego’s tilma, the Virgin of Guadalupe was speaking directly to the Indians and what resulted was one of the largest conversions to Catholicism.

The entire story of Guadalupe is one of transformation: from a continent of bloodletting to a continenet where the one who watched her Son pierced granted a reprieve to its inhabitants. It is the story of a barren hillside surprisingly covered in flowers. Of a coarse tilma imprinted with a beautiful image not made by human hands. Of a bishop’s heart softened. Of the beginning of millions of conversions, each of which represented an immortal victory for the civilization of love. It falls to us to continue this sequence of conversions and through our conversion of self to become the codex that can bring conversion to those around us by our witness.

Our Lady of Guadalupe is very special to my family. She has interceded for us and watches over us each day. Our Lady of Guadalupe — Mother of the Civilization of Love, will bring the reader to a much deeper understanding of the message of Our Lady to the people then and what it still means to us now.

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This review was written as part of the Catholic book Reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Our Lady of Guadalupe — Mother of the Civilization of Love.

Catholic book review: Signs & Mysteries

signs and mysteries

Signs & Mysteries: Revealing Ancient Christian Symbols
by Mike Aquilina
illustrated by Lea Marie Ravotti
Our Sunday Visitor ©2008
ISBN 978-1-59276-450-1

The early Christian Church survived hostility and persecution by using a variety of symbols to share their beliefs and stealthly decorate their tombs and places of worship. Simple, yet very special, these artistic creations became a symbolic language that was a silent witness to the faith of our early Christian ancestors.

Our key to understanding the early-Christian use of symbols can be summed up in a single word: typology.

Typology is the discernment of “typical” patterns of God’s activity throughout salvation history.

In Signs & Mysteries: Revealing Ancient Christian Symbols, Aquilina presents in-depth analysis of 25 ancient Christian symbols:

signs and mysteries

Fish • Orant • Shepherd • Vine • Philosopher • Phoenix • Dolphin • Peacock • Milk • Lamp • Moses • Plow • Vessels • Lamb • Dove • Bread and Sheaves • Crown • Banquet • Lighthouse • Ankh • Cross • Anchor • Ships and Boats • Labarum (Chi-Rho) • Alpha and Omega

By referencing ancient and modern Church documents, he explains the connection between pagan, Jewish, and Christian symbols.

A symbology is a system of symbols, a kind of language. And a language, even a visual language. sets a kind of boundary for a people or a nation. It includes the natives (baptized) and excludes the aliens (pagans). Recovering a common Christian language, we can recover a sense of the nearness or our ancestors, the immediacy of the family we call the Communion of Saints.

This is a beautiful little book. The design, typography, and illustrations are exquisite, light, and graceful. However, it is not light reading. To fully comprehend the meaning of each symbol, take it one chapter at a time. An understanding of these ancient symbols will bring us closer to our Christian roots, and in turn, closer to our Risen Lord.

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This review was written as part of the Catholic book Reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Signs and Mysteries.

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