28 July 2013

Virgin Mary: Book of the Word of God

"The Virgin Mary is called βιβλος του λογου της ζωης (the "book of the Word of life") by the Greek Church. The book of the Gospel, the book of Christ's origins and life, can be written and proclaimed because God has first written his living Word in the living book of the Virgin's being, which she has offered to her Lord in all its purity and humility-the whiteness of a chaste, empty page. If the name of Mary does not often appear in the pages of the Gospel as evident participant in the action, it is because she is the human ground of humility and obedience upon which every letter of Christ's life is written. She is the Theotokos, too, in the sense that she is the book that bears, and is inscribed with, the Word of God. She keeps her silence that he might resonate the more plainly within her."

-Erasmo Leiva Merikakis, Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word: Meditations on the Gospel According to Matthew

Review: The Good Reading Guide (Free Trial!)

Sometime in the middle of last summer, I was very interested to hear of the existence of a new book-reviewing initiative on the web. The Good Reading Guide grew out of a small family-run bookstore in Australia in 2011, as an effort to facilitate personal reading selection in sync with the respect of human dignity. 

Here is The Good Reading Guide's reviewing philosophy:
At the Good Reading Guide we believe that books can have a significant impact on a person Just as people thrive in a society that recognizes their dignity, so can they thrive when their reading material in some way reflects this dignity, and if possible, enhances their understanding of it.  
We aim to source literature that is of quality in both style and substance. Structure and vocabulary should be at a sufficient standard, characters well-developed and believable, plots engaging and themes appropriate for the intended reader of each book. We recommend books that contribute to readers' culture and character and are broadly compatible with Christian values, but more than just seeking 'clean' books we aim to recommend books that will enrich the lives of readers in at least one of the following areas: 
Culture: we seek books that build culture by expanding  the world of the reader and teaching them new things, helping them to see beyond a superficial vision of life;
Humanity: we try to select books that help readers to deepen their understanding of humanity by 'living in someone else's shoes' for a time;
Language: we look for books that enhance readers' language and logical reasoning; and
Character: we seek books that help to build character by offering criteria for developing maturity in judgement and action. 

22 July 2013

Worth a Thousand Words: Library of Congress

Library of Congress, via Ken Kaminesky

Staying for the Credits: The Problem of Reverence

I absolutely love going to the movie theater alone. To me, there is no pleasure quite like attending a late Saturday morning matinee, free from the gaggling primetime crowds-- just me, the film, and about three other quiet pleasure-seekers, all silently brimming with excitement as we enter our nearly empty sanctuary. I've always been told that I'm a picky movie-goer-I'm one of those people who scowls at animated crowd reactions and insists on staying until all the credits have rolled (usually out of principle to give everyone the credit they deserve, but also secretly to see if this film is the one out of every few dozen that rewards our loyal patience with a brief post-script). Call me a scrooge, but remaining silent for two hours inside a dark theater shouldn't be too much to ask (especially at today's ticket prices). I usually explain my movie-going rituals in terms of the receptivity required in order to fully experience art in any form-it can be difficult to truly observe the drama in front of our eyes if we are preoccupied with instantly responding to it. The film can too easily be replaced by meta-experience, and we miss some of its richness. Not every film is a bastion of moral seriousness or provocative texture, but I always thought it was quite obvious that we go to the theater to engage ourselves with a story-not to listen to ourselves talk. We can't fully take part in the adventure unless we let ourselves sink back into the woodwork and let the drama take center stage.

21 July 2013

"We Must Protect Our Souls With the Sword of the Spirit"

"Ann Veronica is not an immoral book in any imaginable sense; but that is not the primary point. The primary point is that, that it is no business of the State or of any coercive power to suppress immoral books. The business of any coercive and collective power is to suppress indecent books; books that violate fixed verbal and physical custom in such a way as to be a public nuisance. We have a right to be guarded against bodily indecency as against bodily attack; but do not let us call in the police to protect our souls; we must protect our souls with the sword of the spirit. If once I am to test books by whether I think them profoundly and poisonously immoral, I could furnish a very long list to the police. I should at once ask the magistrates to forbid the sale of Froud's History of England, Burke's French Revolution, Hobbes's Leviathan, Smiles's Self-Help, Carlyle's Frederick the Great, all the works of the Imperialists, Eugenists, Theosophists, and Higher Thinkers, and at least half the works of Socialists and of Jingoes. If once we begin to speak of whether things do harm to men's souls, our Index Expurgatorious will begin to fill the British Museum. Ann Veronica  does not urge immorality; it does not urge anything; it intentionally ends with a note of interrogation. I myself even read it as a note of irony; the upshot of the tale, if anything, seemed to me to be rather against modern revolt that in its favor...But the question is not whether my spiritual version is correct; the question of indecency is, comparatively speaking, a question of fact. And the fact is that the book is no more indecent than Bradshaw...Suppose that it were (as it is not) spiritually evil; suppose it were as profligate as Froude or as foul as Smiles and Self-Help, the point is that these spiritual repugnances must not be enforced politically, or we shall lose the very name of freedom."

-G.K. Chesterton, Daily News, 12 February 1910 (via Gilbert Magazine) 

06 July 2013

'Catholic and Bookish': Lumen Fidei, Libraries, and the New Evangelization

I'm still working my way through Pope Francis' new encyclical, Lumen Fidei. It's nice to pause between sections to really drink up the whole thing. I love when new encyclicals are released-nothing like some new fresh breath to revitalize us. And thanks to the wonders of the internet, we all flock to the virtual watering-holes to excitedly share what we're reading. As one friend of mine pointed out, it's like a virtual Harry Potter release party...only with encyclicals. We all wait giddy with anticipation, and then rush to read the whole thing immediately. Technology enables us to share the faith with greater speed and facility than ever before. It's a shame that Brandon Vogt's eagerness to share the new encyclical in e-reader formats was suspended so quickly...but I guess even the Good News is subject to quibbles over distribution rights these days. 

Then, today, I was delighted to see that some friends of mine have banded together to encourage people to request that a print copy of Lumen Fidei  be added to the collection at their local public library. I hope that many more people decide to do the same. I'm especially excited to see this happen because it strikes many chords with things I've previously written about evangelization and libraries. I think we all spend so much time tinkering around on the internet and caught up in discussion of 'the new evangelization' that we forget that books have a tremendously important role to play in spreading the faith-after all, "tolle lege" got St. Augustine's conversion going, and as St. Josemaria once said, "Reading has made many saints."

I think it's relevant here to revisit the words of Mr. Thomas Loome (of Loome Theological Booksellers fame) as he highlighted the great destruction of many Catholic library collections in the wake of Vatican Council II:
"The only other lesson that occurs to me is this: as believing Catholics we have a responsibility to preserve the patrimony of the Church, certainly in so far as it has been entrusted to us as librarians and as professionally interested parties. Much has been destroyed forever. Those who wreak the damage have mostly passed from the scene (although one would like to think that in the end they acknowledged their wrongdoings and perhaps clothed themselves in sackcloth and ashes). And so only we, presiding over the wreckage, are left to tell the tale. 
"What is the lesson for us? To start afresh. Slowly to recreate, in some small measure, what is gone forever. We shall do this, however, only if we are both Catholic and bookish: commmited to the Church, passionately devoted to books, and, as a consequence, deeply rooted in the Church's literary and theological tradition. This is the indispensable condition for an even tolerable future for Catholic libraries. Absent this profound commitment to Catholicism and books, I frankly see virtually no hope at all for Catholic libraries."

05 July 2013

Lumen Fidei

"Faith is born of an encounter with the living God who calls us and reveals his love, a love which precedes us and upon which we can lean for security and for building our lives. Transformed by this love, we gain fresh vision, new eyes to see; we realize that it contains a great promise of fulfillment, and that a vision of the future opens up before us."

-Lumen Fidei

It's here! Nothing like a new encyclical to get the weekend rolling. Click the image below to read online or download in several formats, including an ebook!

And if that wasn't enough, we're also getting two new papal saints this year!