January 18, 2017

Four Books to Read during the Coming Year

By Msgr. M. Francis Mannion *
Four Books to Read during the Coming Year

Here are four books (in no particular order) that I recommend for 2017. All are excellent and none requires specialized knowledge or expertise.

Bearing False Witness: Debunking Centuries of Anti-Catholic History by Rodney Stark

Any mainstream textbook will tell you that the Inquisition was one of the most frightening and bloody chapters in Western history; that Pope Pius XII was anti-Semitic and is rightly called “Hitler’s Pope”; that the Dark Ages were stunted by Catholicism towards the progress of knowledge and science; and that the Crusades were an early example of the greed for power and riches on the part of the Catholic Church.

In this engaging book Rodney Stark, distinguished professor of history and the social sciences at Baylor University, argues that some of the most firmly held ideas about history that paint the Catholic Church in the most negative light are, in fact, mostly fiction. In each chapter, Stark takes on a well-established anti-Catholic myth, and gives a fascinating history of how each myth developed and became the conventional wisdom, and he presents a startling picture of the real truth. Stark is not only an outstanding social historian—but significantly—is not a Catholic.

The Great Dance: the Christian Vision Revisited by C. Baxter Kruger.

Have you ever read a book or article—or heard a homily—that presented the doctrine of the Trinity in a compelling and spiritually nourishing fashion? Possibly not. If you are eager to have the Trinity explained to you, here is the book. Presbyterian/Reformed theologian C. Baxter Kruger presents the Trinity in a manner that is eye-opening, compelling, contemporary, and faithful to the longer Christian doctrinal tradition. I rarely read a book all the way through; this book I have read twice. I could not recommend it highly enough. It would be great for a study group.

Jesus: a Pilgrimage by James Martin, S.J.

Fr. James Martin is one of the most popular and substantive American Catholic writers today. His books constantly make it to the New York Times Bestseller list. In Jesus: a Pilgrimage, Martin recounts a visit to the Holy Land in a manner that is part memoir, part spiritual retreat, and part travelogue.
For those who have never been to the Holy Land (including myself), this book brings to life the persons, places, and events that place you spiritually in the land and times of Jesus.

People who have gone on pilgrimage to the Holy Land tell me that they never read the Bible in the same way again. Their knowledge of the life of Jesus and the places in which he lived comes to life in a powerful way.

This book would make great spiritual reading during Lent or Easter.

Vibrant Paradoxes: the both/and of Catholicism by Robert Barron. 

Barron, appointed auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles in 2014, is the founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries, and writer and host of the phenomenally successful “Catholicism” series. His aim is always to present the Gospel and the life of the Church in a manner that focuses on the beauty of the faith and the “beautiful people”—the saints—of Catholicism.

Vibrant Paradoxes is a “both/and” book, meaning that it seeks to unite beliefs and motifs that often seem contrary—grace and nature, faith and reason, scripture and tradition, body and soul. Barron writes in a manner that is exciting, accessible, traditional and contemporary. It renders him, perhaps, the most articulate speaker and writer among the U.S. bishops today.

Msgr. Mannion is pastor emeritus of St. Vincent de Paul parish in Salt Lake City. He holds a Ph.D in sacramental theology from The Catholic University of America. He was founding president of The Society for Catholic Liturgy in 1995 and the founding editor of the Societys journal, Antiphon. At the invitation of Cardinal Francis George of Chicago he founded the Mundelein Liturgical Institute in 2000.

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.

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