Tuesday, October 6, 2015

These Just In: 4 Books and a DVD

It's that delightful time of year when review books fill the mailbox. These are the ones I'm definitely going to be reading and telling you more about. But I don't want you to have to wait until then.

The Story of St. Francis of Assisi: In Twenty-Eight Scenes

by Timothy Verdon

This beautiful new book by renowned art historian Timothy Verdon tells the story of the life of St. Francis of Assisi in story and art. The 28 stunning thirteenth-century frescoes by Giotto that cover the walls of the famous Basilica in Assisi named for the saint are reproduced in full color, together with a schematic drawing showing their placement in the church. Through detailed descriptions and illuminating commentary on each of the famous frescoes, Verdon tells the story of Francis's extraordinary life, allowing today's reader the opportunity to "read" the art on those walls in the same way that a medieval Christian might have done.
You may recall I was a huge fan of Timothy Verdon's pervious book, Art and Prayer. This lovely, accessible book looks at how the frescoes invite us to see Francis's life "as a modern extension of the Biblical history of salvation." That allows us to connect our lives also to both the Old Testament and to Christ. Verdon does this not only through insights and and art, but even uses seemingly unlikely items like art placement, architectural placement, and landscape to bring us closer to God, via this meditation on St. Francis of Assisi. Stunning.

Intimate Graces: How Practicing the Works of Mercy Brings Out the Best in Marriage

by Teresa Tomeo (Pastore) and Dominick Pastore
Teresa Tomeo and her husband, Dominick Pastore, were disappointed and discouraged with their marriage. As Teresa identifies the problem, they were "more catechized by the culture" than their faith. But when they invited Christ into their marriage and began practicing mercy with each other, their lives--and marriage--were transformed.

Tomeo and Pastore each write in their own voice and include personal experiences, reflection questions, practical suggestions, and a prayer at the end of each chapter.

Yes. Yes. Yes.

No one has a perfect marriage but often we aren't sure where to get help, especially if the problems don't seem "that bad." This couple talks about pitfalls and danger zones from personal experience and gives us a new perspective to bring to make our marriages better. Just flipping through this I know it is a resource I'll be recommending to others.

Word by Word: Slowing Down with the Hail Mary

Editor: Sarah Reinhard
A unique meditation on each word of the Hail Mary, one of the most important prayer traditions in Catholic life. Each of the forty reflections encourages readers to "slow down" with the Hail Mary and experience previously unseen dimension in the popular devotion, making it come to life in a new way. This unique, formative, and informative exploration of the beloved prayer is a gift to anyone who wants to be continually changed through it--learning to slow down and examine things more closely. 
The Church Fathers often advised slowing down in prayer by meditating on a phrase or word of a given prayer, such as the Our Father. This book follows in those wise footsteps and will help your prayer life deepen.

Full disclosure: I did the "Thou" chapter. More full disclosure: I haven't gotten my copy yet, but did get a good sense of everything when the series originally came out on Sarah's blog.

The Mystery of God

Film series and study program from Bishop Father Barron

Atheism is on the rise. Skeptical thinkers like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris vigorously attack belief in God as irrational or, even worse, dangerous. The so-called New Atheism has attracted millions of young people thanks to bestselling books such as The God Delusion and God Is Not Great.

How should Christians respond? How can we turn the tide of secularism and draw people back to God?

You'll discover how in "The Mystery of God," a new six-part film series and study program by Fr. Robert Barron. The lessons reach into our rich intellectual tradition. Using the insights of St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Pope Benedict XVI, you'll uncover a clear yet sophisticated understanding of what we mean by “God".
I was delighted when this showed up in my mailbox. For one thing I love Robert Barron's videos. For another it seems very timely.

God With Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas

Editors: Greg Pennoyer and Gregory Wolfe
Christmas is the season most difficult to grasp and understand in all its spiritual richness. The sentimentality and commercialism that dominate the season tend to obscure the profound mystery at its heart: the Incarnation. God with Us provides the perfect way to slow down and reconnect with the liturgical and sacramental traditions that illuminate the meaning of Christmas and the Incarnation. In daily meditations for the complete seasons of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany, the contributors offer a tapestry of reflection, Scripture, prayer, and history.
This is an Advent/Christmas devotional which was originally published in 2007 and clearly aimed at Christians who don't have a tradition of the liturgical year. For those who already do, you may skip a lot of the introductory material and just go straight to the reflections. They come from a diverse group like Father Richard Neuhaus, Scott Cairns, Lucy Shaw, and Kathleen Norris. The samples I read look very good.

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