Sunday, August 28, 2016

Book Review: "How God Hauled Me Kicking and Screaming Into the Catholic Church" by Kevin Lowry

Last September, I was asked if I would consider endorsing a new work from my friend Kevin Lowry. I was deeply honored. Sure, there was the element of being asked to give en endorsement when I'm really not that well known; at least 95% of the honor, however, was due to the author. In 2012, I reviewed Kevin Lowry's Faith at Work and considered it the finest book on the integration of daily work and faith out there. Like our Lord's earthly preaching, Kevin communicates the gospel through stories - suffused with humor, honesty, and grace.

I had the blessing of meeting Kevin a few months later, during my first visit to The Journey Home. Kevin was COO of the Coming Home Network at the time, and I was able to grab lunch with him after taping with Marcus. That lunchtime conversation has always stood out to me as (from a personal perspective) the best part of the trip. I couldn't help but feel that the time I spent with Kevin was time spent in the presence of Christ. (If he reads this he will no doubt be cringing at this point - but that's what saint do, right? Their closeness to the Lord only makes them all the more cognizant of their remaining flaws.)

Kevin's new book, How God Hauled Me Kicking and Screaming Into the Catholic Church, is the often-times hilarious story of how God persistently pursued a rebellious, Protestant preacher's kid (pursuing "a double-major in beer and billiards"), and brought him to a college degree, fulfilling work, committed marriage, and ultimately, the fullness of faith in the Catholic Church. The final third of the book provides Kevin's more intensive answers to the major stumbling blocks encountered by Protestant Christians: the Eucharist, Confession, the Mystical Body of Christ, Mary, faith vs. works, authority, and the Church's imperfections. 

It is an absolutely fantastic book; and I was thrilled to see my thoughts about it included in the opening pages: "When you finish this book, I have no doubt that you will find yourself not just challenged but empowered to open your heart wide to God's transformative grace and the fullness of the Christian faith." At 155 pages it is a page-turner that I had finished the next day. And seriously, who doesn't want an awesome title like "How God Hauled Me..." sitting on the bookshelf? That's an evangelistic conversation starter if I ever saw one - grab your copy here!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Book Review: "Champions of the Rosary" by Fr. Donald Calloway

This is a legitimate magnum opus. Fr. Calloway continues to outdo himself. His Champions of the Rosary: The History and Heroes of a Spiritual Weapon has been advertised as the most comprehensive book written on the Rosary, and I find that point impossible to dispute.

I fell in love with the first chapter. Fr. Calloway titled it, "From the Angelic Salutation to the 12th Century: The Antecedents of the Rosary"; but I refer to it as a biblical theology - the first for the Rosary that I have read. He weaves his theology around the image of a sword, developing the truth to be confirmed throughout the rest of the work: The Rosary is a uniquely powerful weapon for vanquishing Satan. The Rosary has this power because it is "equipped with the only thing capable of defeating him - the saving mysteries of the God-Man" (p.27). The mold for the sword was the Word of God, and the elements poured into that mold, the Our Father and Hail Mary. He discusses the historical development of the Hail Mary, from the joining of the Angelic Salutation (Lk. 1:28) and the Evangelical Salutation (Lk. 1:42) in the sixth century to the addition of its intercessory culmination in the fourteenth. 

Fr. Calloway gives a sweeping history of the Rosary, championing the traditional view that its antecedents were not joined to meditation on the mysteries of Christ's life until St. Dominic Guzman, the founder of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans), was granted a vision of the Blessed Mother, who extended the Rosary to him as a preaching tool to combat the Albigenesian heresy. You will read how the Rosary was employed by popes and saints to not only bring about conversion but win military battles against overwhelming odds (such as at Muret and Lepanto). I learned of miracles and Church-approved Marian apparitions that I had never heard of, such as Our Lady of Laus. Of special interest to me was the section dealing with the modern denial of St. Dominic's role as the original promulgator of the Rosary. Fr. Calloway traces this denial to the early twentieth century work of a Fr. Hebert Thurston, S.J., a priest with ties to the occult and an often-unwarranted criticism of the supernatural elements of the Catholic Faith.

The second section of Fr. Calloway's book is devoted to the great men and women who have championed the Rosary, from well known saints such as Pius V and Louis de Montfort to lesser known individuals, like Servant of God Joseph Kentenich.  Short biographies are provided for twenty-six individuals along with quotes witnessing to the power of the Rosary in their lives.

The third section of the book leads readers in the praying of the Rosary, from providing the texts for all of its vocal prayers to verses of Scripture to meditate upon in each mystery. It's is even capped off with a full-color appendix showing the Rosary in art down through the centuries, as well as paintings commissioned for inclusion in this book from artists Vivian Imbruglia and (what a great surprise, my friend) Nellie Edwards.

Fr. Calloway's Champions of the Rosary is the very definition of a masterpiece.

NEW RELEASE - Oct. 26th

The new booklet is almost here...and it had its humble beginning right here on this blog.

The good folks at En Route Books and Media allowed me to develop those initial reflections into the work pictured at left. What can you expect to find in Marrying the Rosary to Divine Mercy Chaplet ?

The booklet encourages you to intersperse your praying of the decades of the Rosary with a decade from the Divine Mercy Chaplet. I share twenty rosary meditations (and their corresponding chaplet intercessions) that arose during my own marrying of the devotions. In the Joyful and Luminous Mysteries I recognized how our Lord's Cross cast its shadow backward over his entire life. In the Sorrowful Mysteries my understanding of Jesus’ pain was deepened; and in the Glorious our Catholic conviction that the Cross is the precondition of glory was powerfully affirmed. 

When we move from a decade of the Rosary to a decade of the Chaplet we join Mary at the foot of her Son’s Cross, voicing the prayer that filled her Immaculate Heart on Good Friday, “Eternal Father, I offer you the body and blood, soul and divinity of thy dearly beloved Son…” With her we join ourselves to Jesus’ offering and intercede for the fruits of his sacrifice to be generously poured out upon the Church and world. 

Each mystery of the Rosary is introduced by a Scriptural reference that you are encouraged to read. My meditation flows from that verse, weaving in other passages of Scripture. We then allow our meditation to inspire the petitions we pray in the Chaplet. By following this pattern (Read - Meditate - Pray), we engage in the first three elements of lectio divina.

The booklet also contains a QR Code allowing you to download a free audio version to help you meditate and pray as you walk and drive.

Oh, and I am incredibly honored to report that the booklet has a foreword from Fr. Donald Calloway (which can be read here) as well as endorsements from Kathleen Beckman, Dr. Kevin Vost, and Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle (here)!

The booklet will be available through Amazon and Barnes & on Oct. 26th (and your local Catholic bookstore not too long after that), but En Route is offering a special 30% discount for anyone who orders directly from them prior to that date. Hope you will take them up on it!  God bless.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Looking to Further Your Catholic Education?

At the heart of all conversions we encounter people. People who, by their example and leadership, guide those who are seeking into fullness of truth. Augustine had Ambrose. Aquinas had Albert the Great. And we, who do we have?

Maybe you have enough disposable income to take coursework through an orthodox college or university. The majority of us do not. We have our minds, our books and an ocean of information on the internet that we aren’t sure if it is fact, opinion, truth or heresy.

We need someone to help us discover truth. And we need a means to be able to connect with that someone, one that is both inexpensive and time manageable.

The Dominican Institute is that someone.

My friend, T.J. Burdick, has created a learning platform for those who seek the timeless truths of the Catholic faith but do not have the economic or scheduling stability to do so. Courses cost less than 10% what you would pay at other Catholic Colleges and Universities and more courses are begin added all of the time. To top it off, each professor has earned their Masters Degree or their Doctorate in their subject discipline and all are 100% loyal to the teachings of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.

This project is exactly what the new evangelization is all about. It creates a space for the Ambroses to meet with the Augustines, the Alberts with the Aquinas’. It places Christ at the center of learning and illuminates the minds of truth seekers in the light of objective truth. What’s more, since St. Dominic is the founder of the Order of Preachers, the site provides evangelistic content worth sharing- videos, memes, posts, you name it, they’re preaching, and they’re winning souls.

Had this site existed when I was going through my conversion, I would have become Catholic a LOT quicker. Even now that I’ve crossed the Tiber, the first place I’ll look to learn more will be through the Dominican Institute. Do yourself a favor and go and explore what they have to offer. I promise you won’t be sorry.

In fact, they are running a massive giveaway at the moment and you could land yourself a free spot in one of their courses on top of a multitude of other free things.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Book Review: "Navigating the Tiber" by Devin Rose

Navigating the Tiber: How to Help Your Friends and Family Journey Toward the Catholic Faith is a marvelous sequel to Devin Rose's The Protestant's Dilemma (see my review here). In his previous work he masterfully equipped readers with the Scriptural and logical reasons to embrace the fullness of Christian Faith in the Catholic Church. He now shares the fruits of his many years of conversing with friends and colleagues to help Catholics present those facts in the proper way, leading others to consider their positions critically, and (with God's grace) assist them to enter full, visible communion with the Church.

Rose begins his book with the needed reminder that Catholic evangelists are called to be fishers of men (not hunters). He presents a helpful summary of the many different strands of Protestantism from which conversational partners will hale. Rose then begins laying out a blueprint, a logical hierarchy of critical points, we should invite loved ones to consider. 

He directs us to begin with the means of salvation Catholics share with our separated brothers and sisters, Scripture - specifically, how we know, authoritatively, which books make up the Bible, and whether Scripture is the sole medium through which God communicates His Word to us. This of course leads to an investigation of Tradition and Apostolic Succession.

From there Rose moves to specific beliefs that will invariably arise in your conversations - justification and baptism - pointing out the way that both Catholics and Protestants marshal Scripture in support of their differing beliefs. This of course illustrates the fact that Scripture is not self-interpreting and necessitates a God-given means for arriving at its definitive teaching on a host of subjects - even one as essential as how we are saved! This leads directly back to the all-important topics of Tradition and Apostolic Succession and the further introduction of the Church Fathers (whose writings confirm both of the aforementioned elements) and witness to how those closest in time to Scripture's composition understood it.

The book bursts with personal examples, brilliant apologetic content, and equips readers with cut-to-the-chase argumentation stated as positively as you could ever hope to find. You will find chapters devoted to the papacy, Blessed Mother, divorce and contraception, the crusades and inquisition.

Rose offers a real world picture of lengthy process of helping loved ones come home to the fullness of their already burgeoning faith. He reminds us that it is a true dialogue, with its ups and downs, requiring sincere love and patience. I appreciated the way he concluded each chapter with a prayer with which you and those you are sharing the Faith with can bring your interraction to a close as well as boxes containing specific, nitty-gritty evangelization tips and reading suggestions.

Devin Rose is a gifted writer and Navigating the Tiber a valuable help to all desiring to become fishers of men.