Monday, December 11, 2017

Book Review: "Heroes & Heretics of the Reformation"

Wading into the history of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation can be overwhelming. Phillip Campbell's Heroes & Heretics of the Reformation is an impressive solution to that difficulty. I had heard homeschooling friends singing the praise of his series, The Story of Civilization, and I now see why. Campbell is a gifted storyteller with a wonderful talent for synthesizing staggering amounts of information and making it accessible to the non-specialist.

Campbell writes from a Catholic viewpoint but makes no attempt to whitewash the sins of churchmen. Likewise, his adherence to Catholic doctrine does not prevent him from giving sympathetic treatments of those with whom he disagrees. It quickly becomes apparent how the Reformation was driven almost as much by culture and politics as it was by religion. 

I very much enjoyed the structure of the book. Each of the sixteen chapters tells the story of one or two of the period's key players, progressing through the 1500's in roughly chronological fashion. We come to know Erasmus, Luther, Emperor Charles V, Calvin, John Knox, Ignatius, Borromeo, and a host of others. At 320 pages, Heroes & Heretics is not a thin book; and yet, the mini-biographies made it a page turner. There were many characters whose names I had heard over the years, but I had never stopped to investigate. (I now find myself especially enamored by the ministry and martyrdom of St. Edmund Campion.)

Whether you are looking to get a better grasp on the history of this tumultuous period or be challenged by the saintly examples of those who persevered through it, Heroes & Heretics of the Reformation (TAN, 2017) is a great addition to the home library.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Early Christmas Gifts (My Theological Justification)

I grew up with a mom who loved giving Christmas gifts early…and I loved it! What child wouldn’t? One minute you are dreaming about playing Yars' Revenge on the Atari 2600, thinking it's still two weeks away; and the next thing you know it is in your hands! It was amazing. And I must confess that I often do the same with my own kids.

Oh, I can see a few of your heads nodding in disapproval. "It's ADVENT; Christmas doesn't begin until Mass on Christmas Eve!" That's the liturgical calendar, alright. But I think the early Christmas gift has a neat lesson to teach us, too.

Christmas is not only when we cast our glance backward in celebration of our Lord's first coming; it is also when look forward - to the day of His return. Many of us, at least unconsciously, feel that Day to be a long way off. (Two thousand years have already elapsed.) But the truth is that it could be just around the corner. We expect certain prophetic events first, but the exact day and moment of Jesus' return are going to come as a shock. It's not on a calendar; we can't watch the seconds counting down in Times Square. One second we will be slugging through difficulties, and the next we will be staring into the eyes of the One we've longed for our entire lives!

That's what the early Christmas gift reminds us of. A child is going along, trudging through the loooong weeks before Christmas Vacation, when BAM! Christmas suddenly breaks out!

The Lord might come for you or me at any second. None of us knows when our lives will end. The post I am writing may never be finished. Or perhaps I will be worrying about the big meeting coming up at work when...Christmas suddenly breaks out! That is quite a thought.