Book Review: The Catholic Faith – An Introduction to the Creeds

At the Easter Vigil Mass Catholics renew their Baptismal Promises and make the Profession of Faith in a question-and-answer form. Moreover, Catholics profess their faith at the Mass every week on Sundays through the recitation of the Nicene or Apostles’ Creed. Yet what is it, really, that we say and profess in the Creed? Do we take the Profession of Faith seriously? Or do we go through the motions each time we recite the Creed or Renew our Profession of Faith?

I think it is easy for us to fall into the trap of routine, not only with our prayer, but also with our own profession of faith. It seems that Catholic authors, Steve Ray and Deacon Dennis Walters understands the need for some sort of “review” of the Creed and Faith that we profess in writing, The Catholic Faith: An Introduction to the Creeds. This book is one that I recommend, not only to those new to the Catholic faith, but a great resource to have beside your copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Perhaps a question we rarely ponder when reciting the Creed is: Where did it come from? In what context was it written in? Some may say that it came from a specific ecumenical Council, but rather, these statements of the faith derive from the time of Jesus and His earliest followers… just read the New Testament and we will see how many Credal statements there are scattered throughout. The first two chapters are dedicated to speaking about the roots, developments and needs addressed at a certain point in Christian history which gave way to a formation of various Creeds and formulae of the Profession of Faith. 

Chapters three through to seven are what makes up the meat of the book, as both authors dedicate these chapters to a thorough break-down of the Creed, specifically the forms of the Apostles and Nicene-Constnatinople (commonly abbreviated in layman’s terms as the “Nicene Creed”). Both authors draw on Scripture as their foundation, but speaks to our beliefs in light of the Tradition of the Church. This is so important in speaking of the Deposit of Faith within Catholicism, because what we believe in is not solely based on the Scriptures, but through the Tradition of the Church too – the two are so essential to understand the derivation of the truths of the faith.

And no fear, I found the language to be simple to understand, and also, fascinating to read. I was amazed at how much I took my faith for granted, and how there are things in the Creed in relation to Scripture that I just failed to connect-the-dots. I say: consider this a review of what you learned in Catechism class, but in a different way, as Ray and Walters gives you new insight to what you thought you knew well, but in reading, realize still have gaps here and there in understanding what the Church believes in. 

The last chapter is apologetical in its nature as it discusses some common objections to the Creed. Who knows, you might come across some of these points in passing on an online forum or conversation and so, it is good to have some of these answers in mind. But moreso, it is important Again, very easy to read and follow. I recommend you take notes as you read, especially notes in bullet form for your own reference and knowledge.  

To supplement the contents, the Appendix contains a Short list of Creeds and Glossary. I was amazed to see how many Creeds the Catholic Church has, and it has come in a variety of forms throughout various points in history. How beautiful is a our Catholic Faith!

I certainly recommend this book, or at least give it a read after exams. I hope it will help you when you recite the Creed at Mass or within any prayerful context, because it is just so important to understand what we say and do. 

To learn more and purchase The Catholic Faith: An Introduction to the Creeds, click here.

The following is a video version of the review, produced by the Newman Catholic Students’ Club – University of Toronto.

Disclaimer: Vincent Pham was provided a review copy of The Catholic Faith: An Introduction to the Creeds to provide an honest review of it on this blog. The Catholic Man Reviews thanks TAN Books for the opportunity for us to review this title on our blog and look forward to future reviews. All thoughts and opinions expressed in here are our own and reflect our sincere thoughts about the title.

The Liturgy Series: Sacred Oils, by Fr. Paul Turner

In the last installment of The Liturgy Series, The Catholic Man featured a title by liturgist Fr. Paul Turner, Ars Celebrandi – Celebrating and Concelebrating Mass. Shortly thereafter, he wrote a book of a less complex title, Sacred Oils. I think by the title, you can already tell what the book is already about. But honestly, how many Catholics really understand the significance of the oils that are used in the sacraments? I think one can reduce the Sacred Oils merely as an association of a liturgical action and boom, done. However, Fr. Turner wants to point out in this book that there is so much more than a liturgical-action aspect to the oil, more than just rubrics and anointing.

How many of us readers have ever attended the Chrism Mass? Honestly, I think very few. At least where I reside, in the Archdiocese of Toronto, it is celebrated the morning of Holy Tuesday. As the Chrism Mass is celebrated in my Archdiocese, elementary and high school students are in classes and majority of people are at work. I question why not a lot of dioceses if they were to celebrate the Chrism Mass on a day outside of Holy Thursday, why they would not celebrate it in the evening so that many of the lay faithful can attend as well. This past Chrism Mass was my first one, and reading Fr. Turner’s Sacred Oils helped inform me of the significance of the Chrism Mass in connection with the oils used in the Sacred Liturgy.

Oil bears biblical, theological and liturgical significance in the Catholic Church. Yet, the use of oil in the Church: Sacred Chrism, Oil of the Sick and Oil of the Catechumens are often taken for granted by the lay faithful. Combining the biblical, theological and most prominently the liturgical significance of the Sacred Oils, Fr. Turner offers a thorough, yet easy to understand Catechesis for those who would like to further their understanding on Sacred Oils and the sacraments in which they are used in.

For all Catholics, at infant baptism and confirmation – these ‘one-time’ sacraments, in which one can only receive once in their lifetime, the effects of the sacrament, and the significance put in place by Sacred Chrism is a lifetime. These outwards signs though seemingly miniscule, speak volumes to the very lives that we live. At a time of sickness, understanding the significance of the Oil of the Sick helps grounds one in what they are to be anointed with from a sacramental view, and dismiss a rather perhaps superstitious conception of Catholicism.

Reading Sacred Oils it becomes clear that Catholicism is not faith that remains enclosed in the heart. We are a sacramental people which uses sacraments, defined by St. Augustine as “an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace.” In understanding the use of the oils, to the origins of them at the Chrism Mass, and its theological and biblical roots, we come to understand these outward signs better and therefore, also what we receive in the reception of the sacraments. That is our faith – a faith in which outward signs reflect the interior essence.

Fr. Turner divides the book into five sections:

  • Introduction: The Chrism Mass
  • Chapter One: The Oil of the Sick
  • Chapter Two: The Oil of the Catechumens
  • Chapter Three: Sacred Chrism
  • Conclusion: The Care of Oils

All chapters consists of a very thorough analysis, and answers the questions I lay out here:

  • What is the biblical and theological significance of the oil?
  • When is that type of oil used?
  • Who and what things are the ‘recipient’ of the specific oil?
  • Why are specific references made in both the formula of blessing/consecration of a specific oil, and in the formula of anointing someone/something with that oil?
  • How is that type of oil used in biblical times, throughout Church history and today in the liturgy?

As I mentioned before, Sacred Oils is a catechesis on the use of the oils, and the sacraments and liturgy in of itself. The sub-headings seemingly reference the W5H of Oils. It is important to know the origins and use of these oils because through that, we are able to see how oils connect an individual with the life of the local Church, the diocese, and ultimately with the Universal Church both past, present and future.

What is one thing missing from the book? I honestly think the big thing missing from the book is an appendix containing the formulae of Blessing the Oil of the Sick and Oil of the Catechumens, and the fomula of Consecration of the Sacred Chrism. The reasoning for this is: Fr. Turner references these texts so often in all three chapters. While he has the citation for the text in the actual ritual book, the ritual book is quite inaccessible by the lay faith. Unless one is a liturgist, I think not many Catholics would be willing to chip out $30USD or $142.95CAD (yes, you read that right) to spend on a 32-paged ritual book. Therefore, having the prayers in their entirety, in some appendix like this handout from the Liturgy Office England and Wales would be immensely helpful.

Overall, once again, Fr. Turner does it again, this time with an engaging, comprehensive catechesis on Sacred Oils. I look forward to possibly stocking my liturgy library with liturgical commentaries by Fr. Turner. This, however, will not be the last of Fr. Turner on The Liturgy Series this year. To know which book that is, you will jsut have to wait and see!

You can check out Sacred Oils here at Liturgical Press.

Disclaimer: Vincent Pham was provided a review copy of Sacred Oils to provide an honest review of it on this blog. The Catholic Man Reviews thanks Liturgical Press for the opportunity for us to review this title on our blog and look forward to future collaborations. All thoughts and opinions expressed in here are our own and reflect our sincere thoughts about the title.

Journey Through Lent: Reflections on the Daily Mass Readings

Let’s turn the clock back a bit… how did your Lenten Season go? I know it seems odd that I be speaking about a publication about Lent, but I did question myself: Should I review this title half-way through Lent, or after? I received an e-copy on Shrove Tuesday, and used the e-copy for about a week until the hard-copy came. I decided that it was just not appropriate to review something which you have not used in its totality, so decided the best time to do it was after Lent. Moreover, the update I recently gave, would give an explainer of other factors why.

Lent flew by too quickly compared to previous years personally for me, more so because the last two Lents of 2020 and 2021 have been hindered greatly by the COVID-19 pandemic. At least in the Archdiocese of Toronto, many of the liturgical celebrations that marked Lent and Holy Week of 2020 and 2021 were very limited in terms of capacity. For me, the effects of the restrictions that came during both Lenten seasons went on, and on, and on as if there was no end in sight, to the point that I titled a piece I wrote for the Vietnamese Catholic Youth’s YMagazine, as “A Lent that has lasted more than a year.” This 2021 Lent was different – we began Ash Wednesday with a packed church because just the day before, capacity restrictions were lifted in Toronto. Even my pastor was surprised to see a church at capacities near Easter and Christmas pre-Covid era.

However, as we all know, Lent is beyond getting ashes on one’s forehead – it is a forty-day journey that culminates with the Paschal Triduum. It is a mistake to leave this time merely as a pre-Easter planning time period for upcoming celebrations, whether it be family gatherings or Easter baskets, reducing Lent to mere external signs and focus on eartly pleasures. Rather, Lent is a time for Christians to enter deeply into the depths of their spiritual longings. It is a time to ask ourselves: What truly satisfies me? I think throughout the Lenten Season, the Lectionary Readings of Lent hint at this in implicit ways.

Personally, over the years, I really enjoy the Lectionary readings of Lent because there is such a natural flow to them. However, some readings are honestly dry and require a little assistance with meditation on them. Cleman Harrolds’ Journey Through Lent: Reflections on the Daily Mass Readings has been an amazing tool in helping me through this Lenten season. It has been a great companion in helping to give me more thought to think about throughout each day of Lent, starting with Ash Wednesday up to the morning of Holy Saturday.

The standard format of each day includes the references of the biblical passages of the Lectionary Readings, approximately two pages of reflection which ends with a question which prompts further reflection and in many instances, action. Now don’t be fooled when I say two-pages… I know some Unviversity students like myself might dread reading two pages a day, considering the many readings after readings we go through each week for classes. The book itself is very small, measuring 4″x6″, and with these measurements, I think one can infer just about how much text can fit per page – very short reflections. Though short, they are grounded and inspired by Scripture, and writings of spiritual figures. I found the reflections to be spiritually enriching, serving as simple but ‘full’ food for thought throughout Lent.

As this devotional is published by the publishing house of St. Paul Center, there is no surprise that some mention of Dr. Scott Hahn has some place in it. The appendix, or “bonus material” has “summaries and reflections for another exceptional resource: The Promise & Fulfillment Series presented by Scott Hahn.” I never heard of the series before, but if you want to go the extra mile than just stopping with the two pages of reflection per day, this is a great resource to take a look at, and if you are interested and serious about it, to purchase that resource along with the Lenten devotional.

Lent is done, now what? You might think I am crazy to write a review for a devotional for a review that is past its “due date”. Well, you might be right to some extent, but here is why I write this review: I hope that readers will want to pick up this resource for future Lents to come. I think the size, the length and the quality of the reflections are worth reading year after year. The size of the devotional also makes it easy to put in backpack or purse to pick up and read anytime any where. It will serve as a Lenten companion with you all throughout Lent.

However, these is one concern that I hope Emmaus Road Publishing will consider: The devotional is not perpetual – meaning, that I cannot use it next year. Unlike the Advent season which has a fourth week that is often shorter or longer depending on the year we start Advent, Lent is always set to start on Ash Wednesday and ends with the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, along with the Triduum. Therefore, the length does not change and every day of the Lenten Season have the same Lectionary readings… that is with the exception of the two Solemnities that often fall in Lent: The Solemnity of St. Joseph (March 19) and Solemnity of the Annunciation (March 25). The problem lies here – for convenience sake, days of Lent 16 and 21 celebrate these Solemnities respectively on these days of Lent. BUT THAT IS NOT THE CASE EVERY YEAR – some years the Solemnity of the Annunciation is moved to the Monday after the Second Sunday of Easter which means that Solemnity is not celebrated at all during Lent. The fact that these two Solemnities were “baked” into the sequence of reflections here, renders it non-perpetual… I would have to purchase a new copy next year.

Yet, the cover makes no mention of that fact: the fact the these reflections are for 2022 only. I think a more helpful way to make it perpetual would be to do as follows: Have all reflections of Lent through the Triduum numbered from days 1 to 40, without any Solemnities “baked” into this sequence. Then, in the appendix, provide the reflections for the two Solemnities of St. Joseph and the Solemnity of the Annunciation. I say this for two reasons: First, the issue I mentioned would be addressed, meaning that the devotional can be reused year after year; Second, the flow of the Lectionary readings would not be interrupted. I think the latter point is worth contemplating on in subsequent editions of this devotional, because as I mentioned earlier, the Lectionary readings of Lent have a natural flow to them and these two Solemnities might break some of that flow. By providing the Scriptural references and reflection of the actual Lenten day, it serves the reader both ways: One can continue with the Lenten flow of Lectionary readings and reflection, or only read the Solemnity reflection, or read both.

Last point, since this reflection is only for 2022, I honestly find the cost of $15.00 USD for such devotional to be too high. If it were a perpetual devotional, $15.00 USD would be a very reasonable price. I say this because there are other yearly devotionals that are of a much lower price. Those published by Creative Communications for the Parish cost only $2.70 CAD at highest price; Novalis publishes their Sacred Journey annual Lenten devotionals for only $2.95 CAD. The cost of $15.00 USD also makes it difficult for Parish distribution. It is understandable that the quality of paper, and perfect-bound binding of this devotional might be factors leading to such cost, but to make a devotional accessible, even if it means resorting to a saddle-stitched binding is worth considering.

Journey Through Lent is a high-quality Lenten devotional that I recommend only if Emmaus House Publishing considers making this a perpetual devotional that can be used year-after-year.

I attach the link to the devotional here for our reader’s reference, but I really do hope Emmaus House Publishing considers the changes I recommend above.

Disclaimer: The Catholic Man Reviews was provided a review copy of Journey Through Lent: Reflections on the Daily Mass Readings to provide an honest review of it on this blog. The Catholic Man Reviews thanks Emmaus House Publishing for the opportunity for us to review this title on our blog and look forward to future reviews. All thoughts and opinions expressed in here are our own and reflect our sincere thoughts about the title.

The Catholic Man Reviews is back (with some videos)!

Some of our readers may have noticed that The Catholic Man Reviews was on hiatus from mid-March to now (mid-May). This has raised some questions among some of our readers, and I truly appreciate the great messages and concerns you have expressed to us.

As some of you may know, both my sister and I are currently undergraduate students, studying at the University of Toronto. This blog started when I was a high school student, and thoroughly enjoyed featuring books and a wide variety of Catholic products on this blog. We thank publishers and collaborators who have gratefully collaborated with us on various blog-posts. Unfortunately the COVID-19 pandemic has take a toll on most, if not all of us to some extent.

I just completed my last semester of third-year undergraduate studies, and honestly found it to be very draining. The switch between online, in-person, online and in-person again, the sense of uncertainty of classes, delivery format, assessment format, etc. took a toll on me this past semester and therefore, mid-way in March, The Catholic Man Reviews took a back-seat as a I refocused myself on academics, my work with the executive team of the Newman Catholic Students’ Club (NCSC) on UofT campus, as well as planning and making liturgical preparations at my parish for a first near-normal Holy Week after two-years.

Meanwhile, during that time, per the suggestion of the NCSC, I worked to bring five episodes of The Catholic Man Reviews as a means of evangelization. Many of them have been based on reviews I have written on this blog, but now brought to video format. I hope this will be of some help, to put a face (and voice) of what is written on this blog.

Now that summer is here, I will be taking steps to continue to strive to provide quality reviews of books throughout the year. Unlike a number of blogs, my capacity is limited to twice-a-month basis with the hope of publishing:

  • The 15th of each month: A book or item review
  • The 30th of each month: An installment of the well-received The Liturgy Series

Occasionally, a review may be sprinked in between these time period. Though, committing to such schedule will help ensure that the reviews we continue to provide quality reviews, that will be helpful to the authors, publishers and readers. We will be starting this schedule starting this month with a review of Journey Through Lent: Reflections on the Daily Mass Readings (in preparation for Lent 2023… I know… already? Stay tuned to know why we are reviewing this after Lent) and subsequently, on the 30th of May, a review of Sanny de Zoete’s Altar Linens.

In the meantime, you can take a look at the videos the NCSC produced for The Catholic Man Reviews Show. A special thanks and shoutout to Julia A. for providing the idea, editing posting and promoting the videos.

Book Review: Simon Godsell’s “Everything”

This review sent me down memory lane to childhood. I read a lot of picture books back then so it felt like I was reconnecting with a part of myself I had forgotten about. Today’s review is of Simon Godsell’s “Everything” which you may have correctly guessed is a children’s picture book. I don’t think we’ve ever reviewed anything quite like this.

This book is a very simple read despite there being quite a few pages for a children’s book (just under 50 pages). That being said, some of the words used are longer, so I would recommend this book for children that have been reading for a while. I think children that have only started learning to read will struggle a bit, so perhaps this is a book best read with an adult at least the first time around. The book conveys the central theme of how everything is a result of God’s work in a way that I think children can grasp, so I think the book is also a good option for people that wish to read aloud to children. In this way this book can also be suitable for children that can understand English but not yet read. There are also mentions of dinosaurs and outer space which are topics that often capture the imagination and interest of children. For this reason, “Everything” a nice way to connect what a child is interested in to something important that they may not otherwise think much of.

This book reads like poetry to me. There is some rhyming, juxtaposition and repetition of both sounds and whole words. The poetic aspect of the way the book was written makes it really satisfying for me to read. This use of literary devices prevents the book from being a dry read, particularly because there really is no plot to this book.

I find the illustrations really cute and appropriate for a children’s book. The art style is very simple without taking away from what is being depicted; I don’t find myself doing any guessing as to what it is I am looking at. I also think the simplicity of the style creates a sense of approachability for children. My inner amateur artist also thinks that this more (for lack of better word) abstract style can help expose children to art that is not classical/realist art. This is important to me – as beautiful classical/realist art is, there is not one “right” kind of art and I think we risk stifling children’s creativity by limiting the kind of art they see.

Overall, I would recommend Godsell’s “Everything” if you saw a sneak peak of it, are curious, and like the message behind the book. If you would like to purchase your own copy you can do so here.

Learn more about Simon Godsell’s work here.

Some words from The Catholic Man (updated May 15, 2022): Thanks, Ivy, for delivering a review that considered a number of unique aspects of this beautiful children’s book by Simon Godsell. Before reading the description of the book, I realized the book was inspired by the hymn, All Things Bright and Beautiful by Cecil Frances Alexander, which speaks to the beauty and diversity of God’s creation. I remember being taught the hymn in music class in elementary school. The beauty of God’s creation and appreciation for this gift in this “common home” is what Pope Francis emphasizes in Laudato Si’. Everything by Godsell is a step to introduce children to the message of Laudato Si’, I think. This is an approachable, very child-friendly text and illustration that allows children to be aware of the work of God the Creator. Thank you, Mr. Godsell for allowing my sister and I opportunity to review this beautiful children’s book of yours.

To close, presenting a rendition of All Things Bright and Beautiful:

Disclaimer: The Catholic Man Reviews was provided a review copy of “Everything” to provide an honest review of it on this blog. The Catholic Man Reviews thanks Simon Godsell for the opportunity for us to review this title on our blog and look forward to future reviews. All thoughts and opinions expressed in here are our own and reflect our sincere thoughts about the title.