The Catholic Man’s Top 10 Catholic Reads for Quarantine

While many of us might be complaining about having to stay indoors with some bored out of their minds, I think it is important to take time to look at bright side of things because life is not all about negativity. One of those bright sides is that with university classes now completed, and my workplace still closed, the spare time on hand have been devoted to reading. Today, I am recommending the following 10 Catholic Reads during this quarantine time, some of which I have reviewed on here and some not.

1. The Miracle of Hope: Francis Xavier Nguyễn Văn Thuận; Political Prisoner, Prophet Of Peace

The late-Cardinal Francis Xavier Thuận Văn Nguyễn persevered through the darkest nights – thirteen-years in a communist prison in Vietnam, nine of which spent in solitary confinement. However, even in those dark nights, he kept the flame of faith alive. Some people have commented about how restless they are during this lockdown – but it is nothing compared to what the Venerable Văn Thuận went through during his days in Vietnam. This book opens one’s eyes to the injustices Cardinal Văn Thuận’s family had to endure, and his own personal trials and liberation. This biography of the late Cardinal by Andre Châu sheds light on a life of man who suffered much, but within his suffering, he was a source of hope and light for those around him.

2. Sinner: The Catholic Guy’s Funny, Feeble Attempts to Be a Faithful Catholic

Have you ever heard of “a man with a large nose” named Lino Rulli? One of the funniest Catholics of all time, Rulli is a radio host of The Catholic Guy Show on SiriusXM 129. To someone who is a first time listener of The Catholic Guy Show, his show may seem a little weird, but the more you listen to him, the more you get to know who Rulli is and how he sees Catholicism. Sinner speaks to Rulli’s attempts “to be a faithful Catholic”. He starts right off the bat understanding that his is not a perfect Catholic, but yet he still tries in every way to be the ideal Catholic. He does so not in a biographical way, but with a sense of humour. Pair a listening of The Catholic Guy Show and Sinner, and you will have yourself a happy day. (Note: SiriusXM is free to listen to till May 15!)

3. Saint: Why I Should Be Canonized Right Away

A sequel to Sinner, Lino Rulli speaks ironically not of his triumphant saintly ways, but rather attempts to achieve sainthood – the vocation in which every Catholic should be striving for. We can all relate to the stories of these attempts to achieve sainthood. Yet do you ever feel like sainthood is too hard? Rulli points out that sainthood is in now way easy, but we have to keep trying over and over again. It takes virtue – and what virtues really are, are good habits and in order to form habits, we need to something and practice it over and over again. So don’t give up on sainthood!

4. Eucharistic Miracles and Eucharistic Phenomenon in the Lives of the Saints

Eucharistic Miracles by [Joan Carroll Cruz]

Are you thirsting for the day we come again to celebrate the Eucharist together again? I certainly am – livestream Masses is no way the same as physical and communal celebration of the Eucharist. While Eucharistic Miracles and Marian Apparitions are not doctrine, they may, in a sense be concrete confirmations of the doctrines of the Church that cannot be explained scientifically – they are divine signs. Maybe prior to this pandemic, you may have found yourself partaking in the Mass and other acts of piety out of a sense of routine. However, I hope that after a “fast” from the Sacramental reception of the Eucharist, once these restrictions have been lifted, we will have a greater love and devotion for the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.

5. A History of the Church in 100 Objects

Have you ever wanted to learn about the rich history of the Catholic Church but found a thick history book full of text to be daunting? Well this book is for you. Colourful with high quality pictures of 100 artifacts from the time of Christ to the current times of the Church, this book takes you through the Church’s history in a way that is appealing to every Catholic. If you want to do a crash course of Church History, only scratching its surface, then start reading this title!

6. Breakthrough: A Journey from Desperation to Hope

People have had many opportunities throughout the past weeks to choose from a variety of priests and bishops to “attend” Mass virtually. One of those many priests is Fr. Rob Galea – now a popular Catholic speaker and singer. However, he did have his past. His story of true conversion of heart that turned his life around and eventually lead him to the priesthood… like a modern day St. Augustine conversion. Feeling lost? Especially during these times? This book is for you.

7. Encountering Jesus: A Holy Land Experience

I know some people were expected to be in the Holy Land this Holy Week for the grand celebrations of Catholicism. The thing with books is that it can take you to various places. Msgr. Vincenzo Peroni brings pilgrims back or to the Holy Land in his new book, Encountering Jesus. With Biblical passages, meditations, reflection questions and prayers, Msgr. Peroni is able to capture the events and atmosphere the Biblical sites brought up within this short book. There will be an in-depth review coming in a couple of week on this blog, but for now… I know this book is going to be in my carry-on the day I get to go the Holy Land. For the time being, I’m on “reading” pilgrimage.

8. Let Go: Seven Stumbling Blocks to Christian Discipleship

Let Go: Seven Stumbling Blocks to Christian Discipleship by [Casey Cole]

Some have said that quarantine period has made this year’s Lent seems like an “authentic” Lent. However, with Lent comes Easter and to prepare ourselves anew, once this pandemic is over, I highly recommend using this time in discernment. For months or years, we may have followed Jesus in a routine matter, or maybe out of obligation. However, Franciscan Fr. Casey Cole’s book Let Go allows one the chance to do a deep examination of conscience. To truly be “liberated” and follow Jesus with out whole hearts, there are seven things that Fr. Casey says you need to “let go” from yourself in order to open yourself up to Christ.

9. When in Rome: A Journal of Life in the Vatican City

Rome and Vatican City – the centre of Roman Catholicism… I have such vivid memories of my time there in March 2019. I always wondered what it would be like to actually live in the eternal city. This journal of Robert J. Hutchinson’s life in Rome with his family gave a simple, authentic account which I really loved. Allow yourself to step into Hutchinson’s shoes and take some days of “normal” life in Rome, going through the city of saints and relics.

10. Laudato Si’ (Encyclical on Climate Change and Inequality: On Care for Our Common Home)

Laudato Si’ is probably one of the highlight encyclicals of Pope Francis’ pontificate. The call for the care for our “common home” by our Holy Father still continues to echo throughout the world even five years later after the encyclical was published. The thing is, with Papal Documents, Catholics or people in general seem to get tidbits here and there, but fail to read the documents in its entirety or spend devoting time to study them. As we approach the fifth anniversary of Laudato Si’, it is fitting that we spend time to read to re-read this Papal Document. Let us arise out of pandemic not only with a new self, but a new world, a new and clean environment.

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Day 5: CBPC’s The Imitation of Christ

Catholic Book Publishing Corporation (CBPC) always has a fine selection of books, and many Christian classics of great quality. This year, I am featuring CBPC’s leatherette edition of Thomas a Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ. As I do with most classics, I will not be reviewing the content itself, but rather the features of the edition itself.

Besides the Holy Bible, I think a title from CBPC that has variety of bindings for a single title is The Imitation of Christ – four different bindings + an audio book + a “spiritual gems” edition + an abridged edition. It is a beautiful spiritual book in which every Catholic should read. Sometimes, it is difficult to pick up a book with plain text and read it. I often like editions that contain illustrations, and have some “finesse” to it and this No. 320/19 edition of The Imitation of Christ does just that.

You may ask, why I am attracted to the bindings, the “extra features”, the aesthetics but not the text itself when it comes to reviewing Bibles and Christian classics on The Catholic Man Reviews. While I do pay attention to the translation of certain texts, particularly the Bible, I find that aesthetics to a book makes you want to pick up and read a book. The extra features, including illustrations brings the texts to life and are a great tool for prayer.
I admire the faux leather covers of CBPC’s editions. Like the daily devotional that I reviewed last year, there is a great textured portion which is great to touch. The text on the cover is embossed onto the cover. I like how it is not foil stamped since I have found that after frequent use, devotional books and prayer books lose the foil stamping. The spine, however, and some decoration on the front contains gold foil stamping – but if those fade away, I would not mind as much as if it were the title of the book.

I am taking a course at the University of Toronto called, Beauty, Human and Divine and reaffirmed the importance of beauty, even in aesthetics and I believe that Christian texts should be beautified and bound in a dignified manner. Beauty elevates one’s mind God.

Enough with beauty… while the content of the text itself is beautiful, I really love the use of illustrations throughout this edition. They are printed in grayscale and depict scenes of Christ corresponding to verses from the Gospels. There is also clip art scattered throughout to fill white spaces. I like the selection of clip art used by CBPC in their books – they are simple, but they are not “cheesy” in any way.

I would also like to note the use of colour plates – 4 for the Stations of the Cross and 6 for the Mysteries of the Rosary. While it makes sense why these plates appear in the various Bibles CBPC have, I do not know why they are relevant in this volume of The Imitation of Christ – I do not think it is necessary since it is a book consisted of reflections and meditations, not a treasury of prayers. But maybe, since it is a devotional tool, the publishers thought that it would be relevant to add them in this volume. However, these colour plates as they appear in various publications by CBPC are eye-catching to the reader.

The font size is very good on the eyes, approximately 12pt font. I never have to worry about readability of text when it comes to CBPC’s publications – even their Personal Sized Gift Edition of the New American Bible that I reviewed last year was compact, but its text is easily readable. I like the use of drop-capitals for every chapter. As I mentioned in various reviews, drop-capitals are very useful in indicating a new break or section and its use is very practical, especially when it comes to editions of the Roman Missal.
At the end of the text of The Imitation of Christ, I like how there is a section called, “Passages in the Imitation of Christ suitable to the different states of life and spiritual necessities of the faithful.” I find this a unique feature because sometimes, you need some source of spiritual encouragement or need to give someone else that’s spiritual encouragement they need. While the Bible is always a great place to start, The Imitation of Christ is another secondary source. This is a very helpful feature, rather than going through the whole book to find a specific theme.

Back to the aesthetics now, I like how there is a ribbon marker and CBPC is great in providing marking ribbons for these type of leatherette editions. The edges are stained, not gilded. I think I mentioned this with the Personal Sized Gift Edition of the New American Bible – I do not need to fear me scratching the gilding. Everything are in harmony – I love the light brown colour of the cover, the edges and the ribbon. Everything in uniform and CPBC has always done this well with their books. CPBC always produces volumes that are handsome and dignified for every Catholic, making us want to pick it up and read or pray.

If you are looking for a devotional read for a friend this Christmas, I highly recommend this edition of The Imitation of Christ.

Click here to purchase this title from CBPC.

Review: Oxford’s Catholic Study Bible

the-catholic-study-bible

After a very long and busy break, I will be back reviewing Catholic products. I have a few I
will review and those will slowly roll out.

I received a parcel from Oxford containing two of its published books, the Oxford Catholic Study Bible (softcover) and the Oxford Bible Atlas. After months of using these two books, I finally have enough information to review them. I think these two books go well hand in hand for Catholics who want to dig deeper into scripture. However, today I want to look at the Catholic Study Bible first and the next post will be of the Oxford Bible Atlas.

This is one of the thickest bibles I have on my shelf right now but perhaps a very useful one. Lately, I have been trying my best to write reflections on a part of the gospels before I go to sleep every night. I often use my NRSV Catholic Edition Bible by CBS. However, sometimes there are some verses that I need a little more understanding of the context. The NRSV by CBS do provide very short footnotes but they are sometimes not what I need. Since the time I got a hold of a copy of The Catholic Study Bible, I have often used it to grasp a better understanding of certain Bible texts. The footnotes are great and most of the time, its language is easy to understand. There are also cross references to other parts of Bible texts. The reader can gain an even better understanding in the 574-paged Reading Guide. There are page references to the Reading Guide throughout the Bible itself. On the back of the Bible, it mentions the n411vqcshi2l-_sx344_bo1204203200_ewly expanded Reading Guide in this third edition featuring the new guides for The Pentateuch, Chronicles, Maccabees, Lamentations, Baruch, Tobit and Judith, The Gospel of Mark and Acts. The footnotes and Reading Guide aren’t the only great “Bible luxuries”. Short essays charts and drawings are scattered throughout the Bible and help explain certain Bible texts and bring them to life.

The Bible text itself is from the NABRE which I do own a copy by a different publisher. I wish they could make a Catholic Study Bible for the NRSV version too. However, I do understand how much work must be put in to create just one version of a Study Bible.

One of the things that I look at when reviewing a Bible is certainly the Appendix. This Bible contains many of the standard parts that appear in most Bibles including a glossary, table of measures and weights and an index. However, the standard features listed seem to be more expanded. The glossary itself seems to go more in depth than most that I’ve looked through. The table of measures and weights contains seem to be expanded. It contains conversions from Greek, the NABRE term, Equivalence, U.S. units and metric units (for Canadians!). One feature that I believe is found in most NABRE Bibles is the Lectionary table. I find this feature quite useful. I do not purchase the Sunday Missal in English every year. I often use an app on my phone or use my Vietnamese Missal to get the readings to prepare for Mass. However, there are some days when I find the Lectionary Readings get confusing on which readings to use. For example, the Palm Sunday procession of Year B contains two choices of either Mark of John (yes, its in the Roman Missal). Yet, hand Missals may omit the choice of John. Therefore, before, when I did not have a copy of the Roman Missal, Study Edition (to be reviewed later), I would often turn to the Lectionary Table. Or, the Christmas Readings (for Dec. 24 alone) for example, contain three: Christmas Vigil, Christmas at Midnight, Christmas at Dawn. Again, many hand missals may omit a set which becomes confusing. The Lectionary table would come to the rescue again!

An index of the reading guide is also provided which makes it very useful in finding a certain topic. It limits the time flipping through 574 to find a topic.

I was also amazed at the Concordance of the New American Bible. I expected it to be short the one of the NRSV Catholic Edition by CBS. But I was wrong! The concordance is almost 100-pages. This may be a feature I may use often when writing Spiritual reflections.

Another feature which I love about his Bible are the last 32-pages of coloured maps. Why did I emphasize coloured you might ask. Well, I have noticed that when a Bible is printed in black and white, they contain either no maps or black and white maps. Oxford’s maps are very detailed and the colour brings it to life. The maps clearly depict the changes of the Holy Land throughout Biblical times. A five-paged index is provided with the maps in the last pages.

Reversing to the beginning… I looked for the Imprimatur, a feature that I always look at in Catholic Books I review on this blog. It took me some time to scroll through the tiny text but all the Imprimatur and permission to print by the Catholic Church was on the fourth page. There are three separate approvals in this Bible. First is one for the New Testament of the NABRE which contains a Nihil Obstat and an Imprimatur. The Old Testament contains a short paragraph indicating the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) approval with the approval of Cardinal Francis George, O.M.I who was the president of the USCCB at the time (2010). The general and introductory articles, reading guides, charts, maps, timelines, measures and weights, glossary and index received a separate approval in 2015 by the Very Reverend Ronald Hicks, then Vicar-General of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

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In Summary

Product: The Catholic Study Bible, Third Edition, NABRE

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Format: Print, paperback (also available in a hardcover version and a leather binding version)

Dimensions  (approximate): 9 inches x 6.25 inches x 2 inches

Imprimatur: Yes (for both the NABRE bible and the notes itself)

ISBN: 9780190267230

 

Pros: 

  • Reading Guide available in the front
  • Includes 32 pages of coloured maps
  • Glossary in the back
  • Tables of measures and weights
  • Index to reading guide
  • Concordance to the New American Bible included
  • Lectionary Reading reference pages
  • Reading Guide (RG) references available throughout the Bible text itself
  • Detailed footnotes helps reader to understand the Bible texts better
  • Sidebar essays, charts and drawings are provided throughout the Bible texts
  • The Bible bears the appropriate Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur and even assures approval by the USCCB

Cons

  • Large in size
  • Heavy, not the best Bible for travellers
  • The softcover version is best to have a book wrap cover to add protection. Frequent use may wear down the softcover Bible quickly

On “The Catholic Man’s” Scale

★★★★★ 5/5

I absolutely love Oxford’s Catholic Study Bible Third Edition. This Bible contains so many features that I have not mentioned all of them in this review. The Bible is good for those who want to dig deeper in the Word of God taking into consideration its spiritual and historical context. It is not the best Bible to travel but one of the best to buy for your Catholic Library.

Thank you Oxford for allowing me to review this Bible!

 

 

 

Review: Lives of the Saints Two-Volume Boxed Set by Catholic Book Publishing Corporation

Lives of the Saint Two-Volume Boxed Set Review

Promised two posts ago, I would review two products generously sent to me by The Catholic Company. One of the two products were reviewed in the last post, the Revised Standard Version Catholic Bible-Compact Edition by Oxford University Press. Today, I will take the time to review the Lives of the Saints Two-Volume Boxed Set by Catholic Book Publishing Corporation.

Upon opening the contents from the package, I admired the fact that the Lives of the Saints boxed was not that large. One volume would easily fit inside a bag, purse or backpack and bring to work. I brought the full boxed set to the Steubenville Conference. Even though free time was very little, I spent sometime late during the night reading some Lives of the Saints from volume two. The set easily fit into my backpack, still leaving a lot of room for other necessities.

Why two volumes? I have taken a look through both volumes. I found the volume one contained the Lives of many saints which I have known like St. Benedict, St. Dominic… However, volume two seemed a little more interesting. According to the product description on The Catholic Company, “It contains a new series of lives of saintly men and women for each day of the year – many of them newly canonized or beatified.” There were saints whom I have not even heard of before and it really interested me. Volume two was an “add on” to volume one and also written by a different author.

Looking at Volume 1: As mentioned above, volume 1 seemed to contain many of the more common saints. In addition, there is also sections for special days in the Catholic Church such as Christmas or the feast of the Presentation of The Lord. Volume 1 was written by Rev. Hugo Hoever, O.O.Cist., Ph.D. This volume contains and Imprimatur by Patrick J. Sheridan D.D., the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of New York the time this volume was published. Each saint contains his/her feast day, patron, approximately one – two page biography and a short prayer. Volume 1 has a blue cover.

Looking at Volume 2: Volume 2 as mentioned before, is like an “add-on” to volume 1. It contains many Saints and Blesseds that I have never known before such as St. Hermenegild, St. Victor Maurus. This volume was written by Rev. Thomas J. Donaghy and bears an Imprimatur by Patrick J. Sheridan D.D., the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of New York the time this volume was published. Special in volume 2, accompanying the prayer and biography of each Saint, there is a reflection which helps think deeper about the Saint’s life. Volume 2 has a maroon cover.

Both volumes contain more than 365 saints (at least one for each day of the year and volume 1 even contains a saint on Feb. 29!) which helps one to live and grow devotions to the saints all year long. Why more than 365 saints? I have found that some days contain more than one saint. In total, there would be more than 730 saints’ biography in this boxed set. If you looked at the images, you must of had noticed the illustrations. These images are a black and white version of the illustrations from Fr. Lovasik’s Picture Book of Saints, also sold on The Catholic CompanyI know someone who has copy of the book and I also have the Vietnamese version of the book too. I really enjoy the illustrations as they bring the saints “to life”. Both volumes have a sturdy hardcover. The product description says, “cloth cover” and I am still questioning that as the cover does not feel like cloth at all.  However, no ribbons are attached which would be convenient. The sturdy slipcase is great as it protects the two volumes very well.

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Product: Lives of the Saints Two-Volume, Boxed Set

Publisher: Catholic Book Publishing Corporation

Format: Print, volume 1 has a blue cloth cover, volume 2 has a maroon cloth cover, white paper with red-orange edges.

Dimensions per volume (approximate):  11 cm x 15.5 cm x 3 cm

Dimensions of slipcase (approximate): 12.75 cm x 16.25 cm x 6.5 cm

Imprimatur: Yes, on both volumes

ISBN Volume 1: 978-0-89942-870-3

ISBN Volume 2:  978-0-89942-875-8

ISBN Boxed Set: 978-0-89942-876-5

Pros: 

  • Both volumes come in a sturdy slip case
  • Two hard cover volumes
  • Very clear layout and font
  • Red-orange edges (decorative feature?)
  • Illustrations in black and white
  • Each volume is small enough to slip into your backpack/purse
  • A short biography and prayer to each saint during the year
  • Volume 2 contains a reflection after each biography
  • Each Saint’s biography is 1-2 pages in length
  • Very easy to understand
  • Affordable

Cons

  • No ribbon marker
  • Images not in colour (not a big deal to me)

On “The Catholic Man’s” Scale

★★★★★ 5/5

I really love this Lives of the Saint’s Two-Volume boxed set. I have considered purchasing a Lives of Saints book from several places. However, being given an offer of two Catholic books from The Catholic Company, I chose this product as it suited my needs. I would recommend this Lives of the Saint’s. This would make a perfect gift, personally I don’t think for a First Communicant, but certainly for Confirmation. Its presentation and content is amazing.

You may purchase this Lives of the Saint’s Two-Volume boxed set at The Catholic Company, inexpensively priced for only $17.95!

https://www.catholiccompany.com/lives-saints-2-volume-boxed-set-i7035/?sli=1011120  

** Again, I sincerely thank The Catholic Company for offering me two books to review on The Catholic Man Reviews and give my honest reviews!