Christmas 2021 Message from TCM Reviews

Dear Friends,

Christmas has once again dawned upon the world. The true meaning of Christmas, which is the commemoration of the Incarnation of Our Lord, and Saviour, Jesus Christ, should serve as the centrality of our Christmas celebrations. In the midst of shopping, gatherings, decorating, etc. that are advertised as the centrality of Christmas, or rather, the ‘Holiday Season,’ as Catholics, such acts must exemplify something greater – that is (1) the act of preparation for the second coming of Jesus Christ, and (2) the act and virtue of charity. Our Christmas ‘to-do’ list would become useless if we were to forget about these two aspects of our Christmas preparations. Without them, our Christmas would become as a mere secular holiday, and Jesus’ birthday would then be watered down, just as another ‘birthday’ on our calendar.

As Catholics, the Christmas season is a commemoration of the day in which God came down to earth, took on the flesh of man, and was like men in all things but sin. That is our God – one who gets His “hands dirty,” to share in our sufferings, and thus, through His death and resurrection to show us that God can conquer all evil, all despair. The question is, God can stir change in the world, but are we willing to open our hearts to Him? That is the question I think we should be asking ourselves this Christmas.

Christmas gifts are a staple all around the world. People look forward to a Christmas treee full of presents to be opened on Christmas morning. I am blessed to be able to do so every Christmas. However, how often do we forget to have a grateful heart for all that we have received not just this Christmas, but this past year?

I am grateful to all of our Partners and dear readers of our blog. I never envisioned that our blog would still be running today. The Catholic Man Reviews is a culmination of a variety of interests of mine: Catholic Theology, Catholic Books, Cathollic Liturgy and Catholic Arts. All of those four dimensions, I hope, have been exhibited here. However, it is through the work that I do that I am able to celebrate Christmas year-round. These past two years, I have received more review-copies of books more than anything else. Some hard-copies arrive at my doorstep every now and then, while at times, I have received review requests from authors. Unfortunately, my work on The Catholic Man Reviews is not full-time – I am an undergraduate student, who is also involved in Parish Ministry, as well as a part-time job – and thus, I have had to regretfully decline a number of requests this past year.

However, in all that, I am grateful for the readership and partnerships we have developed over the past five years. For now, our blog is running on a free WordPress account. In the coming years, it is our hope that we will be able to look for sponsors willing to help support this blog on premium plan, that will allow us more storage for pictures and media components, as well as a custom domain. However, until that can happen, we will continue to serve readers and Catholics in the best way possible with our reviews of books and products.

If you would like to have your book/product/company featured on our blog, please refer to our ‘About‘ page for our contact information and details.

Vincent (The Catholic Man) & Ivy would like to wish our partners, and readers:
A blessed Christmas Season full of the grace and peace

of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ;
A new year 2022 full of good heatlh and joy.

God bless,

Vincent Pham
The Catholic Man Reviews founder and moderator


Day 12: St. Joseph New Catholic Bible, Gift Edition – Large Type

Catholic Book Publishing Corporation‘s (CBPC) beautiful Bibles and devotional titles have been featured on our blog on several occasions. The quality and design of these publications are, in my opinion, one of the finest (and affordable). The thing with CBPC’s publications is that there is a sense of simplicity, yet a nobility that speaks to the importance of the texts that they publish. Last June, I (The Catholic Man) reviewed CBPC’s New Catholic Bible (NCB) Giant-Print Edition. Well throughout the latter half of 2020, and throughout this year, the review for this Bible have been one of the most read Bible-reviews on our blog.

This year for the 12 Days of Christmas series, my sister and I are joining forces together to bring to you this last review for season 4 of this series, a review of one of the CBPC’s newer NCB Editions,the St. Joseph NCB Gift Edition – Large Type. It contains the same translation as the NCB Giant-Type Edition, reviewed last year, but there are also many special features in this Gift Edition – Large Type, not only in terms of type size as the title suggests, but well beyond.

Please note, just like other reviews of Bibles on this blog, I will not be taking a critical look at the translation, for several reasons. First of all, I am not Scripture scholar. I do not have any authority in the Church or in academia to publically speak about this translation. Rest assured though, as with any other Bible translation published by CBPC, care is taken to include the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, all of which could be found in the Bible. The NCB translation though, unlike the New American Bible (in the USA) and the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (in Canada) is not a Liturgical translation. Even then, the translations listed have been adapted for liturgical use (more on that in a future posted). The NCB, as CBPC clearly states in the Frequently Asked Questions is that,

The NCB OT, NT and Psalms are not intended for liturgical purposes, as is the case for several other Catholic Bible translations, but it can be enjoyed for private use and study.

(emphasis added)

And indeed so, the NCB as I remarked in the review for the Giant Type edition last year, is ideal for prayer and study, especially since this particular translation, is “classified as a formal or verbal equivalence Bible translation, which emphasizes a literal translation (word for word) of the Scripture text to make sure to preserve the original word order and capture the nuances found in the ancient biblical text.” (NCB, FAQs) If you would like to know more about the translation, I suggest you take a look at their helpful Frequently Asked Questions. The goal of bible reviews on this blog is to provide a viewpoint of a day-to-day Catholic on using these bibles. Thus, we take a look at readability of the texts and their user-friendliness for “common folks.”

NCB Giant Type on left; NCB Large Type on right

As mentioned, the NCB Gift Edition – Large Type contains many features similar to the NCB Giant-Type edition. This review will speak of several features that I think merit attention. By the end of the review, I will have spoken about the ideal audience of the NCB Gift Edition – Large Type in comparison with the NCB Giant-Type Red Imitation Leather. (Note, from now on, the terms ‘Large Type’ will refer to the NCB Gift Edition – Large Type while ‘Giant Type’ will refer to the NCB Red Imitation Leather – Giant Type.

Fonts, Font Size and Notes

When I first opened the box to see the Large Type Bible, I honestly did not know what to expect with the font size. I thought the terms “Giant Type” and “Large Type” were interchangeable, but upon comparing the font size of both version, it became apparent to me that that is not the case with CBPC’s NCB Bibles. The Giant Type is larger than the Large Type… I honestly cannot count by how many points, but approximately, I would say the font size of the Large Type version is about 12pt, while the Giant Type is about 13-14pt.

There is a difference I have found reading with the Large Type than the Giant Type. The benefit of having the 12pt font is that there seems to be more room to include more on a page. I notice that the notes of the each book of the Bible, unlike the Giant Type edition, are put as footnotes rather than endnotes. That creates for a much more pleasurable experience if you were using this edition for studying the Bible. This was one of the critiques I had with the Giant Type edition.

However, that does not mean that one should dismiss the benefits of having the notes as endnotes. I would personally prefer the Giant Type for prayer, since the notes would not get in the way, causing a distraction. From top to bottom of that edition is just Scriptural Text. I think both the Large Type and Giant Type’s placement of notes have their own pros and cons that would better be suited to the needs of an individual. If you are purchasing an NCB Bible for study, the Large Type would be more ideal, while the Giant Type would be suited for those who want strictly a Bible for prayer.

Returning to the talk on fonts and font sizes, CBPC clearly put a lot of thought into the use of them. I thought the Large Type would be like the Giant Type, simply having the Gian Type’s fonts shrunken down a couple points, but it seems to me that both editions utilize different fonts. I think this is rightly so. Different fonts have different “looks” when readjusted in size, and for some fonts, it is not a matter of “one font fits all.” Same with printing liturgical texts… as a Liturgical MC at my parish, I strive to use fonts that are readable for the celebrant, that would suit the small 10pt font for red rubrics, and 14pt font for spoken text. I am glad that the same consideration is being considered here for Scriptural texts.

Another factor for choice of font might be the use of red for the words of Christ in the New Testament of the Large Type edition. Fonts, their sizes and the colours are factors that go hand-in-hand when producing any liturgical and Scriptural text for ease of reading. More on the “words of Christ in red,” some may think that CBPC is going too far, or ‘Protestantizing’ a Catholic Bible. I do not think so. I think it is a feature that should appear more in Catholic Bibles. Even though the whole Bible is the Word of God, with God as the principle author of the these texts, the Gospels receive special reverence at Mass, as all stand to listen to it because the Gospel texts contain the words of Christ, the Words from the ‘Word made flesh.’ When we want to emphasize the words of somebody, even in academia, would you not give some external emphasis in bold or italicization? I am sure one would… and so why not do so with the words of Christ? Red text also has helped me with finding verses in Gospel passages a lot quicker too… I just wish more Catholic Bibles had it. Yet, I would not be surprised why Catholic Bibles do not include them perhaps out of cost factor too. Two-colour printing might prove to be more expensive than grayscale printing.

Illustrations and Supplementary Features

One of the things that immediately captured my attention with the Large Type edition was how richly illustrated that specific edition is in comparison with the Giant Type edition. The boxes of both editions say, “Beautifully Illustrated,” but I suggest the Large Type edition to say, “Richly Illustrated.” CBPC always does a great job with illustrations, especially with the illustrations in the coloured inerts. However, the Large Type edition goes beyond the usual. Before each book, there is a nice width-wise illustration depicting a key even in the book. This is amazing… it really gives the reader a break from page after page of text, and to show that a new book has come, instilling a sense that we are starting to walk into another door as we read this book.

Compared with the Giant Type edition, the Large Type edition features not 20, but 40 full-colour photographs, not counting the many grayscale photographs scattered throughout. Like the Giant Type version, there are 8 full-colour maps, but also grayscale maps interspersed throughout.

CBPC also always have great inserts- those have only been amplified in the NCB editions. I remarked about this extensively in the review for the Giant Type edition, which you find here. Here’s the truth: many people will use the Bible for study, for prayer, but certainly some who are gifted with a Bible, but might not open it frequently. Yet, perhaps one of the colour-panels might catch their attention. Who knows what curiosity might be sparked by such charts, such inserts? That in turn, may prompt them to open their Bibles and read more in-depth. These are small details for a Bible, but can change the way one may approach the Scriptures in general, in a very positive way.

The last feature I will speak about is one that I critiqued for a lack of in the Giant Type edition – a table of Sunday Lectionary readings. I am so glad to that feature at the end of this Large Type edition. I always enjoy having such features of a Bible, because no matter if it is a study bible, prayer bible, personal travel bible… it is so good to have something to reference the Scripture readings of the upcoming Sunday. It serves as an aid to pray not only individual but with the Church in its lectionary readings.

Exterior Qualities

I have been gifted several Bibles from CBPC over the years from loved ones and received some for review here, but I honestly have to say, I think that this Large Type edition is one of the most magnificent yet. The Dura-lux burgundy cover is elegant. It is not real leather, but nevertheless, very handsome and has a sense of quality to the material. My sister will say more about the aesthetic qualities:

This Bible has a soft cover with a faux leather texture but seems that it will last for generation to come. There is a cross debossed onto the the front. While I think it looks nice, we have found it can collect dust which isn’t very easy to remove with all the ridges. The book feels well bound.

The gilding is also very even. I find that the gilding here comes off on your hands a little but no where near as much as I usually see so I found this quality impressive. The gilding does stick some of the pages together though, so I recommending being extra careful when flipping the pages for the first time since the pages are super thin; about as thin as what you usually see in Bibles and dictionaries.

There are two bookmarking ribbons. There seem to be nice quality – rich colour, very smooth, the ends well cut with no fraying. The printing for both colour and black and white are well done. the edges are all very defined with consistent pigmentation throughout. I also think the text is a good size.

Overall, I think the visual aspect of this Bible is all great save for one thing. I think because the gilding sticks the edges of a lot of the pages together, I noticed a small amount of rippling and buckling on some of the pages. I assume this is from opening and closing the Bible with pages stuck together and thus pulled weird angles, only to be closed, the pages still at a weird angle. It’s a very minor flaw, and if my theory is correct, the person you gift the Bible to likely won’t even notice this until they’ve used it a couple times. I just thought I would bring it up nonetheless.

CBPC’s NCB Gift Edition Large Type is a beautiful Bible. As the name suggests, it is suited as a gift not only for Christmas, but for Weddings and Graduations. Sacramental events like First Communions and Confirmations are applicable too (but such occasions may merit also looking at CBPC’s special Sacramental editions of their Bibles.) This is a Bible that can be passed on from generation to generation, especially because of the inclusion of the Family Record… however, more importantly, it is a Bible to be opened, read, and prayed upon. I would rather pass down to my family a Bible that has been well read than one that looks new, as if never opened since the time I received it.

You can purchase a copy of the reviewed St. Joseph NCB Gift Edition – Large Type here.
You can also check out some sample pages here.
To learn more about the NCB and explore its other bindings, click here.

Disclaimer: Vincent Pham was provided a review copy of NCB Gift Edition – Large Type to provide an honest review of it on this blog. The Catholic Man Reviews thanks CBPC 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 product.

Day 11: Watts & Co. Mantilla

We are approaching the last couple days of the 12 Days of Christmas series! Today we a have a review for something we have never reviewed before: a mantilla. This is a gift catered to all the ladies in your life.

Packaging for the Watts & Co. mantilla is A+. It comes in a nice black gift box with the company logo on the lid. Inside, the mantilla sits on a black velvety sponge cushion. A little card accompanies the mantilla with a thank you and a bit of info on the mantilla. It all looks very sleek; very much my aesthetic.

The mantilla is triangular, and is folded in triangles (I don’t know what it is but I find it so satisfying that they chose to fold it the way they did instead of trying to make it into a rectangle). I think perhaps the box is a little bigger than it needs to be, but it doesn’t take away from anything. The card in the box as well as the website say that the mantilla is made of ‘Leavers’ lace. I’m no lace expert, so I did a bit or research. ‘Leavers’ lace is among the most sought after types of lace, as it is very feminine and delicate. These qualities hold true for the mantilla. I’ve included some pictures of my mom (thanks mom!) with the mantilla on so you can get a feel for how it drapes.

I think the lace design is beautiful, and very soft to the touch. There are 3 colours offered on the website, each with a different lace design which I find interesting. While the designs are different, I find them all equally beautiful and very cohesive together. I suspect the pattern was made specifically for the production of these mantillas as the pattern follows the edge of the mantilla. One thing that I think can be improved is I couldn’t find information on what the material the fibers are; that would have been especially helpful in making a purchase decision and deciding on how to best care for it.

This is an item to be babied. The edges of the mantilla are raw, so the lace will fray if not handled with care. The lace itself is also very thin which adds to the delicate aspect, but it would likely tear or the pattern would be ruined if the mantilla snagged on something. The card also recommends that the mantilla be dry cleaned. In the very least, this is definitely not something I would put in a laundry machine.

Because this mantilla requires so much care and is more on the pricier end, I would recommend purchasing this for someone who is truly serious about using mantillas and is willing to go the extra mile to care for a particularly nice one. This is perhaps a good fit for someone who had been using a mantilla for some time and is looking for a beautiful, delicate one.

Watts and Co. has had a tradition of producing beautiful liturgical items, both the Paschal Stylus and this mantilla are fine examples of their elevation of beauty in the liturgical context. We hope to feature more of their work on our blog in the future.

You can check out the mantilla on their website here.

And that concludes day 10! I hope you’re looking forward to seeing us for the last day!

Disclaimer: The Catholic Man Reviews was provided a sample of this mantilla for an honest review of it on this blog. The Catholic Man Reviews thanks Watts & Co. for the opportunity for us to review model on our blog and looks forward to future collaborations. All thoughts and opinions expressed in here are our own and reflect our sincere thoughts about the product.

Day 8: Metal Earth Notre Dame DIY model

It is day 8 of the 12 Days of Christmas Gifts, and I am reviewing the DIY model of the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, France by Metal Earth. As you may know, the Cathedral is under extensive renovation and rebuilding after its 2019 fire. It nevertheless is a jewel of Gothic architecture in France, but more importantly for Catholics, it is a house of worship.

I compared the completed model to some photos of the cathedral and I think this is a fairly accurate model of it; there are no obvious differences (other than the size of course). The only difference I notice is that the circular windows are simplified on the model, but not so much so that is is jarring, and the overall style is still maintained. I can’t speak for how well it is scaled to the actual cathedral unfortunately; I can only say I think it appears well proportioned. The level of detail on this is great. There aren’t any windows or doors missing as far as I can tell. There are even bricks and roofing etched on to the metal that I think really makes it feel like a palm sized replica. There are varying levels of depth to the model as some pieces are assembled further in or even behind other pieces which I really like; they really did mean 3-D when they said it is a 3-D model.

The model claims to be made of high quality steel which I would agree with although I am not an expert. The thickness seems even throughout the sheet save for the etching, and it acquired minimal scratch marks in the construction process. Therefore, much care would need to be taken during the construction of this model. We’ve had this model on display for at least half of the year now, and it still looks the way it does when we first assembled it, but we do keep it at room temperature in a fairly dry place and don’t live in a high humidity climate. One extra detail I would like to mention is that there isn’t much unused space on the metal sheets, which means less waste.

Metal Earth has different models with different levels of difficulty and the model of Norte-Dame is listed as “Challenging”. Indeed it is challenging. Part of that is because the pieces are so small; the thin pillars surrounding the cathedral are just over one millimeter in width. Additionally, the metal it not very thick, especially since it has been scored to make it easier to fold. I don’t think changing the thickness would be an improvement because it would break too easily if it was any thinner but too hard to fold if it were thicker. Some of the pieces on our model turned out a little warped because of little mistakes we make and couldn’t really fix. There are also little tabs on the the edge of many pieces that are just over a millimeter and about 2 millimeters long which are inserted into other pieces then bent to hold the piece in place. This means you wouldn’t need to glue anything together; just the model is enough, but they are quite the challenge to bend. We had pliers and tweezers out to help assemble this model. Even punching the pieces out of the metal sheet was quite difficult. We found the depth of the etching to be good, but it doesn’t mean you don’t need to be careful. The process of putting the model together, from beginning to end, is not something to be rushed. Patience is key when building this model… you can sympathize with the many, many, many years it took to build Notre Dame de Paris.

One claim Metal Earth makes is that the instructions are easy to follow, but I find this debatable. It’s one of those instruction manuals that are all images, and I know some people that find that to not be enough (*cough* Vincent *cough*). I would suggest taking a look at the instructions for the model you are interested in on the Metal Earth website, and deciding if it is something you think you, or whoever you intend on gifting the model to, can follow.

Basically, there is a lot of opportunities for error with this model. I do really think it is great quality and the end result looks fantastic. I would recommend this particular model for someone that enjoys assembling 3-D models, has some experience with them and has a LOT of patience. There are other easier models that you choose to purchase instead. It comes down to what kind of theme you are looking for and what models you have access to. We look forward to future models of Churches and Cathedrals from Metla Earth.

View details of the Notre Dame model here.
Purchase the model here.

And that is a wrap for day 8! Be sure to come back tomorrow for day 9 of the series with Vincent!

Disclaimer: The Catholic Man Reviews was provided a sample of the Metal Earth Notre Dame DIY model for an honest review of it on this blog. The Catholic Man Reviews thanks Metal Earth for the opportunity for us to review model on our blog and looks forward to future collaborations. All thoughts and opinions expressed in here are our own and reflect our sincere thoughts about the product.

Day 6 Tabbies’ Bible Indexing Tabs – Camo series

We are half through this year’s 12 Days of Christmas Gift ideas! For day 6 I am writing another comparison post, this time for the camo series of the Tabbies Bible indexing tabs. Vincent has done a review Tabbie’s Bible indexing tabs before, and the claims made in that review still stand. In today’s review, I’m going to make a couple more points in addition to what Vincent said in that review and do a deeper dive into the camo series specifically. I’ve added some pictures of fully installed tabs below.

Ease of use is one of the claims for this product. There are a couple of features that I think support this claim:

  • The tabs are scored so that you could easily bend the backing and peel the tab that you want
  • The page is designed a bit like a sticker sheet, as in the tabs don’t start right at the edge of the page so it’s easier to peel the tab without ruining/fraying its edge
  • The instructions are are detailed enough to follow and also have accompanying pictures
  • The backing on the tabs have the instructions included (with the pictures!); so you are never without them
  • The pages with the tabs are numbered and the books are arranged in order, so there’s no guessing which tab goes where or how far along you are in the process of sticking them into your Bible
  • There is a practice tab

I tried to photograph all these features for your viewing interest.

Another feature I appreciate is how thin the clear sticky portion is. The tab itself is made of paper that feels a little thicker than regular paper, and its going to double up as well when you install (not quite the right word but it gets the point across) the tabs. The clear portion however, is a very thin plastic. It feels quite durable nonetheless. I appreciate this because it does the job of sticking the tabs in well without adding thickness to the Bible.

The camo series can give your Bible a unique look, and for that reason, I think it caters to a rather specific consumer pool. For someone who reads the Bible and likes camo pattern, this could be the best of both worlds for them. There a variety of colour ways; I received the forest tabs, which are your typical camo colours. There are pros and cons to this particular design.

I think the camo pattern is interesting, and not commonly seen, especially not for a religious product. The font chosen suits the pattern quite well. The overall design would go really well with more “rustic” Bibles. I’m thinking something along the lines of brown pebble leather cover. I also think the white font with the olive green outline is a good choice. I like the trapezoid shape the tabs have rather than the usual rectangle; its something a little different.

The biggest qualm I have with this design is the way it is printed gives it a slightly “speckled” look which I think works with the pattern, but it interferes with the readability of the text since the edges of the letters aren’t crisp. It seems to just be the coloured regions since anything that is black (the bottom edge of the tab, the practice tab) doesn’t have this. That is the one thing I think could be improved. While the words are still fairly legible, if the person you are thinking of gifting these to has trouble reading, I think a different design would be a better option. Another smaller gripe I have is there are blank tabs for the user to write whatever they wish, but I wish they were olive green rather than white. I understand why they are white, but I think they would fit in with the rest of the tabs better if they shared a colour with the rest of the camo pattern.

And that is all I have for today! I hope you are looking forward to the rest of the series!

Disclaimer: The Catholic Man Reviews was provided these Bible indexing tabs for an honest review of it on this blog. The Catholic Man Reviews thanks Tabbies for the opportunity for us to review these items 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 product.