Archives For *Brief Reviews*

 

Changing Our Perception of Our Bodies
 
A Review of 
 

Fat and Faithful: Learning to Love
Our Bodies, Our Neighbors, and Ourselves
J. Nicole Morgan

Paperback: Fortress Press, 2018
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Reviewed by C.S. Boyll

 

Bam! A book gets my attention whenever a writer shows how American culture influences the church more than the church influences culture. J. Nicole Morgan hits this mark in Fat and Faithful: Learning to Love Our Bodies, Our Neighbors, and Ourselves.

Morgan, in her thirties, declares she finally accepts her lifelong fat body as Christ accepts her–totally, all XXXX size of her. She wants the Body of Christ to accept her and others like her at the Table of Grace without body judgment and shaming.

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Bearing Witness Within The
Ineffective Prison System
 
A Review of 
 

Refuge in Hell:
Finding God in Sing Sing

Ronald Lemmert

Paperback: Orbis Books, 2018.
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Reviewed by Mary VanderGoot
 
 
Ronald Lemmert was a Catholic chaplain at the Sing Sing Correctional Facility in New York for sixteen years. Refuge in Hell is his memoir. It is the story of why he chose to be a prison chaplain, why he stayed as long as he did, and why he left abruptly.

Prisons are grim places. The environment is rigid and unforgiving, but it is also unpredictable and dangerous. By reputation Sing Sing is among the worst. The first time Father Lemmert celebrated mass only twelve men from a population of 2000 attended. The chapel was “dirty and dingy….paint of the chapel walls was peeling….a large asbestos ceiling tile had become unglued and was hanging down.” (30) Lemmert determined to revitalize the chapel space and make it a place of refuge and calm.

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A God-Illuminated World
 
A Brief Review of 
 

Flame in the Night:
A Novel of
World War II France

Heather Munn

 
Paperback: Kregel, 2018
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Reviewed by Tim Otto
 
 
Flame in the Night, Heather Munn’s new young adult book, takes place in a dark time in which a populist head-of-state scapegoats immigrants, glorifies military might, and calls for worship of the nation-state. The majority of Christians not only don’t resist, they cooperate. In one place however, a witness blazes forth as Christians bravely and sacrificially defy the night. Flame in the Night explores the character and practices that fuel such a community.

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Listening to the Voice of God
in Your Heart

A Review of 

Grace: On the Journey to God
Michael Casey

Paperback: Paraclete Press, 2018
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Reviewed by Mark Jenkins

 

With everything that Michael Casey does, I can’t help but wonder when he finds time to sleep! He is one of the most widely sought after, erudite, and respected priests active in the world of Roman Catholic monasticism. A select bibliography of his books and articles spans ten full pages, covering more than 45 years of publication. Fr. Casey has lectured and led retreats in more than forty countries on 6 continents. He was a primary force and the principal author behind the 1990 revision of the “The Constitutions and Statutes of the Order of Cistercians of Strict Observance.” He served as prior of the Tarrawarra Monastery in Australia from 1988 to 2003 and vocation director from 1998 to 2012. He has written extensively on the care and formation of novices and has contributed significant, substantial scholarship to the field of Benedictine studies.

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My Soul Grows Straight
 
A Review of 
 

The Hymnal:
A Reading History
Christopher N. Phillips

Hardback: Johns Hopkins UP, 2018.
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Reviewed by Grant Currier
 
 
 
Christopher N. Phillips concludes his The Hymnal: A Reading History in a most unexpected study of Emily Dickinson. The cursory glance will undoubtedly produce a moment or two of bafflement, perhaps curiosity as to her occupying an entire chapter in a book about hymnals, but Phillips writes that “Dickinson understood the hymn as a form of hopeful communication” in which the act of receiving, not giving, constitutes the poem as a hymn.

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The Gifts and Limits of Self-Care
 
A Review of
 

Four Gifts:
Seeking Self-Care for Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength
April Yamasaki

Paperback: Herald Press, 2018
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Review by Danielle Davey Stulac
 
 
It was the second year of graduate school, and I was four months into a grueling regimen of eight-hour per day reading sessions for which I sacrificed meals, fresh air, exercise, sleep, and friendships. I had grown accustomed to ignoring my body and its basic needs in order to stuff my mind with as much knowledge as possible. But that day, as I finished a lunch break and mounted the stairs of the library for the second half of my daily reading session, I sensed a nudge from God: “go get a massage.” Though my back ached and exhaustion had already set in, I resisted. Surely, I didn’t have time or money for something as frivolous as a massage. After a short wrestle with these thoughts, I decided to do it (having learned from experience the folly of ignoring such nudges). To my surprise, as the masseuse pressed her hands against my tense shoulders, I began to cry—long, heaving sobs. That such a small moment of care elicited tears that woke me up to the self-destructive nature of my attempt to be a disembodied mind for the duration of my exam year. I realized that I could not ignore my body, let alone soul. For my mind to function, I needed my whole self to be well. I needed to live wholeheartedly.

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“This Kindly Working Love”
 
A Review of 
 

The Farm
Wendell Berry

 
Hardback: Counterpoint, 2018
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Reviewed by C. Christopher Smith
 
 
The newly released book The Farm by Wendell Berry is a worthwhile purchase simply for its beauty. A trade reprint of the hard-to-find letterpress edition by Kentucky’s Larkspur Press, this new book retains the elegance of the original in both its design and its monochrome drawings by Carolyn Whitesel.

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The Saint in Vivid Color
 
A Brief Review of 

St. Francis and the Animals:
A Mother Bird’s Story

Phil Gallery
Illustrated by Sybil Mackenzie

Hardback: San Damiano Books, 2018
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Reviewed by C. Christopher Smith
 

“These stunning illustrations and the engaging text describe how Francis related to a great variety of animals. This book is sure to spark valuable conversations.”
-Fr. Pat McCloskey, OFM

Narrated by Mother Bird, this picture book is an elegantly-illustrated retelling the familiar stories of St. Francis and his interaction with the animals.

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Honest, Knowledgeable Answers
to Pressing Science Queries
 
A Brief Review of 

Exploding Stars, Dead Dinosaurs,
and Zombies: Youth Ministry
in the Age of Science
Andrew Root

Paperback: Fortress Press, 2018
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Reviewed by Leslie Starasta
 
 
Many individuals inside and outside of the church feel that science and faith are incompatible.  An oft-repeated story is that of the active youth group member who heads off to the state university only to have their Christian faith shredded by a professor.  However, these questions are bubbling to the surface at an earlier age as high school and even junior high students, particularly in our STEM-obsessed society, are faced with these issues.  Church members, parents, and church staff, particularly youth ministers, are often unprepared to face the questions young people raise and can easily fumble the question.  Exploding Stars, Dead Dinosaurs, and Zombies: Youth Ministry in the Age of Science provides a much needed and engaging resource to help with these questions.

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A Nerdy Faith
 
 
A Brief Review of
 

Faith Across the Multiverse:
Parables from Modern Science

Andy Walsh 

Paperback: Hendrickson, 2018.
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Reviewed by Fred Redekop
 
 
Andy Walsh writes his new book Faith Across the Multiverse: Parables from Modern Science, for an audience to which I do not belong (at least in this present universe). Walsh has a PhD in microbiology and has done postdoctoral work in computational biology. Suffice it to say that he is a scientist, and also a deep thinker about the intersections of both science and faith.

I had trouble getting through much of the science that Walsh offers, and admit to having skimmed many parts of the book, particularly the four chapters: “The Language of Mathematics,” “The Language of Physics,” “The Language of Biology,” and “The Language of Computer Science.” I took my last science or math course in Grade 12, so I am not well-versed in this kind of language at all. I have a great interest in science questions, and I do not think that science and faith are opposites. They should be able to be discussed as ways to understand God, but I know that many people see them as archenemies of theological conversation.

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