Tuesday, 18 January 2022

A Guide to Morning, Evening and Night Prayer - Father Robert Taylerson - How to Pray the Prayer of the Church

A Guide to Morning, Evening and Night Prayer: 
How to Pray the Prayer of the Church 
Robert Taylerson
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781860823091
eISBN 9781784694319
CTS Booklet D671

Over the last several years, I have read over 250 volumes from the CTS. I have read books from many series, and many authors. I have read several books that are part of the CTS Devotions and Prayer Series. I have read many in the CTS Biographies including biographies from the Saints of the Isles Series, and the Great Saints Series. I read two books by Father Taylerson in the CTS Deeper Christianity Series called Prayer in Sadness and Sorrow, and an older version of this work, also 2 others in the Deeper Christianity Series. The description of the booklet is:

“This Guide is intended for anyone who wants to learn how to pray The Prayer of the Church, also known as the Divine Office, Liturgy of Hours or Breviary. Promoted by the Church as a Prayer for the whole People of God (not only for religious or ordained), this Guide gets down to the basics of how to use the breviary itself, as well as suggesting how to pray well. It is intended for beginners, whether sharing in community or praying the hours alone. It can be used as a self-tutorial or a workbook for a small group. It will be of value for most English speaking editions of the breviary, or its smaller editions.”

The chapters in the book are:

Getting Started
     1 - Introduction to Morning, Evening and Night Prayers
     2 - Understanding Your Office Book
     3 - Where to Start for Evening Prayer
     4 - Morning Prayer and Night Prayer
     5 - Understanding the Printed Psalter Page
     6 - Enhancing your Prayer

An earlier version of this volume was originally published in 1993, the CTS Booklet number is D625, The Prayer of the Church: A Guide to Morning, Evening and Night Prayer. After reading that one researching for the review I discover that this updated edition of this volume called Guide to Morning, Evening and Night Prayer: How to Pray the Prayer of the Church published in 2008 and released as an eBook in 2017. It has booklet number D671 and comes in at nearly twice the page count. But a quick comparison and the table of contents is the same. I picked up the eBook of this volume and gave it a read for comparison. I did not regret picking up the earlier edition as I tracked it down used and it appears to be signed and dedicated by the author. But back to this newer edition for reviewing purposes. 

There are several things to like about this volume. First it is written so that you can use it as a guide and starting point for praying the hours or even the whole breviary. It is written in a generic enough fashion that you can use various editions or printings of the Hours, and still use this as a guide. The author makes mention to American or UK editions a few times throughout the book. And the back cover makes mention of British, Irish or American editions. I have been using this guide with the CTS Divine Worship Daily Office Ordinariates established by Anglicanorum Coetibus from the Catholic Truth Society edition. 

Another excellent feature is that it is short and sweet. The lessons are clear and concise. And at the end of each of the 6 lessons are questions and exercises, so you can practice what you have learned. The questions are identical in both editions of this booklet. I know that these days many people use apps for the Hours, but for those who wish to still use books this is an excellent volume. I made note of several passages while working through the earlier edition of this booklet. Some of them are:

“The seven hours of the old breviary did not contain precisely the same sequence of readings, psalms, and prayers as those of today’s Office, but the idea of praying and praising regularly with the whole Church is exactly the same.”

“In addition to the tradition of praying seven times a day is another tradition of praying three times a day. In Psalm 54 (55) the psalmist talks of turning to God three times a day (morning, noon and evening) as does Daniel (Dan 6:10). This was originally linked to the Jewish tradition of three temple-sacrifices each day, but the tradition continues in the Christian Church. In praying the psalm-based hours regularly through the day we become part of this long tradition maintained by God’s people as he guides them through the centuries.”

“It is probably a mistake to think of your book in the same light as books which are begun at the beginning and read to the end. It is better to think of it as containing several distinct sections, each of which has a different purpose. Try thinking of a loose-leaf file with different subjects, a Filofax or personal organizer, or a Sunday newspaper with several supplements. You then have a better idea of how your book has been edited and put together.”

“This lesson (6) looks at ways of praying the hours thoughtfully and personally. By using the Office book imaginatively you praise God more fervently, are nourished by his Words more fruitfully, and are present more attentively to him in prayer. Not all ways of praise and prayer fit each person. Always look to improve your prayer. Don’t be afraid to try other methods, but at the same time don’t think that there is anything wrong is a particular way of prayer doesn’t seem to fit.”

And the passage that I found struck me the hardest was:

“The regular habit of praying the hours is a great strength. Such habits carry us through the bad patches, and build our confidence in the good.

What should be avoided is that prayer becomes merely habit, that the words come out without thought, without feeling and without personal intent."

This is an excellent little read I have read both the paperback of the original and the eBook of the newer version. If you are interested I would recommend the newer edition, unless you want this original offering. A great little tool for praying the hours. The two editions aver very similar, a few changes in order, some slight differences in working. The getting Started Section in this volume states:

“One of the beautiful ways in which prayer is growing today is by an ever-increasing number of people in many different places coming together to pray the hours of the Prayer of the Church. Previously these were usually prayed only by priests and religious.

This tutorial is intended for those who are starting to pray the Morning, Evening or Night Prayers of the Church. It is suitable whether you are praying these ‘hours’ of prayer alone or in community with others. It can be used as a self guide or as a work-book for a small group. Where possible do try to work through and pray with at least one other person. It does help.

A variety of editions and books (Office books) are available which contain Morning, Evening, and Night Prayer of the Church e.g. Daily Prayer, Morning & Evening Prayer, Shorter Morning & Evening Prayer, “Three-Volume Divine Office”, and their equivalent American editions (such as Christian Prayer). It is hoped that this tutorial will be of use to you, whichever edition or book you pray from. Each lesson should be worked through carefully, and the exercises completed before moving on to the next.

This booklet is a revised edition of the 1993 original, which now contains extra references and websites to further help the reader.

Rob Taylerson, February 2005”

And that section ends with these words: 

“‘In prayer, united with Jesus - your brother, your friend, your Saviour, your God - you begin to breathe a new atmosphere’ from St John Paul II

It was wonderful to use this in conjunction with the CTS Divine Worship Daily Office and really play and learn my way around the hours. If you are just starting out this is an excellent resource. I highly recommend it. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

For reviews of other books in the CTS Devotions series click here.

Books by Father Robert Taylerson:
Desire and Delight: Intimacy with God through the Scripture - CTS Deeper Christianity Series
Teachings on Prayer: The Christian Tradition - CTS Deeper Christianity Series

Monday, 17 January 2022

The Church and the Dark Ages 430–1027 - Phillip Campbell - Reclaiming Catholic History Series Book 3

The Church and the Dark Ages (430–1027) 
St. Benedict, Charlemagne, and the Rise of Christendom
Reclaiming Catholic History Series Book 3
Mike Aquilina (Editor)
Ave Maria Press
ISBN 9781646800353
eISBN 9781646800360

I have greatly enjoyed the other four volumes in this series that I have read. The Church and the Roman Empire by Mike Aquilina and The Early Church by James L. Papandrea were the first two released, and the two that proceed this one in a timeline. The books are being released in a random order. There will be seven volumes in this series. Mike Aquilina is the general editor of the series. This was a volume I was really looking forward to. I have studied the periods prior and the periods after this time frame, but have not had as much focus on these 600 years. I must state that this volume was an excellent read. This book and the whole series are great reads. I spent 20 years as an undergraduate, for the most part because I loved learning. My last degree was in Religious Studies with a focus on Roman Catholic Thought. I would have loved this book and those I have read in this series as resources, for several of the courses I did.   

Many years ago when I did an Introduction to Church History course at Conrad Grebel College at the University of Waterloo, our professor, Arnold Snider, often said throughout the year, “I do not care as much about dates and names and places, as the story of Christianity. On your final exam the main question will be ‘Your uncle Billy at Christmas dinner says: ‘I hear you did the history of Christianity, tell us the story in your own words?’” And that was the one essay question on the exam. This book and the others I have read in the series would have been great resources for that course. Maybe could have even served as textbooks if the course had not been taught at a Mennonite College, if it had been offered at St Jerome’s University I could see these being the books used today. If I had had them they would have been pulled out often for essays, papers and research. This is a great read in an excellent series. But the books are written in such an engaging manner that any Catholic could pick them up and benefit from reading them. And this one is on a very hard time frame in Church history. 

This is the fifth volume published in this series, Reclaiming Catholic History, though it is the third book in the series. The series is being edited by Mike Aquilina and the first published volume was by him as well. About this series we are told by Aquilina:

“The history of the Catholic Church is often clouded by myth, misinformation, and missing pieces. Today there is a renewed interest in recovering the true history of the Church, correcting the record in the wake of centuries of half-truths and noble lies. Books in the Reclaiming Catholic History series, edited by Mike Aquilina and written by leading authors and historians, bring Church history to life, debunking the myths one era at a time.”

Each of the book I have read so far I have benefited from greatly and recommended to several friends and family members. The chapters in this volume are:

Reclaiming Catholic History: Series Introduction
Chronology of The Church and the Dark Ages (430–1027)
Introduction: Anything but “Dark”

Chapter 1: Our Roman Heritage
     Up Close and Personal: St. Augustine of Hippo
     You Be the Judge: Did Christianity cause the collapse of the Roman Empire?
Chapter 2: The Church among Gauls and Goths
     Up Close and Personal: The Cloak of St. Martin
     You Be the Judge: Did St. Augustine invent the doctrine of original sin?

Chapter 3: The Age of St. Benedict
     Up Close and Personal: The Dialogues of St. Gregory the Great
     You Be the Judge: Did Christianity cause a decline in education and literacy in the early Middle Ages?

Chapter 4: Missionary Monks
     Up Close and Personal: Sts. Cyril and Methodius
     You Be the Judge: Were monks “useless”?

Chapter 5: The Church of Rome
     Up Close and Personal: Pope Gregory the Great and Gregorian Chant
     You Be the Judge: What really happened when Pope Leo the Great met Attila the Hun?

Chapter 6: East and West
     Up Close and Personal: St. Maximus the Confessor
     You Be the Judge: Did the Eastern churches ever affirm the primacy of Rome?

Chapter 7: The Carolingian Renaissance
     Up Close and Personal: The Faith of Charlemagne
     You Be the Judge: Wasn’t the Church consumed with worry over the spread of Islam?

Chapter 8: Imperium and Sacerdotium
     Up Close and Personal: King Alfred the Great
     You Be the Judge: Do bad popes disprove papal infallibility?

Chapter 9: Sacramental Controversies
     Up Close and Personal: St. Paschasius Radbertus
     You Be the Judge: Is the dogma of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist a late medieval invention?

Chapter 10: The Cluniac Reform
     Up Close and Personal: St. Berno
     You Be the Judge: Was priestly celibacy an innovation of the late Middle Ages?

Conclusion: Transformation and Continuity

The introduction to this book states:

“This book is about the period of European history, roughly from the death of St. Augustine in 430 to the Peace of God in the year 1027, commonly known as the Dark Ages. Merely by making this statement, we have already opened up a can of worms. What do we mean by “Dark Ages”? Dark in comparison to what? Dark according to whom? If these ages were dark, was this a bad thing? If so, from whose point of view? And by what criteria are we judging whether such-and-such era was good or bad, light or dark?”

Further on it raises questions:

“The questions we raised pertain not to the study of history properly but to another related discipline called historiography. What is historiography? While the discipline of history studies the people and events of the past, historiography studies how historians have perceived these people and events. History concerns itself with historical data, while historiography is more concerned with how historians themselves have tended to view or interpret this data. Thus we could say historiography is the history of history—a way of stepping back and reflecting on the methods and preconceptions we bring to the table when we study history.

For example, to ask what sort of impact the Spanish conquistadors had on the Native American tribes they encountered is to ask a historical question. To ask why the Spaniards are often portrayed as villainous in English-language literature and film is to ask a historiographical question. Now we are asking not about history (What happened?) but rather about historiography (What do we think about what happened?)”

And still further on:

“When people refer to the “Dark Ages,” they are making a value judgment about a historical epoch, whether they know it or not. As we may gather from the use of the word dark, that judgment is negative. Why is this?

The centuries of the Dark Ages are sandwiched between the late classical era—characterized by the decline and fall of the Roman Empire—and the High Middle Ages and Renaissance, which succeeded them. The idea of this time as a period of darkness goes back to the early Renaissance writer Petrarch (1304–1374). Petrarch was a talented scholar of Greek and Latin who had great admiration for the achievements of the Greeks and the Romans. Compared to the high culture of ancient Greece and Rome, Petrarch viewed the Christian Middle Ages with disdain—as a time of barbarism in society, impoverished literature, and ignorance among men. According to Petrarch, those unfortunate enough to be born after the fall of Rome lived in an age “surrounded by darkness and gloom.”

Petrarch spent the better part of his literary career translating and republishing classical Latin and Greek texts. He hoped that his own age would be followed by a brighter time, a time when mankind would enter into a fuller knowledge of himself and the world.”

And most importantly we are told about the source of the name ‘Dark Ages’:

“The term Dark Ages ironically came from the pen of a great defender of the Middle Ages, the Catholic Reformation-era historian Caesar Cardinal Baronius. To counter Protestant claims, Baronius wanted to write a history of the Catholic Church that emphasized the harmony and beauty of the medieval world. And thus he composed his magnum opus, the Annales Ecclesiastici. First published in 1588, this encyclopedic work covered the history of the first twelve centuries of Christianity. In it, Baronius referred to the tenth and eleventh centuries as a saeculum obscurum (“dark age”) because there were relatively few written sources about this period compared to earlier centuries.

Though Baronius meant the phrase as a neutral term referring only to the scarcity of written records—and only of two centuries—the term caught on and took on a meaning beyond what he intended. The “dark ages” became the de facto designation of the Middle Ages during the Enlightenment. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, rationalist thinkers of the Enlightenment believed religion to be completely antithetical to reason. The “light” of pure reason was contrasted with the “darkness” of religion and superstition. And hence the entire epoch of Christendom came to be designated as the Dark Ages.”

And those few quotes are from the introduction alone. This book is masterfully written. It grabs your attention, draws you in, and will have you hooked from the beginning. Phillip Campbell is a master of this material and he writes in engaging style. Once you start reading you will not want to put the book down, and if you look at the titles of other books he has penned you will likely want to add several to your ‘to be read’ list. 

This book, as are all in the series, is an excellent resource. It can be read by late high school students or undergrads and used as a resource. It can be read by anyone interested in church history. It is very engaging and entertaining. An excellent resource! Most chapter’s follow the same format or the main history. Then two focused sections. The first is Up Close and Personal and is a profile of a specific person or people. Usually saints or blessed. The next is a section called You Be The Judge, which goes deeper into a question, point of interest or conflict. The book would be worth reading for either of these sections alone. But as a whole thing is very well written. Phillip Campbell does an excellent job of presenting a balanced view. It is terribly well researched. 

I greatly benefited from reading this volume, and already plan to read it again. And I am certain you will as well. I know that I will be reading the remaining two volumes in the series as they release. And will likely circle back and reread them all in order. But I have a feeling this one will get an extra reading in before then.

A great read in an excellent series! 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books in the Reclaiming Catholic History Series:
The Early Church - James L. Papandrea
The Church and the Roman Empire - Mike Aquilina
The Church and the Dark Ages
The Church and the Middle Ages
The Church and the Reformation
The Church and the Age of Enlightenment
The Church Facing the Modern Era

Books by Phillip Campbell:
Ante-Nicene Fathers: Primary Document Catholic Study Course
Epitaphs of the Catacombs: Christian Inscriptions in Rome During the First Four Centuries
Heroes & Heretics of the Reformation
Tale of Manaeth
The Book of Non-Contradiction: Harmonizing the Scriptures
The Catholic Educator's Guide to Teaching History
The Catholic Middle Ages: A Primary Document
The Feasts of Christendom: History, Theology, and Customs of the Principal Feasts of the Catholic Church
The Rending of Christendom
The Story of Civilization: Volume I - The Ancient World
The Story of Civilization: Volume II - The Medieval World
The Story of Civilization: Volume III - The Making of the Modern World
The Story of Civilization: Volume IV - The History of the United States One Nation Under God Text Book
The Story of the Church Textbook: From Pentecost to Modern Times

Saturday, 15 January 2022

Prayer Made Simple - David Torkington - CTS Devotions and Prayers

Prayer Made Simple
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781784695620
eISBN 9781784695927
CTS Booklet D828

Wow! This is a wonderful little volume. Over the last few years I have read over 250 books from the Catholic Truth Society, many from the Prayers and Devotions Series. There are so many wonderful books and booklets from the CTS. And this is an excellent offering. And it looks like the beginning of a wonderful trilogy, for in the end of the book it mentions two companion volumes:

Meditation Made Simple
Contemplation Made Simple

I am very much looking forward to those volumes. But back to this book. The description of this book is:

“This booklet is a simple, practical guide on prayer, and how to implement and benefit from it in daily life, not least in acts of love and a new ‘worship in spirit and truth’.

This booklet shows how to pray according to the Christian tradition from the beginning, incorporating helpful advice and teaching from the great saints, monks and mystics over the ages.

It is a simple, practical guide on prayer, and how to implement and benefit from it in daily life, not least in acts of love and a new ‘worship in spirit and truth’.”

It is a simple guide on prayer but it is also a very profound book. I could easily see it becoming a Christian classic along the lines of The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. The chapters in this book are:

  1 The Sun that Never Sets
  2 Where Time Touches Eternity
  3 The Spiritual Escalator
  4 It’s All in the Trying
  5 It is in Giving that we Receive
  6 The Quality of our Endeavour
  7 From Here to Eternity
  8 Journey’s End
  9 The Journey Begins
  10 O: The Morning Offering
  11 U: In Union with the Mystical Body
  12 R: Reviewing the Day Ahead
  13 F: Faith in Our Risen Lord
  14 A: Abandonment
  15 T: Thanksgiving
  16 H: Holy Communion
  17 E: Examination of Conscience
  18 R: Repentance
  19 Morning Prayer
  20 Evening Prayer
  21 The Prayer without Ceasing

At the beginning of this book, after the title page the author states:

“If our main preoccupation is prayer it does not mean that we are blind to the political, social or theological problems that beset the world. It means rather that we realise what must come first. Seek first God and his Kingdom of love and then everything else will be given to you.

Prayer is the place where this search begins.”

The book is one of great value. It is a small volume but an excellent work. Torkington provides excellent insights into the why and the how of prayer. He also gives us a mnemonic for the Our Father:

O: The Morning Offering
U: In Union with the Mystical Body
R: Reviewing the Day Ahead

F: Faith in Our Risen LORD
A: Abandonment
T: Thanksgiving
H: Holy Communion*
E: Examination of Conscience
R: Repentance

This is a great tool no matter how much work you believe your prayer life needs, or even if you have progressed well in your personal discipline of prayer. David has a true gift for teaching about the spiritual life, and especially prayer. This book is neither too basic nor too complicated. It is an excellent little book that I believe every Christian could benefit from reading. It is another amazing resource from the Catholic Truth Society.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

A New Beginning
Trilogy on Prayer: The Mystic, the Prophet, the Hermit
The Hermit: A Personal Discovery of Prayer 
The Mystic: From Charismatic to Mystical Prayer 
The Prophet: The Inner Meaning of Prayer
How to Pray: A Practical Guide
Wisdom from Franciscan Italy
Wisdom from the Christian Mystics
Wisdom from the Western Isles: The Making of a Mystic

Friday, 14 January 2022

The Christmas Genie - Dan Gutman

The Christmas Genie
ISBN 9781416990024
eISBN 9781439158265

This is the eighth book by Dan Gutman that I have read a few years ago I read several with or to my son. And then they sort of got lost in my to be read pile. I picked up the eBook of this a half dozen years ago and never got around to reading it. I have enjoyed all the books I have read by Gutman. And find them very entertaining. This and a couple of others have been on my device a while and remained unread. That is being remedied. I have moved away from Middle Grade reads as my children have grown older. I however enjoy Gutman’s works well enough to go back and read them on my own, even if the kids are not interested at the moment. 

The description of this book is:

“It’s the last day of school before Christmas vacation and Alex, Chase, and the rest of Mrs. Walter’s fifth-grade class couldn’t wish more for the final bell to ring. But the day takes a crazy turn when a mysterious meteorite crashes through the classroom window—and a genie pops out! Bob, as he’s called, is willing to grant only one wish for the class to share, and if they can’t agree on something before the bell rings in an hour, they’ll get nothing at all. What follows is a debate that is at turns thought-provoking and hilarious—and at all times irresistible.”

I was always intrigued by the art work for this book, both version. And I will be honest the story took me by surprise. And the twist at the ending, wow! I really did not see that coming. Who would have thought that a meteorite containing a genie could stir up so much? The class gets one wish. Everyone writes their wish on a piece of paper and the teacher starts reading them out. Some are hilarious, some funny. The arguments for and against many of them are amusing. Some are deeply moving. And they make us think, they inspire us to consider the differences between wish, want, and needs. It is an entertaining read but also a book that really gets the reader thinking.

It is a wonderful little book and I am glad I read it. I am certain it will entertain middle grade readers. And even older folks who give it a go. 

Books by Dan Gutman: 
The Genius Files:
Mission Unstoppable (2011)
Never Say Genius (?)

My Weirder School: (Harper Collins)
Miss Child Has Gone Wild! (2011)
Mr. Harrison is Embarrisin'! (2012)
Mrs. Lilly is Silly! (2013)

My Weird School Daze: (HarperCollins)
Mrs. Dole is Out of Control! (2008)
Mr. Sunny is Funny! (2007)
Mr. Granite is from Another Planet! (2008)
Coach Hyatt is a Riot! (2009)
Officer Spence Makes No Sense! (2009)
Mrs. Jafee is Daffy! (2009)
Dr. Brad Has Gone Mad! (2009)
Miss Laney is Zany! (2010)
Mrs. Lizzy is Dizzy! (2010)
Miss Mary is Scary! (2010)
Mr. Tony is Full of Baloney! (2010)
Ms. Leaky is Freaky! (2011)

My Weird School: (HarperCollins)
Miss Daisy is Crazy! (2004)
Mr. Klutz is Nuts! (2004)
Mrs. Roopy is Loopy! (2004)
Ms. Hannah is Bananas! (2004)
Miss Small is Off the Wall! (2005)
Mr. Hynde is Out of His Mind! (2005)
Mrs. Cooney is Loony! (2005)
Ms. LaGrange is Strange! (2005)
Miss Lazar is Bizarre! (2005)
Mr. Docker is Off His Rocker! (2006)
Mrs. Kormel is Not Normal! (2006)
Ms. Todd is Odd! (2006)
Mrs. Patty is Batty! (2006)
Miss Holly is Too Jolly! (2006)
Mr. Macky is Wacky! (2007)
Ms. Coco is Loco! (2007)
Miss Suki is Kooky! (2007)
Mrs. Yonkers is Bonkers! (2007)
Dr. Carbles is Losing His Marbles! (2007)
Mr. Louie is Screwy! (2007)
Ms. Krup Cracks Me Up! (2008)

Funny Boy: (Hyperion)
Funny Boy Meets the Airsick Alien from Andromeda (1999)
Funny Boy Versus the Bubble Brained Barbers from the Big
Bang (2000)
Funny Boy Meets the Chit-Chatting Cheese from Chattanooga

Tales From The Sandlot: (Scholastic)
The Green Monster in Left Field (1997)
The Catcher Who Shocked the World (1997)
The Pitcher Who Went Out of His Mind (1997)
The Shortstop Who Knew Too Much (1997)

And Me Series: (Harper Collins)
Roberto & Me (2010)
Ray & Me (2009)
Jim & Me (2008)
Satch & Me (2006)
Abner & Me (2005)
Mickey & Me (2003)
Shoeless Joe & Me (2002)
Babe & Me (2000)
Jackie & Me (1999)
Honus & Me (1997)

Million Dollar:
The Million Dollar Shot (1997)
The Million Dollar Kick (2001)
The Million Dollar Goal (2003)
The Million Dollar Strike (2004)
The Million Dollar Putt (2006)

Kid Who Ran for President:
The Kid Who Ran for President (1996)
The Kid Who Became President (1999)

Qwerty Stevens Adventures:
Back in Time With Thomas Edison (2001)
Back in Time With Benjamin Franklin (2002)

Homework Machine:
The Homework Machine (2006)
Return of the Homework Machine (2009)

Other Books:
The Day Roy Riegels Ran the Wrong Way (2011)
The Talent Show (2010)
The Christmas Genie (2009)
Recycle This Book: 100 Top Children's Book Authors Tell You
How To Go Green (2009)
Nightmare at the Book Fair (2008)
Casey Back at Bat (2007)
Getting Air (2007))
Jackie Robinson and the Big Game (2006)
The Get Rich Quick Club (2004)
Babe Ruth and the Ice Cream Mess (2004)
Race For The Sky (2003)
The Secret Life of Dr. Demented (2001)
Johnny Hangtime (2000)
Landslide! A Kid's Guide to the U.S. Elections (2000)
Jackie Robinson (1999)
Joe DiMaggio (1999)
Cal Ripken, Jr.: My Story (1999)
Virtually Perfect (1998)
Katy's Gift (1998)
The Way Baseball Works (1996)
Gymnastics (1996)
Ice Skating (1995)
Taking Flight (1995)
They Came From Centerfield (1995)
Banana Bats & Ding-Dong Balls (1995)
World Series Classics (1994)
Baseball's Greatest Games (1994)
Baseball's Biggest Bloopers (1993)
Baseball Babylon (1992)
SuperMemory (1991)
It Ain't Cheatin' If You Don't Get Caught (1990)
I Didn't Know You Could Do THAT With A Computer (1986)
The Greatest Games (1985)

Author Profile and interview with Dan Gutman.

Thursday, 13 January 2022

C.S. Lewis Apostle to the Sceptics - Walter Hooper - CTS Biographies

C. S. Lewis Apostle to the Sceptics
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781784690021
eISBN 9781784693046
CTS Booklet B760

I admit I was hesitant to pick up this book and give it a read. I have read several books by and about C.S. Lewis, including other works by Hooper. When I was involved with Campus Ministry Lewis’s book were immensely popular with evangelicals and mainline Protestants. I also know that he is popular in many circles of Catholic thought, to the extent that that some argue he was really a Catholic at heart. So as such I was hesitant to pick up this volume and give it a read, even though I have read over 250 volumes from the Catholic Truth Society over the last handful of years. I was however greatly surprised by this booklet and have recommended it to a few friends whom I know are fans of Lewis, both Catholic’s and non-Catholics. But back to this booklet, the description of it is:

“This booklet charts Lewis’s journey from practical atheism to his conversion to Christianity, and thereafter, to becoming Professor of English at Cambridge and one of the best known Christian apologists of his age. In charting Lewis's childhood, youth and adult life, Walter Hooper reveals the many influences that played upon his formation as a writer, thinker, and in his faith.

Spurning celebrity and false certainties, Lewis spoke to millions of his generation of the everyday struggles, enlightened by the truths of Christianity conveyed in straightforward, riveting, understandable prose.”

And the chapters are:

Early Days
Schools and Loss of Faith
Oxford and the War
Tolkien and Conversion
The Christian Apologist
A Chapter of Surprises
Further Reading

This volume was published in 2014 and the eBook edition released in 2017. This appears to be a new work by Hooper, and I believe it was one of if not the last book Hooper wrote. I was surprised that it is a new volume and not an excerpt from his other works. Not that he did not draw from them. A few of the passages I highlighted my first time through this book were:

“As I’ve explained in this booklet, The Screwtape Letters was one of the first theological works Lewis published. It appeared in weekly instalments, at the same time the ‘Mere Christianity’ talks were being broadcast. Lewis had the publishers of the Letters and the BBC send the fees for both works to a list of widows and orphans he provided. Lewis had his old friend Owen Barfield, a solicitor, set up a charitable trust - which they called ‘The Agape’ - into which two-thirds of Lewis’s total income would go. All the gifts from the Agape were given anonymously.”

“I think writing gave him more pleasure than anything. A bottle of ink, some nibs for his pen, a stack of paper - and plenty of tea! - that gave him great contentment. One time I asked how he managed to write with such ease. He said the thing he most enjoyed about writing was that it did two things at once. This he illustrated by saying, “I don’t know what I mean till I see what I’ve said.” In other words, writing and thinking were a single process.”

“After his death Warnie invited me to edit his brother’s writings, and this has occupied me for the last fifty years. This would have been impossible without the encouragement and good will of the Inklings, notably Warnie, Owen Barfield, Professor Tolkien and many others. I wish they had been alive in 1984 when I learned that Pope John Paul II wanted to talk with me about Lewis.”

“It was arranged that I would have a private audience with the Holy Father on 14th November 1984. I had known for years that the Pope had used The Screwtape Letters with his students as far back as 1950. Then in 1978, the year he became Pope, he mentioned Lewis’s The Four Loves in one of his Wednesday audiences. The Four Loves are Affection, Friendship, Eros and Agape. When I met the Pope after the General Audience he began by asking, “Do you still love your old friend, C.S. Lewis?” “Yes, Holy Father,” I said, “Both Affection and Friendship.” “You knew I liked The Four Loves!” he said. I replied that many people knew it, and from our conversation I learned that the Pope knew most of Lewis’s theological works, including Mere Christianity.

Then came his questions about what Lewis was like, and it was clear he really wanted to know what inspired this remarkable man to become a champion of the Christian Faith. At the end, I hoped the Pope, having heard me on C.S. Lewis, would say what he thought of him. He did: he said with great firmness:
“C.S. Lewis knew what his apostolate was” - a long pause - “and he did it!””

That interest and familiarity with C.S. Lewis by Saint John Paul II and a few references to Pope Benedict XVI’s to Lewis were news to me. Hooper states:

“Mere Christianity has never been out of print. Although it was written with ‘Everyman’ in mind, numerous Catholics use it in teaching because Lewis could explain profound subjects in simple and compelling language. The book has led many to convert to Catholicism.”

And also:

“It hardly needs saying that Tolkien hoped Jack would become a Catholic. After all, Lewis’s beliefs were much more Catholic than Anglican. But Lewis was trapped by his own success. Following his first series of ‘Mere Christianity’ broadcasts in 1941, Lewis began getting an enormous number of letters, and he felt he must reply to all of them. He argued that if an author publishes a book it is reasonable for his readers to write to him. From about 1945 on Lewis received thousands of letters every year, with the result that he spent at least two hours every day replying to them. The 3500 pages of his Collected Letters are yet another aspect of his Apostolate to the Sceptics.”

As mentioned I was greatly surprised by this little volume. Even with all I have read by and about Lewis and even the other Inklings. This is a wonderful little read. A great book in an excellent series from the  Catholic Truth Society. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

For reviews of other books in the CTS Biographies series click here.

Books by C.S. Lewis
Narnia Publication Order:
Prince Caspian
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The Silver Chair
The Horse and His Boy
The Last Battle

Narnia Chronological Order:
The Horse and His Boy
Prince Caspian
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The Silver Chair
The Last Battle

Other Reviews of Lewis's Books.
A Grief Observed
The Four Loves
Out of the Silent Planet
That Hideous Strength
The Dark Tower and Other Stories