Tuesday 26 April 2016

The Porch and the Cross - Kevin Vost - Ancient Stoic Wisdom for Modern Christian Living

The Porch and the Cross:
Ancient Stoic Wisdom for Modern Christian Living
Kevin Vost
Kenneth J Howell (Foreword)
Jared Zimmerer (Preface)
Angelico Press
ISBN 9781621381709

I have been a fan of Kevin Vost's writings since I first encountered them. And even though I seldom read physical books any more I made an exception for this book as the eBook is not yet release. For as much as I have truly loved all of Vost's book I have read to date this book has had a massive and immediate impact on my life. For in this volume Dr. Vost takes us on a whirlwind tour of stoic philosophy, specifically 4 Philosophers and how as Christians we can leverage their wisdom and help take our practice of the faith to a new level.

The stoic scholars that we encounter are:  Gaius Musonius Rufus, Epictetus, Lucius Annaeus Seneca or Senica the Younger and Marcus Aurelius. No to be honest I had encountered three of our four teachers, and have read Aurelius's Meditations numerous times over the years. Vost approaches these four in a unique way, first he provides a brief biography, then he draws extensively from their own work some with more commentary than others and the a final chapter on each how in applying it we can become better at being. Then as a finale Vost ties it all together in a conclusion that unites what is good from stoic wisdom with true Christian love and how they combined can have an immense impact on our world.

While reading this book one of the biggest things that impacted me was the concept of how our reaction to an event or circumstance that drives our response. If we can learn to step back and look at the event, as just an event then often our reaction and out interpretations of those events will be radically different. From my first encounter of this though in the book I have been applying it there has been drastic change in my home life, my professional life and my social influence. By learning to look at events from the perspective of what is under my control and what is not and always moving forward towards what is best my life has already been changed. Matthew Kelly often states that God's plan for our life is "to become the best version of our self", Kevin through these four philosophers gives us numerous tools and techniques to work and strive for that one goal.

I must however give you a few warnings about this book. First if you are not open to change, to striving to be better do not bother picking up this book. Second if you do not have a true hunger and thirst for righteousness; "Blessed is he who does hunger and thirst for righteousness for he shall be filled" Matthew 5:6 leave this book on the shelf, it will challenge your beliefs about who you are, your role in the world and your calling as a Christian. And third if you simply want to read a short 200 page book, and then by all means leave in the store, for once you read you will likely reread it, or go off and read more from our 4 teachers from the porch. It will likely kick off a long reading list as you endeavor to go deeper into these lessons and work to achieve true wisdom. But if you are willing to take those risks, then this book is tremendous and can have a wonderful impact upon you; then because of the changes in you, on your family, your workplace your community. In my opinion the reward far outweighs the risk!

Kevin in quoting Mark Forstater about Marcus Aurelius  quotes: "It's in the nature of books about the spirit that they can be visited again and again. How often we return to books after a gap of some years and find that, with broader experience, we are able to read them in a deeper way, to see new facets that we had previously missed. Marcus Aurelius's book is one of these - it can't be outgrown; it does not date. It reads in a different way to someone who is twenty than to someone who is sixty yet still has something profound to tell them both about living the real good life." I belive the same could be said about Kevin's books in fact reading this one has inspired me to pick up and reread some of his other books.

This book was an amazing read and to be honest as soon as I finished it I put it back on my 'to be read list' to read through it again. There is also a companion volume by Shane Kapler - The Epistle to the Hebrews: and the Seven Core Beliefs of Catholics. Separately they are both great reads but together they pack an amazing 1, 2 punch. And should be read together for the magnifying effect the teachings of each has upon the other.

(Note: this books is part of a series: A Year of Reading Intention - Catholic Reading!)

Books by Dr. Kevin Vost:
Full Range of Motive (2001)
Memorize the Faith! (2006)
Fit For Eternal Life (2007)
From Atheism to Catholicism (2010)
Unearthing Your Ten Talents (2010)
St. Albert the Great (2011)
Tending the Temple (2011)
Three Irish Saints (2012)
Memorize the Reasons! (2013)
One-Minute Aquinas (2014)
Hounds of the Lord (2015)
Seven Deadly Sins (2015)
Memorize the Mass! (2016)
Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit (2016)
The Porch and the Cross (2016)
The Catholic Guide to Loneliness (2017)
The Four Friendships (2018)
How to Think Like Aquinas (2018)
Memorize the Latin Mass! (2018)

12 Life Lessons from St. Thomas Aquinas (2019)
Aquinas on the Four Last Things (2021)
Books Contributed to:
Man Up! (2014)

Author profile interview with Dr. Kevin Vost.

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