Real readers read books all year round. But the convention of the “summer reading list” has become so thoroughly engrained in our culture that it seems appropriate to suggest four books-for-summer that will deepen any thoughtful Catholic’s faith—and any thoughtful Catholic’s perception of the challenges Catholics face today.
Rekindling the Christic Imagination: Theological Meditations on the New Evangelization, by Robert P. Imbelli (Liturgical Press): For those who’ve watched (as every sentient Catholic should have watched) Father Robert Barron’s Catholicism series, here’s the next step—a theologically rich, entirely accessible walk through the great themes of Evangelical Catholicism, keyed to four masterpieces of Christian art. Father Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, distills a half-century of theological scholarship and teaching into a hundred beautifully crafted pages of reflection on Christ, the desire of our hearts and the motive for Christian mission.
Divided Friends: Portraits of the Roman Catholic Modernist Crisis in the United States, by William L. Portier (Catholic University of America Press): The “Modernist” crisis, which roiled European Catholicism during the pontificate of Pius X, missed the United States—or so it was long argued by the canonical historians of American Catholicism. Not so, writes Dayton’s Bill Portier, in a careful study of four men, now largely forgotten, who loomed large in the affairs of the Church in America in the first half of the early 20th century. Portier’s sympathetic treatment of the struggles of Denis J. O’Connell, John R. Slattery, William L. Sullivan, and Joseph McSorley to find a path for Catholicism in modernity illuminate a lot of history that has been in the shadows—and which, brought to light, teaches important lessons for today.
Adam and Eve After the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution, by Mary Eberstadt (Ignatius Press): The Catholic Church is going to spend a lot of the next 18 months wrestling with the crisis of marriage culture throughout the world, given the two synods on the subject that Pope Francis has called for October 2014 and October 2015. No book better dissects the issues-beneath-the-issues at these synods than this brilliant analysis of the sexual revolution, i.e., “the destigmatization and demystification of nonmarital sex and the reduction of sexual relations in general to a kind of hygienic recreation in which anything goes so long as those involved are consenting adults.” This is absolutely essential reading for any Catholic interested in bringing sense into the debate over the increasingly aggressive nonsense on display in a culture that has become a sexual free-fire zone.
A Catechism for Business: Tough Ethical Questions and Insights from Catholic Teaching, edited by Andrew V. Abela and Joseph E. Capizzi (Catholic University of America Press): Catholic social teaching remains a mystery to many Catholics (and an ideological plaything for others). All the more reason, then, to be grateful to two Catholic University professors for having assembled a florilegium of brief texts from a century of Catholic social doctrine, and then artfully arranging them as answers to the real-world questions asked by business people trying to live their professional lives vocationally. That Abela and Capizzi have made their book an enjoyable read is further icing on a richly nourishing cake.
And then, for sheer fun, a fifth book:
A Nice Little Place on the North Side: Wrigley Field at One Hundred, by George F. Will (Crown Archetype): America’s premier political columnist begins his latest reflection on the National Pastime with some charming, autobiographically-derived advice for Catholicism: after recalling that he became a Chicago Cub fan at age 7, “when I was still not as discerning as one should be when making life-shaping decisions,” the elegant Dr. Will notes that “The Catholic Church thinks 7-year-olds have reached an age of reasoning” and remarks, “The Church might want to rethink that.” More insight and wit follow, not in another exercise in Wrigley Romanticism, but in a rollicking, penetrating look at (among other things) the history of beer and the reasons why a splendid ballpark has contributed to the notorious ineptitude of the home team.