New and Notable Books (July 2014)

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One perk of being a book reviewer is that publishers regularly send emails, catalogs, and a steady stream of advanced review copies.

I try to review as many as I can, but I can’t get to them all. So each month I highlight a few new and upcoming books that I’m particularly excited about.

(The descriptions below are either from the publisher or from Amazon.)
 


 

To the Heights: A Novel Based on the Life of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati

by Brian Kennelly

TAN Books, 280 pages, paperback
Released on August 28, 2014

To the HeightsEnter the heart of a passionate young man, who in his brief life reached the heights of adventure, friendship—and sanctity.

Born to a wealthy family in Turin at the dawn of the 20th century, Pier Giorgio Frassati was good-looking, popular and athletic. He spent much of his youth climbing the rugged Italian Alps, disappearing into the clouds for days at a time. He was quick with a joke or a prank and enjoyed a good time. It seemed he was blessed with everything a young man could ask for.

But he hungered for more.

Despite coming from a family of such prestige, Pier Giorgio spent most days in the slums of Turin, visiting the poor and serving the sick. His love for Christ burned within him and brushed off on everyone he came into contact with – from lepers and orphans to college friends and political diplomats. He shared his Faith with kindness and charity, and defended it passionately against the evils of Fascism, even coming to blows with Mussolini’s thugs on numerous occasions.

Pier Giorgio touched the lives of thousands, yet his high-society parents remained unmoved by the life he led as they frowned upon his religious practices and charitable work. Reaching them would be his last challenge, his final mountain to climb.

To the Heights is an unforgettable novel about Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. Dig deeper than the biographical facts and discover the heart of a charismatic young man whose soul blazes brightly and uniquely among the host of heaven.

 


 

Katharine Drexel: The Riches-to-Rags Life Story of an American Catholic Saint

by Cheryl C. D. Hughes

Eerdmans, 283 pages, paperback
Released on August 1, 2014

Katherine Drexel bookOn October 1, 2000, Pope John Paul II proclaimed Katharine Drexel (1858–1955) to be a saint of the Roman Catholic Church. Only the second American-born Catholic saint in history, Drexel founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in 1891 and established more than sixty Blessed Sacrament missions and schools.

In this biography Cheryl Hughes chronicles the remarkable life of St. Katharine Drexel, exploring what drove her to turn away from her family’s wealth and become a missionary nun who served some of the most underprivileged and marginalized people of her time. Through her inspiration and effort “Mother” Katharine improved the lives of untold numbers of Native Americans and African Americans, overcoming open hostility to her work from various quarters, including the Ku Klux Klan. Her saintly legacy lives on today.

 


 

Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial?: . . . and Other Questions from the Astronomers’ In-box at the Vatican Observatory

by Guy Consolmagno, S.J. and Paul Mueller

Image Books, 304 pages, hardcover
Released on October 7, 2014

Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial
“Imagine if a Martian showed up, all big ears and big nose like a child’s drawing, and he asked to be baptized. How would you react?” – Pope Francis, May, 2014

Pope Francis posed that question – without insisting on an answer! – to provoke deeper reflection about inclusiveness and diversity in the Church. But it’s not the first time that question has been asked.

Brother Guy Consolmagno and Father Paul Mueller hear questions like that all the time. They’re scientists at the Vatican Observatory, the official astronomical research institute of the Catholic Church. In Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial? they explore a variety of questions at the crossroads of faith and reason: How do you reconcile the The Big Bang with Genesis? Was the Star of Bethlehem just a pious religious story or an actual description of astronomical events? What really went down between Galileo and the Catholic Church – and why do the effects of that confrontation still reverberate to this day? Will the Universe come to an end? And… could you really baptize an extraterrestrial?

With disarming humor, Brother Guy and Father Paul explore these questions and more over the course of six days of dialogue. Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial will make you laugh, make you think, and make you reflect more deeply on science, faith, and the nature of the universe.

 


 

Pope Francis and the Joy of the Gospel: Rediscovering the Heart of a Disciple

by Edward Sri

Our Sunday Visitor, 112 pages, paperback
Released on August 28, 2014

Pope Francis and the Joy of the Gospel“I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ.”-Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium

The call of Christ to each of us is as heart-stopping as the moment captured by Caravaggio in his painting, The Call of St. Matthew. Jesus points, he invites-and Matthew the tax-collector must make a decision. “The Lord does not disappoint those who take that risk” and choose him, Pope Francis tells us in his Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel.

Dr. Edward Sri, theologian, author, and speaker, unpacks The Joy of the Gospel, making it accessible and actionable. In these brief reflections Sri explores those things that hold us back, how we can open ourselves to God’s love, and the difference this can make to our joyful proclamation of the Gospel.

Pope Francis and the Joy of the Gospel reminds us that when life weighs us down, “the Lord is already there, waiting for us with open arms.”

Great for use by individuals or groups, each chapter concludes with questions for reflection or discussion, moving readers further into a renewed personal relationship with Christ.
 
 


 

What new and notable books are you looking forward to?

 

Pier Giorgio Frassati Book and DVD Giveaway!

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“Find out how much God has given you and from it take what you need; the remainder is needed by others.” – St. Augustine

Since I’ve built up a large collection of extra books and resources, every week I give some away absolutely free, no strings attached.

Each giveaway lasts seven days with a new one beginning every Friday. You can enter any time during the week. Check out my past giveaways here.


 
PGgiveaway

Today we celebrate the Fourth of July in America, but it’s also the feast day of my favorite saint, Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati. Thanks to the generosity of Ignatius Press, today I’m giving away THREE Pier Giorgio prize packages.

Each contains a copy of the best book on Pier Giorgio, A Man of the Beatitudes, written by his sister, Luciana. It also includes a DVD copy of “Sanctity Within Reach”, an EWTN special on Pier Giorgio’s life featuring Christine Wohar, Executive Director of FrassatiUSA, and Wanda Gawronska, Pier Giorgio’s niece.
 

A Man of the Beatitudes: Pier Giorgio Frassati

by Luciana Frassati

Ignatius, 179 pages, paperback

Man of the BeatitudesThe remarkable life of Blessed Pier Frassati for young adults. A beguiling and moving biography of Pier Giorgio Frassati, a handsome, athletic and fun-loving young man from a rich, aristocratic Italian family in the 1920′s who was recently beatified by Pope John Paul II. Pier Giorgio turned from a life of privilege to one devoted to working with the poor, and was a courageous witness of Christian faith and charity to many others. Discouraged by his affluent parents from his religious involvement and deep spiritual life, Pier Giorgio secretly ministered to the poor and marginalized, and was a leader of youth whose love of God transformed the lives of all those around him. He died of the polio virus at the age of 24, and the story of his life and death spread throughout Europe, influencing the young Karol Wojtyla, who as Pope John Paul II described Frassati as “a man of the eight beatitudes, a modern youth and great mountaineer who was keenly interested in the problems of culture, sports and social questions, as well as the true values of life.”

“This inspiring biography provides a highly enriching account of how the Beatitudes are the way of peace and joy. Frassati’s biography is a wonderful source of inspiration and encouragement for a world in search of hope.” — Fr. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R., Author, Arise from Darkness

 

Sanctity Within Reach: Pier Giorgio Frassati (DVD)

by Luciana Frassati

EWTN, 90 minutes, DVD

DVDJohn Paul II called Blessed Giorgio Frassati, “The Man of the Eight Beatitudes,” and his friends described him as “an explosion of joy.” He ascended the mountain of personal holiness with zealous tenacity—in much the same fashion that he scaled his beloved Italian Alps.

This three-part EWTN film unpacks the life and spirituality of this avid mountain climber and fun-loving Italian youth who died at the age of 24 in 1925, and was beatified by John Paul II. Christine Wohar, Executive Director of FrassatiUSA and Wanda Gawronska, niece of Pier Giorgio, examine the life and astounding legacy of good works and deep spirituality of this outstanding Catholic young man.

“To live without faith, without a patrimony to defend, without a steady struggle for truth, is not living but just existing.”
—Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati
 


 

I’m using Rafflecopter to help with the giveaway, which is great because it gives you multiple entries for commenting, posting on Facebook, sharing on Twitter, etc. Click below to enter:


(If you’re reading this through email or RSS and don’t see the giveaway widget, click here.)

PierGiorgioBanner


 
The winner(s) will be randomly selected next Friday and the books will be sent out, free of charge, shortly thereafter.

In the future I’ll be giving away more books and resources, sometimes multiple items per giveaway! So subscribe via feed reader or email to ensure you never miss your chance to win.

(Since I’m covering the shipping costs, only residents within the continental United States are eligible to win.)

Pier Giorgio Frassati Book and DVD Giveaway!

Share this:

“Find out how much God has given you and from it take what you need; the remainder is needed by others.” – St. Augustine

Since I’ve built up a large collection of extra books and resources, every week I give some away absolutely free, no strings attached.

Each giveaway lasts seven days with a new one beginning every Friday. You can enter any time during the week. Check out my past giveaways here.


 
PierGiorgioBanner

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Archbishop Peter Sartain about our mutually favorite saint, Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati. Well today, thanks to the generosity of Ignatius Press, I’m giving away THREE Pier Giorgio prize packages.

Each contains a copy of the best book on Pier Giorgio, A Man of the Beatitudes, written by his sister, Luciana. It also includes a DVD copy of “Sanctity Within Reach”, an EWTN special on Pier Giorgio’s life featuring Christine Wohar, Executive Director of FrassatiUSA, and Wanda Gawronska, Pier Giorgio’s niece.
 

A Man of the Beatitudes: Pier Giorgio Frassati

by Luciana Frassati

Ignatius, 179 pages, paperback

Man of the BeatitudesThe remarkable life of Blessed Pier Frassati for young adults. A beguiling and moving biography of Pier Giorgio Frassati, a handsome, athletic and fun-loving young man from a rich, aristocratic Italian family in the 1920′s who was recently beatified by Pope John Paul II. Pier Giorgio turned from a life of privilege to one devoted to working with the poor, and was a courageous witness of Christian faith and charity to many others. Discouraged by his affluent parents from his religious involvement and deep spiritual life, Pier Giorgio secretly ministered to the poor and marginalized, and was a leader of youth whose love of God transformed the lives of all those around him. He died of the polio virus at the age of 24, and the story of his life and death spread throughout Europe, influencing the young Karol Wojtyla, who as Pope John Paul II described Frassati as “a man of the eight beatitudes, a modern youth and great mountaineer who was keenly interested in the problems of culture, sports and social questions, as well as the true values of life.”

“This inspiring biography provides a highly enriching account of how the Beatitudes are the way of peace and joy. Frassati’s biography is a wonderful source of inspiration and encouragement for a world in search of hope.” — Fr. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R., Author, Arise from Darkness

 

Sanctity Within Reach: Pier Giorgio Frassati (DVD)

by Luciana Frassati

EWTN, 90 minutes, DVD

DVDJohn Paul II called Blessed Giorgio Frassati, “The Man of the Eight Beatitudes,” and his friends described him as “an explosion of joy.” He ascended the mountain of personal holiness with zealous tenacity—in much the same fashion that he scaled his beloved Italian Alps.

This three-part EWTN film unpacks the life and spirituality of this avid mountain climber and fun-loving Italian youth who died at the age of 24 in 1925, and was beatified by John Paul II. Christine Wohar, Executive Director of FrassatiUSA and Wanda Gawronska, niece of Pier Giorgio, examine the life and astounding legacy of good works and deep spirituality of this outstanding Catholic young man.

“To live without faith, without a patrimony to defend, without a steady struggle for truth, is not living but just existing.”
—Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati
 


 

I’m using Rafflecopter to help with the giveaway, which is great because it gives you multiple entries for commenting, posting on Facebook, sharing on Twitter, etc. Click below to enter:


(If you’re reading this through email or RSS and don’t see the giveaway widget, click here.)

PierGiorgioBanner


 
The winner(s) will be randomly selected next Friday and the books will be sent out, free of charge, shortly thereafter.

In the future I’ll be giving away more books and resources, sometimes multiple items per giveaway! So subscribe via feed reader or email to ensure you never miss your chance to win.

(Since I’m covering the shipping costs, only residents within the continental United States are eligible to win.)

Pier Giorgio Frassati, Man of the Beatitudes: An Interview with Archbishop Peter Sartain

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Pier Giorgio
 
I recently had the pleasure of sharing dinner with Archbishop Peter Sartain, the affable leader of Seattle’s archdiocese, and I’m not sure I’ve met a more gracious churchman. Upon entering my car the first thing he did was hand me a second-class relic of Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, my favorite saint. That launched a long conversation about the man Pope John Paul II christened “the man of the beatitudes,” and we quickly discovered a mutual love for the young saint.

I also learned that Archbishop Sartain is one of the world’s leading Pier Giorgio experts. He has read almost all the relevant literature, in both English and Italian, and is close friends with the saint’s surviving family. The archbishop also frequents Turin, Italy, where Pier Giorgio lived and died.

As another sign of his graciousness, Archbishop Sartain agreed to chat with me about Pier Giorgio’s impact, his love for the poor, and some recommended books on the young saint.


 
BRANDON: What first drew you to Pier Giorgio Frassati and how has he impacted your life?

Archbishop Peter Sartain

Archbishop Peter Sartain

ARCHBISHOP SARTAIN: I was first introduced to Pier Giorgio when I was a seminarian in Rome in the mid-1970’s. The quickest route from the seminary to St. Peter’s Basilica took you along the Via Pfeiffer, on which the 12th century church, San Lorenzo in Piscibus, is located. The church is named “in Piscibus” because many years ago the fish market was nearby!

I passed that way frequently, but the church was always locked. One day, however, I found it open and noticed that many young adults my own age were going inside, so I followed them. It turned out that the church was hosting an exhibition on the life of Pier Giorgio, who at that time had not yet been beatified. I was impressed and inspired by his story, told in words and pictures in the beautiful exhibit. As a young man about his age, I was moved by his extraordinary life, and how at such a young age he integrated his deep love for God, a profound life of prayer, an active life of sports, leadership in various Catholic groups, his love and service of the poor, and his treasuring of good friendships.

I remember leaving the church and going immediately to a nearby bookstore to buy as many books as I could about his life. The more I got to know him, the more I wanted to imitate him, and the more I wanted to tell others about him.

After I was ordained and returned to the States, I kept up with the cause for his canonization, and during several return trips to Rome I discovered some interesting magazine articles about the progress of his cause. As a young priest, I found many things in his life to imitate and knew that young people would find him to be a great example. When I was pastor of St. Louis Church in Memphis, I inaugurated a “Frassati Society” in response to a group of young adults who approached me about creating new outreach to their generation. The Frassati Society was a great success—we met every Sunday evening. We spent time in prayer, always had some catechetical input, enjoyed some social time, planned service projects and retreats—and always ended our evening with prayer before the Blessed Sacrament in Church.

Since my first encounter with Pier Giorgio in the mid-70’s, I have thought of him as a friend, and he continues to be an example and important intercessor for me. I still enjoy telling his story to anyone who will listen!
 
BRANDON: Pier Giorgio’s life was full of wonderful anecdotes. Which is your favorite?

ARCHBISHOP SARTAIN: There are many favorites! One occurred just four nights before he died. He had been reading Johannes Jorgensen’s recently-published Life of St. Catherine of Siena. Frassati was already ill with the acute case of poliomyelitis that would soon cause his death, though he did not know it, and during a visit with two close friends, he excitedly read passages from the book. One passage recounted the day that St. Catherine, praying the Office as she walked back and forth inside a church, had the sense that someone was walking with her—and realized it was Jesus! Here’s what Jorgensen writes:

“Like two young ecclesiastics saying their office together, the Saviour and Catherine walked up and down the brick floor of the chapel…and when, at the end of each psalm, she had to say the doxology: “Glory be to the Father and to the Son,” etc., she altered the words and making a deep reverence towards the Lord, said in a trembling voice: “Glory be to the Father and to Thee and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end, Amen.”

Pier Giorgio was understandably captivated by Catherine’s closeness to Christ and the fact that Christ showed himself so clearly to her. After a moment of silence, he turned to his friend Massetti and, with a seriousness that perplexed his friend, said, “See, St. Catherine already had in life the gift of seeing Jesus.” And after another pause, he added, “but we have to wait until we go to Paradise.”

I love that passage myself, because it showed how much he longed to see Jesus—how Jesus for him was Everything—and how he was about to be called to eternal life by Jesus, in just four days.

BRANDON: Like all saints, Pier Giorgio understood the deep congruence between the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. How did his faith and his charity flow into each other?
 
ARCHBISHOP SARTAIN: You’re right. I don’t think Pier Giorgio made any distinctions in his life between faith, prayer, mountain climbing, friendships, and active love—for him, they were all of a piece, all a part of being a disciple of Jesus.

Most of all, he could not conceive of a life that did not include faith and deep prayer. He loved the poor intensely and saw Jesus in them—from prayer Jesus sent Pier Giorgio to them, and in them he met Jesus. This kind of spiritual maturity was extraordinary—it’s something I aspire to.

BRANDON: Pier Giorgio’s cause for canonization hit a few early snags when people chafed at his pipe smoking and partying. What should we make of these activities?

Pier_Giorgio_partyARCHBISHOP SARTAIN: Honestly, I don’t think we should make anything of them other than see in them a young man like us who led a full life and made his spiritual life the integrating factor of everything.

As for “partying,” he knew how to enjoy life and desired to help others enjoy life, too. We have to be leery of thinking of his “partying” in 21st century terms. Here we’re talking about the way he enjoyed social time with his friends. He was a jokester and wanted others to enjoy themselves. He wanted to encourage their friendship because he knew that true, faith-filled friendship is a gift of God. He also knew that joy is a sure sign of a person in love with God.
 
BRANDON: On May 20, 1990, Pope John Paul II beatified Pier Giorgio and described him as “a man of the beatitudes.” Why this title?

ARCHBISHOP SARTAIN: During his homily on that occasion, Blessed John Paul said:

“Entirely immersed in the mystery of God and totally dedicated to the constant service of his neighbor, he is a man of the eight beatitudes. Thus we can sum up his earthly life.”

Back in 1983, when Blessed John Paul inaugurated the San Lorenzo International Youth Centre (yes, in the same San Lorenzo Church where I had first met Pier Giorgio!) he said:

“Together with the memory of the ancient cross of San Damiano and the example of St. Francis, I want to recall to you as an incentive for striving toward high ideals also the figure of a young man who lived in our era, Pier Giorgio Frassati. He was a “modern” youth open to the problems of culture, sports, to social questions, to the true values of life, and at the same time a profoundly believing man, nourished by the Gospel message, deeply interested in serving his brothers and sisters and consumed in an ardour of charity that drew him close to the poor and the sick. He lived the Gospel Beatitudes.”

 
BRANDON: You’ve read almost all the literature on Pier Giorgio, in multiple languages. What would you recommend to a beginner who is looking for an introduction to Pier Giorgio?

ARCHBISHOP SARTAIN: The best introduction to Pier Giorgio’s life are two books by his sister, Luciana Frassati: A Man of the Beatitudes: Pier Giorgio Frassati (Ignatius, 2001) and My Brother Pier Giorgio: His Last Days (New Hope Publications, 2002). These two beautiful books, written by one who knew him best, give an intimate glimpse into his personality, family life, spirituality, and impact.
 
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  • "There is only one tragedy in the end, not to have been a saint." - Léon Bloy