Book Review Roundup – Sinners, Sacraments, and Social Justice
I had set a goal to review every book I read this year. I'm not sure I'll make it, but I think I'll come pretty close. To do that, though, I'll be offering many shorter reviews to supplement the more in-depth ones. Below are some quick takes on books I've recently finished.
With endorsements from such divergent characters as Archbishop Timothy Dolan and Howard Stern, Sinner is not your typical religious book--"The Confessions of St. Augustine it is not," Dolan concurs. It is, however, an authentic look at the real joys and struggles of a modern young Catholic.
Lino describes growing up as an organ grinder assistant, spending one-on-one time with Pope John Paul II, falling head-over-heals for a mysterious girl in Petra, and time and again having awkward experiences during Confession.
Sinner is the perfect weekend read as it's both light and breezy--and it had me laughing out loud many times. There's not a lot of spiritual substance, but the small nuggets scattered throughout are raw and honest and they come from the heart. This would be a great book to pass on to high-schoolers, college-students, young adults, and anyone searching for authentic faith.
This short little book looks more like a long pamphlet, but don't be deceived by its size. Shea's book presents a thorough defense of the doctrine of the Real Presence of the Eucharist, a teaching that is often difficult for Protestant Christians (and first-century Jews).
But Shea, coming from an Evangelical background himself, gets that. He is well-versed in the most common Protestant objections and in this book uses the form of Thomas Aquinas to respond to each with deftness and logic, charity and understanding.
This is the perfect book to pass on to someone curious or skeptical about the Eucharist. It's small, accessible, enjoyable, and cheap ($6!).
Parish Social Ministry
Last year I was tapped to be the Vice-Chair of our parish's "Social Ministries Commission." When I joined, the commission hadn't done much for about a decade and was somewhat floundering. In fact, because of the word "social", most people in our parish thought the Commission was merely responsible for planning parties.
Since then we've really tried to turn things around. To fix our image problem we renamed our team the "Justice and Service Commission" and we began to organize, unite, and market all of our community's justice-related efforts. To teach about the the imperatives of justice, we've hosted speakers, workshops, and I even gave a four-talk series on Catholic social teaching.
So why do I tell you all that? A big part of the change was the effort and imagination of our team. But a number of my own proposals and ideas came through reading this thin book by Tom Ulrich. Parish Social Ministry provides incredibly practical strategies for building a social ministry in your parish.
In the book, Ulrich offers a number of case studies, sample worksheets, examples, and discussion questions you can immediately use. Ulrich provides a framework for making a parish become outward-focused, which makes this a great book for pastors, pastoral associates, or justice and peace leaders. If you want to revive or begin a thriving social ministry in your parish, this book will get you going.