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Gospel Truth — Good News!

I just got my copy of Roger Pearse’s amazing new edition of Eusebius’s Gospel Problems and Solutions. You’ve probably heard that modern scholars have “discovered” “errors” in the Gospels. Well, Christians have always been aware of difficulties and have offered reasonable solutions. It’s amazing that we’ve had to wait so long for an English translation. How long have we been speaking English?

You’ve surely heard the questions. Why is the genealogy in Matthew different to that in Luke? Why is there more than one ending for Mark? Why does it say he was three days in the tomb when he wasn’t? Maybe you’ve asked them yourself. Eusebius faces them all squarely and answers with excellent scholarship.

This book is a must-have for folks who love the Bible and the Fathers. It has an English translation, with the original languages — Greek, Latin, Syriac, Arabic, and Coptic — on facing pages.

Gospel Problems and Solutions is notable not only for its content, but for the revolutionary methods Roger used in putting it together. He assembled a team of remote translators and paid them for their work. Then, with one of his translators, he assembled the pieces, added excellent introductions and notes, and rendered it editorially clean. He did it all independently of the traditional supports of publishing and academia. Let’s hope many more long-awaited patristic translations will appear, now that Roger’s proved it’s possible. Let’s show the world, too, that it works — by buying the book!

Nor is Eusebius’s genre extinct. I was pleased to receive not long ago a copy of Daniel Fanous’s Taught by God: Making Sense of the Difficult Sayings of Jesus, a very good modern approach to some perennial questions. It’s just out from St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press.

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Sharing Christ’s Priesthood — It’s Back!

Folks have been asking how to get my book Sharing Christ’s Priesthood (now out of print) in study-group quantities. Well, I bought up the remaining stock, and I put it up on Amazon at a much-reduced price. Since it’s “new,” and since I sent stock to Amazon, it qualifies for free “Super Saver” shipping. The book is designed for group discussion, with questions and such. Please spread the word!

Groups in places as far-flung as Atlanta and Des Moines have used it to good effect. See my mentions here and here and here.

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Happy Days Here to Stay

Anyone who’s spent more than a minute browsing this blog’s archives knows that I’m a huge fan of Happy Catholic. On popular culture, on family life, on Church stuff, she manages always to get things just right. Her happiness is not an irritatingly persistent cheer, but something deep that draws from the theological virtue of hope.

Her blog is a delight, but I’m happy to have her now in book form. Servant Books has just published Julie Davis’s Happy Catholic: Glimpses of God in Everyday Life. I read it in manuscript, but I like it even more now that it has a bright, sunny cover. I’d read it again if I could wrest it from my wife’s grip. I suppose I’ll have to buy a second copy. But that’s OK, because it’s an excellent book to keep on hand for passing out to inquirers or fallen-away or disaffected Catholics. Julie knows how to lead readers, at just the right pace, to see the Church’s human and divine aspects for what they are: human (long sigh) and divine (wow!). For me, she defines realism because her realism reminds me so much of my mom’s and my wife’s.

Here’s the blurb I have on the back cover: Julie Davis carries the spirit of St. Justin Martyr into the twenty-first century. He said ‘Everything good is ours,” and Julie delights in it all: movies, literature, cooking, TV, paintings, house pets, and a cool drink on a warm Texas evening. To be a Happy Catholic is to possess a faith with an attractive power. People want the kind of happiness Julie Davis has. God made us for it. And there’s so, so much of it in this book.

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Dion: The Wanderer Talks Truth

It’s out: Dion: The Wanderer Talks Truth, the book I co-authored with the man himself.

I mostly tried to stay out of the way while Dion told his story — twelve gold records, Grammy awards and nominations in three categories (rock, gospel, and blues), fourteen years of heroin addiction and alcoholism, then recovery and happy family life. And he’s still making great music. Dion is the only man on the charts in 1957 who’s still cutting original tracks today. Our names have appeared together in the New York Times. It’s a thrill to have them together on a book.

In these pages, Dion talks about the hit songs — “Teenager in Love,” “I Wonder Why,” “The Wanderer,” “Runaround Sue,” “Ruby Baby,” “Abraham, Martin and John” — and the hitmakers — Buddy Holly, John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Sam Cooke, Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt, Van Morrison, Bobby Darrin, Dick Clark. (Lou Reed wrote the foreword to the book.) He discusses his work in gospel and blues. He also talks about his miraculous healing from addiction and his slow, steady growth in Christian faith. I grooved, of course, to his reflections on St. Augustine — just as I grooved, a few years ago, to his song about St. Jerome.

I love the book because I love the man. I think you’ll love the man because you’ll love his book.

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Mass Media!

My new book, co-authored with Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., is The Mass: The Glory, the Mystery, the Tradition. I’m really pleased with the book. But you shouldn’t take my word for it. Publisher’s Weekly said it’s “practical and poetic, intended to feed both intellect and soul.” Fr. Benedict Groeschel, Scott Hahn, several archbishops and bishops, and the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus have all posted enthusiastic reviews, and you can read them all here.

And there’s press coverage, too:

Catholic News Agency interviewed His Eminence about the book and related issues.

Catholic News Service covered the Cardinal’s first book-signing.

CUFBlog talked up the book, and so did Sarah Hayes.

Kris McGregor and I also had a conversation, which she’s podcasted here.

You’ll notice that many people appreciate our constant invocation of the Fathers as authorities.

I love this shot of my co-author moving units — and hearts.

(Foto EP/Rafael Cris—ostomo)

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Newman and the Fathers

My long article on Newman and the Fathers (and us) appeared in Our Sunday Visitor last month. Subscribers can view it in its entirety online — and everyone should subscribe!

For a brief moment in September, Cardinal John Henry Newman.caught the attention of the world. As Pope Benedict XVI declared him “blessed” during an apostolic visit to Great Britain, Blessed Newman’s conversion story was once again newsworthy, as it had been a century and a half before.

At the heart of Blessed Newman’s conversion from Anglicanism to Catholicism was his study of the early Christians, the Fathers of the Church. As an Anglican clergyman, he believed that they held the answer to his denomination’s perennial problem — fragmentation in doctrinal and practical matters. Blessed Newman sought a purer reflection upon Scripture in the writings of the Fathers, an interpretation untainted by modern politics and controversies.

Yet his methods were — and remain — particularly appealing to modern readers. I confess I’ve filched them shamelessly as I prepared my recent books, especially Roots of the Faith.
Blessed Newman read the Fathers deeply, and not merely to extract theoretical propositions. He wanted to enter their world — to “see” divine worship as they saw it, to experience the prayers as they prayed them, to insert himself into the drama of the ancient arguments.

He immersed himself in the works of the Fathers, so that he could recount their stories in his brief Historical Sketches, in his book-length studies and, later, in one of his novels. After decades of such labors, he concluded that, “of all existing systems, the present communion of Rome is the nearest approximation in fact to the Church of the Fathers. … Did St. Athanasius or St. Ambrose come suddenly to life, it cannot be doubted what communion he would take to be his own.”

An interesting thing had happened. His study of the Fathers of the Church had caused him to desire The Church of the Fathers (yet another of his book titles). He wanted to place himself in real communion with the ancients, with Athanasius and Ambrose. A notional or theoretical connection wasn’t enough, and could never be. He wanted to move out of the shadows of hypothetical churches, based on a selective reading of the Church Fathers, and into the reality of the Fathers’ Church.

In declaring Cardinal Newman blessed, Pope Benedict has held up his life as worthy of imitation. And, in the matter of encountering the Fathers, it should hardly be a burden.

Like Blessed Newman and his contemporaries, so many people today hold a lively curiosity about Christian origins. Many ordinary Christians would like to move beyond the preoccupations of today’s tenure-track historians and documentarians (gender and conflict, power and more gender). They would like to find their own imaginative entry into the world of the Church Fathers. They would like “Historical Sketches” that were vivid enough to see with an attentive mind’s eye.

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Clement of Rome — the Comeback Tour!

Awesome news: Msgr. Thomas Herron’s book Clement and the Early Church of Rome: On the Dating of Clement’s First Epistle to the Corinthians — long out of print and extremely rare — is at last back in circulation, and at a steal of a price. In a truly just world, there would be dancing in the streets. Msgr. Herron, a priest of Philly, was once secretary to a man named Joseph Ratzinger. He also served as my Scripture columnist when I was in the newspaper biz. Ratzinger cites this study in his work. Clayton Jeffords said it persuaded him of the much earlier date for Clement’s letter. You’re gonna love it.

We’ve discussed the first edition of Msgr. Herron’s book in these pages — read here, especially the comments.

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Why We Hoard Books

At last, an ancient Christian book-owner gets credit where credit’s due.

AnneMarie Luijendijk of Princeton University has identified the owner of a Greek New Testament papyrus as Aurelius Leonides, a flax merchant from Egypt. Discovered in the late 19th century at Oxyrhynchus, Egypt, the papyrus contains verses 1-7 of Paul’s Letter to the Romans.

“It is the first and only ancient instance where we know the owner of a Greek New Testament papyrus,” writes Luijendijk in the Journal of Biblical Literature. “For most early New Testament manuscripts, we do not know where they were found, let alone who had owned them,” she continues.

I read and loved Luijendijk’s book Greetings in the Lord: Early Christians and the Oxyrhynchus Papyri (Harvard Theological Studies). Trolling in that glorious garbage dump in the “town of the sharp-snouted fish,” Dr. Luijendijk gathered the remains of a church that was hierarchical, richly liturgical, and deeply learned. Her study of the use of the word “Papas” — both “pope” and “father” — is illuminating.

God rest Aurelius Leonides for the care he took with this book. Surely he had to keep thousands in order for one to have survived. That’s what I’ll tell my wife.

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Glory, Mystery, Tradition

At long last I’m holding in my hands a copy of The Mass: The Glory, the Mystery, the Tradition, the book I co-authored with Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. Doubleday made it beautiful — hardcover, with many photos of the Cardinal celebrating Mass.

It contains a foreword by Archbishop J. Augustine Di Noia of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and a preface by Cardinal Francis George of Chicago. Here’s what other folks are saying:

“To the early Christian, the Mass was known as ‘the mysteries.’ This book is unique in that it unveils those mysteries from two distinct perspectives: the priest’s and the congregation’s. Every detail matters: the special vessels and fabrics, the candles and the furnishings, what the priest wears and what the worshippers wear. It’s all examined, explained and illustrated here. I’m pleased to see it done so beautifully and deeply by authors well equipped for the task.”
– Scott Hahn, dear friend and colleague

“The Mass is the “source and summit of the whole Christian life”; in it Heaven and earth meet. Yet many Catholics seem unaware of the profound depths and infinite beauty of the Liturgy. They remain partial participants in the Eucharist or even just spectators. In The Mass: The Glory, the Mystery, the Tradition Cardinal Wuerl and Mike Aquilina address this problem head on. Here we find the Mass accurately and lovingly explained down the last prayer – indeed, the last gesture. Using excellent historical and biblical references as well as quotations from the Fathers of the Church, the authors lead the reader step by step into the great mystery of God’s love for us that is the Mass. This book would be of great benefit to any Catholic and indeed to any Christian.”
– Fr. Benedict J. Groeschel, CFR

“What an inviting—and refreshing—guide to the Mass! Whether you are a Catholic or non-Catholic, a churchgoer thirsty for a deeper understanding of the celebration you have attended so many times, or are simply curious about the Catholic Mass, this book is your passport to a new, deeper, richer experience with the Mass, and with Christ in the Eucharist.”
– Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight, Knights of Columbus

“There is genius in Catholicism and nothing demonstrates that more tangibly than the Mass. At the same time it is impossible to ignore the fact that millions of Catholics don’t have such an appreciation for the Mass. Is it a big problem? Yes. Is there a simple solution to that big problem? Yes. If every Catholic in America would read this book I think it would be a great first step in our quest to engage disengaged Catholics and turn the tide for Catholicism in America.”
– Matthew Kelly, New York Times bestselling author

“This is an ingenious, deeply satisfying exploration of the Mass – its history, its elements and its meaning. The authors blend the best of priestly and lay wisdom about the central act of Catholic worship into a volume that is simultaneously rich in detail, wonderfully readable in style, and a marvelous resource for nourishing one’s faith.”
– Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver

“Excellent, inspiring, and practical. I recommend this book to everyone (particularly at this time of confusing press coverage.)”
– Fr. Michael Scanlan, Chancellor of Franciscan University

“It’s the ‘source and summit’ of our Christian life, so to understand, love, and appreciate the Mass is imperative for anybody serious about discipleship. This excellent book is a great place to start.”
– Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York

The Mass: The Glory, the Mystery, the Tradition is an ideal introduction to all the aspects of the Mass.”
– Fr. Peter John Cameron, O.P., Editor-in-chief of MAGNIFICAT

“Whenever we celebrate the Holy Mass, what we encounter is no less significant than what the Apostles encountered with Jesus at the Last Supper—Christ in His Word; Christ in His Body and Blood; Christ in the Gathering. The miracle of the Real Presence of Christ among us is at the very center of our lives. In this marvelous book, Donald Cardinal Wuerl of Washington, one of our greatest educators in the faith, and best-selling author Mike Aquilina, present a basic and thorough catechesis on the Mass, a helpful compendium on the central act of Christian worship. This is a book for all believers who want to enrich their knowledge, understanding and love for the Mass.”
– Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh

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Happiness Is …

Reading the blog Happy Catholic always makes me a happy Catholic. But it’s an ecstasy when I land there and find an appreciative review of one of my books. This week she scrutinized my book A Year with the Church Fathers: Patristic Wisdom for Daily Living. I’m pleased that she appreciates not only the Fathers’ words, but also the design of the book, which is itself an act of devotion and a stunning work of the bookbinder’s art.

Here are some snips:

Aquilina’s passion for the wisdom of the Fathers always is passed on to readers in such a way that they appreciate the Fathers for themselves, which is no easy feat when one considers how long ago they wrote.

… This is not simply a collection of interesting or informative excerpts from the Church Fathers’ archives. It is a well-planned, daily retreat that is designed to progress through a year with the ancient Fathers as spiritual guides. The 365 meditations are intended to move the reader, with prayer and contemplation, to a deeper life with Jesus Christ.

… This book is a beautiful thing that reflects the value of the words within it to our souls. The cover may not be actual leather but it certainly feels like it. Pages are gilt-edged. A sturdy ribbon marker matches the cover. Moreover, the book design is elegant and decorative in an understated but classic way. A Year with the Fathers is not only useful but a book that could become an heirloom in your family. Readers will know that I do not give this praise lightly.

Oh, please read the rest.

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Taylor Made

Glad tidings: volume 2 of Taylor Marshall’s account of Christian origins has arrived. It’s The Catholic Perspective on Paul, and it’s my must reading for the New Year — if I can wait that long. I devoured the first volume, The Crucified Rabbi: Judaism and the Origins of Catholic Christianity, in one long sitting. Taylor’s doing important work, readable, popularly accessible, but deep.