Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My soul doth magnify the Lord

"The Lord is magnified, not because the human voice can add anything to God but because he is magnified within us. Christ is the image of God, and if the soul does what is right and holy, it magnifies that image of God, in whose likeness it was created and, in magnifying the image of God, the soul has a share in its greatness and is exalted."
I've been praying the Magnificat for decades, but have never much reflected upon the meaning of this phrase until I read today's second reading in the Office of Readings by St. Ambrose. What does it mean for our soul to magnify the Lord? To magnify means to make so as to look larger. We make the Image of God larger in us by being and becoming holy. It is our actions, not merely saying "Praise God!" If your life doesn't correspond to your knowledge and your words, it does no good.

I think one of the temptations of the Charismatic Renewal was to equate "magnifying" the Lord with saying "Praise God!" or with speaking in tongues.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Nice prayer for today

From the morning office:

"Deus, qui tenebras ignorantiae Verbi tui luce depellis, auge in cordibus nostris virtutem fidei quam dedisti, ut ignis, quem gratia tua fecit accendi, nullis tentationibus extinguatur. Per Dominum...."

Monday, November 08, 2010

Bl. John Duns Scotus

Happy Franciscan feast, all!

I wonder what he is patron saint of. Subtlety?

Thursday, November 04, 2010

St. Joseph Holy Family Apostolate

A friend is developing an apostolate of prayer and reflection on some land in southern Indiana. Here is a promotional video of it:

Here is their web page.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The value of a Ph.D.

I know Frank Beckwith already published this, but I find it so spot on and funny that I can't help but repeat it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

613 Mitzvots

If you have ever wondered what the 613 Mitzvots in the Torah are, here is the list.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Friday, October 22, 2010

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Liturgy o the Hours widget

I added a new widget at the bottom of my blog page that contains the entire text of the Liturgy of the Hours for the day(!)

Friday, October 01, 2010

5 reasons why you should choose Homeschool Connections

Reason #6: I teach online courses through Homeschool Connections!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

There's got to be some kind of sin involved....

...in the enthusiasm with which I am anticipating and longing for the new translation.

Look at this!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Israelites and beer

I think Kevin Miller will be happy to read this one.
Kevin Miller sent me a link to the USCCB's statement on the book The Sexual Person: Toward a Renewed Catholic Anthropology, by Todd A. Salszman and Michael G. Lawler. The statement is very rich. Here are a couple of quotes that I especially like:

"Whether or not the scriptural writers, along with the rest of society until the twentieth century, were indeed ignorant of the fact that some people have a predominantly homosexual inclination, is a historical question that cannot be considered resolved by the evidence provided in The Sexual Person" (p. 6). [This reminds me of C.S. Lewis's point in Mere Christianity about the supposed ignorance of the way babies are made by the writers of the infant narratives who described a virgin birth.]

"An epistemology that denies to human reason the capacity to grasp the intelligibility of nature and to discern an intrinsic order to nature is too skeptical to be compatible with a Catholic understanding of the human person as created in the image of God and a created order that has come into being and is sustained in being by the eternal Logos" (p. 11).[I've never really understood Christians who are enamored of Hume.]

"For example, they propose that homosexual acts can be justified on the basis of a personal, affective complementarity between persons of a homosexual orientation. In their view, personal complementarity is independent of bodily complementarity, and exists even when contradicted by bodily non-complementarity. The implication here is that the personal and the bodily are separable. Rather than an integral part of the human person, the human body becomes merely an instrument of the human spirit, an instrument that can be manipulated according to one's desire" (p. 15). [Dualism rears its ugly head again. And, yes, Kevin, I put a lot of the blame on Descartes.]

"Indeed, rather than setting moral limits, the chief concern of the authors of The Sexual Person appears to be to provide a moral justification for sexual behaviors that are common in contemporary culture but rejected as immoral by the Church" (p. 18). [Ear-ticklers.]

:"The very idea of unnormed, individual experience as foundational results in a dangerous circularity, so that one's prejudices and those of one's culture can be simply reinforced" (p. 21). [My question is, why can't they and their like see this fatal flaw?]
Both authors teach Catholic theology at Creighton University. They also won the Catholic Book Award in theology from the Catholic Press Association.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman

Oh, and before I forget, Bl. John Henri Newman, pray for us!

My Catholic Faith Delivered

Without having looked at the content in detail, I note this web site looks like it might be a good resource for those who want to explore aspects of the faith. HT a friend.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Narcissism and me

"Happily I can eat, pray and love to my heart’s content — all within the confines of my home with the people whose very lives bless and fulfill me and a God who has blessed me beyond anything I deserve. I need not seek Him in out of the way places but rather find Him here every day in my home; and a mile away where His real presence resides in my church and in the face of those I meet all around me." --Mary Ellen Barrett, "Worst Book Ever (At least, that I've read"), Catholic Exchange.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"Lame Duck" translations

I share with Fr. Zuhlsdorf at What Does the Prayer Really Say? an enthusiasm for the upcoming revised translation of the Roman Missal. The language is much more theologically robust, poetic, and scriptural. He has done a lot to help the faithful get past the obscurities of the current ICEL translation to see the depth and beauty of the Latin text.

I wonder, though, whether "lame duck" is the best term to describe the current translation. I associate that term with impotence and ineffectiveness. Whatever its inferiority to the revised translation, it is certainly neither impotent or ineffective. In fact, many wonderful and holy Catholics today have had their relationships with Christ an His Church fed exclusively with this translation. And this will continue to be the case until Advent, 2011. I have always advocated for a better translation and at the same time defended the spiritual potential of the present translation. It is not negligible.

I think the best approach is to say, "You think the current translation is spiritual rich; wait until you try the revised one!"

Monday, September 13, 2010

In honor of today's memorial

From the Catechism.
8. Periods of renewal in the Church are also intense moments of catechesis. In the great era of the Fathers of the Church, saintly bishops devoted an important part of their ministry to catechesis. St. Cyril of Jerusalem and St. John Chrysostom, St. Ambrose and St. Augustine, and many other Fathers wrote catechetical works that remain models for us.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The body and prayer

I have noticed a tendency among Americans (including myself) to be Cartesian in our prayer life. We don't pay too much attention to the body or the senses. We pray with our bodies any old way. Whatever is comfortable.

The theology of the body implies that our bodies, as expressions of our spirit, ought to be an active component in our prayer life. We should be intentional about it. It is like sign language. We communicate not only with thoughts or even words, but with our whole self.

Anthony Lilles, of St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver, has begun a series of posts on St. Dominic's nine ways of using the body in prayer. Here is the first one. This is the second. Keep watching his blog for the rest of the series.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Language changes

I'm one of those who likes to complain about the deterioration of language. English seems different even from when I was a kid. And, of course, there are intentional changes, especially in these politically correct days.

The fact is, language is and always has been very fluid. It is constantly changing. I have become more aware of this recently while reading World Histories and Mysteries, by the editors of the American Heritage Dictionary. This books explains in detail the etymologies of hundreds of English words, "from ABACADABRA to ZEUS," as the subtitle says. The elaborate histories of words and their changes is astounding. It is surprising we can understand people who wrote 100 years ago.

Did you know that the "bel-" in "belfry" has nothing to do with the English word "bell?" and that a belfry wasn't always a bell tower?

Did you know that the word "sky" used to mean "cloud" at the same time as the word "cloud" meant "hill?"

Did you know that the word "mutt" was first used to refer to a dog in 1906, and that it comes from an insult that means "stupid person," = muttonhead?

Did you know that the word "dress" is related to the word "direct?" Or that the word "Ciao!" is related to the word "slave?"

Rosary in Latin

William Smillie, philosophy professor at Carroll College in Montana, has posted all the Rosary prayers in Latin, including the names of the mysteries.

He has two different closing prayers, neither of which are the one we use:
Oremus. Omnipotens, sempiterne Deus, qui gloriosae Virginis Matris Mariae corpus et animam, ut dignum Filii tui habitaculum effici mereretur, Spiritu Sancto cooperante, praeparasti: da, ut cuius commemoratione laetamure; eius pia intercessione, ab instantibus malis et a morte perpetua liberemur. Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen

(Let us pray. Almighty and everlasting God, by the cooperation of the Holy Spirit, you prepared the body and soul of Mary, glorious Virgin and Mother, to become the worthy habitation of your Son; grant that by her gracious intercession, in whose commemoration we rejoice, we may be delivered from present evils and from everlasting death. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen



Oremus. Deus refugium nostrum et virtus, populum ad te clamantem propitius respice; et intercedente gloriosa et immaculata Virgine Dei Genitrice Maria, cum beato Joseph eius Sponso, ac beatis Apostolis tuis Petro et Paulo, et omnibus Sanctis, quas pro conversione peccatorum, pro libertate et exaltatione sanctae Matris Ecclesiae, preces effundimus, misericors et benignus exaudi. Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum Amen.

(Which means something like this: O God our refuge and our strength, graciously receive the people calling to you; and through the intercession of the glorious and immaculate Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, with her spouse blessed Joseph, and your blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and all the saints, mercifully and generously hear the prayers we pour forth for the conversion of sinners, for the freedom and exaltation of Holy Mother Church. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.)
He links, however, to the one I'm familiar with:

DEUS, cuius Unigenitus per vitam, mortem et resurrectionem suam nobis salutis aeternae praemia comparavit, concede, quaesumus: ut haec mysteria sacratissimo beatae Mariae Virginis Rosario recolentes, et imitemur quod continent, et quod promittunt assequamur. Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

Let us pray
GOD, Who by the life, death, and resurrection of Thy only-begotten Son, hath purchased for us the rewards of eternal salvation, grant, we beseech Thee, that meditating on these mysteries of the most holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Blog for WCC

I keep discovering excellent blogs. Here is one from Wyoming Catholic College.

No more needless "needless"

I note with satisfaction that the new translation of the Roman Missal has replaced "anxiety" in the embolism with "distress." Now priests don't have to say "and protect us from all needless anxiety." I've never figured out what needful anxiety is, but I'm not sure why we wouldn't want to include it.

Of course, they might now say "needless distress."


Fr. Spitzer's Magis Institute

Fr. Spitzer may have left Gonzaga, but he didn't retire by a long shot. Now he is running the Magis Institute, a combination think tank and spiritual renewal center.
Magis entails three major facets: (1) exploring new frontiers of the mind, particularly in science, philosophy, and theology; (2) pursuing new endeavors of the heart and spirit; and (3) providing resources for others to do likewise.
So far there are two "projects" of Magis, the Center for Reason and Faith, which focuses on the relationship between science, philosophy and theology, and the Center for Catholic Spirituality, which has an Ignatian flavor.

The Center for Reason and Faith has the following description:
The Magis Center of Reason and Faith (MCRF) is dedicated to demonstrating the complementary relationship among physics, philosophy, reason, and faith. In the last ten to fifteen years, rational evidence for the existence of God from the fields of astrophysics, philosophy of mathematics, and metaphysics has increased significantly. Indeed, no other decade in history has revealed more or better evidence for the existence of God. The Magis Center of Reason and Faith is dedicated to exploring the close connection between reason and faith in three areas:
  • The intersection of astrophysics, cosmology, and faith.
  • The intersection between philosophy and faith.
  • Suffering and the love of God.
We are pursuing four projects in each of these areas:

  1. Documentaries featuring outstanding physicists, cosmologists, and philosophers, which will be available on the Center's website free of charge. The first documentary, Astrophysics and Creation, will be available around October, 2010.
  2. Full interviews with physicists and cosmologists, as well as videos, exploring the evidence for the beginning of the universe and supernatural fine-tuning. These will also be available on the website free of charge starting May, 2010.
  3. High school curricula concerned with science and faith, philosophy and faith, and suffering and the love of God. Each curriculum is designed for delivery in the format of one week of fifty minute classes (e.g., a week of religion and/or science classes), beginning in September 2010.
  4. An accredited web-based college course on the philosophy of God addressing the following topics: (1) scientific evidence of a beginning of the universe; (2) philosophical proofs for the existence of God; (3) the question of suffering, evil, and God; and (4) the question of atheism. This course will be available around June, 2011.
The Center for Catholic Spirituality has the following description:
The MAGIS Center for Catholic Spirituality (MCCS) focuses on converting ideas about transforming and healing the culture into action, either as a part of the MCCS or, finally, as independent organizations. Initiatives include the Daily Ignatian Reflections, the Los Angeles and Orange County Catholic Prayer Breakfasts, the Family Legacy Forum, the annual Ignatian Spiritual Retreat, and the MCCS Dinner Speaker Series.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

The Month of Mary

[updated] We think of May as the month of Mary and October as the month of the Rosary. It occurred to me the other day, however, that the most Marian month on the Roman calendar is the period between August 14th and September 15th. This includes:

  • 14: Optional memorial of Maximilian Mary Kolbe, priest and martyr. Vigil of the Solemnity of The Assumption.
  • 15: Solemnity of The Assumption of Mary.
  • 19: Optional memorial of John Eudes, priest, founder of the Congregation of Jesus and Mary).
  • 20: Memorial of Bernard, abbot and doctor, author of the Memorare.
  • 22: Memorial of The Queenship of Mary.
  • 8: Feast of The Birth of Mary.
  • 12: The Holy Name of Mary.
  • 15: Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Center for Ethics and Culture Blog

It is unfortunate that I found out about the new Ethics and Culture weblog because of David Solomon's post about Bill Kirk's firing, but there you have it. This is just too sad.

For all you EF fans out there

Here is a very nice online source for the ordinary of the Missal of 1962, with both Latin and English side by side.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Cautionary Tales for Children

Either Hillaire Belloc has a delightfully ironic mind, or he was a most sadistic man. Did he really intend the Cautionary Tales for Children to teach a moral lesson to children by terrorizing them? Maybe it was really meant for older children who can get the irony and exaggeration. It reminds me, though, of the original Pinnochio by Carlo Colloti, which is so full of violence and cruelty that I couldn't finish reading it to my kids. Beverly Cleary Belloc wasn't.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Homeschool Connections Fall 2010

I'm going to be teaching two online high school courses this fall through Homeschool Connections: Trinity and Introduction to the Old Testament.

Homeschool Connections has a full line-up of online high school and junior high courses this fall. Here are the high school classes:
  • History: Church History I: Examination of Trinitarian Theology
  • Theology: Ecclesiology I (The Study of the Church, Part 1)
  • Theology: The Trinity
  • Government: Advanced Government
  • Latin I, Part One (First Year Latin)
  • German I, Part One (First Year German)
  • Math: Saxon Algebra I, Part I
  • Literature: The Iliad: Glory and the Will of God
  • Latin II, Part One (Second Year Latin)
  • Philosophy: What is Beauty?
  • Latin III, Part One (Third Year Latin)
  • Science: Blood; In Sickness and in Health (Anatomy & Physiology)
  • Theology: Introduction to the Bible; Old Testament
  • Theology: Sacramental Theology I
  • Theology: Christian Anthropology II
  • Literature: Sophocles and Tragedy
  • Theology: Moral Theology II
Junior high classes include
  • Literature: Mark Twain; Friends, Fiends, and Freedom in the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • Latin I, Part One (First Year Latin)
  • German I, Part One (First Year German)
  • History: The Greeks; Fathers of Enquiry

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Renovo weblog

One of the dominant themes on this blog has been Catholic Higher Education. In the past three years I have been especially studying the issue.

Recently Dr. David House, of the Center for the Advancement of Catholic Higher Education, invited me to contribute to the Renovo weblog. I have had this blog on my blog roll since its inception earlier this year.

That doesn't mean I will stop posting here. The scope if this blog is much broader.

I will start posting tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


For all you fans of the work of Michael Molinelli, here is a link to the Notre Dame Magazine collection of classic and recent Molarity cartoons. Molinelli's years at ND were the same as mine, so his is my Notre Dame.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


When I was teaching Trinity to the seminarians, I tried to describe the confusion that was occasioned by the Arian controversy about the words "time" and "eternity." I told them that in early Christian thought there was a distinction between three realms or spheres,

  • the Cosmos of time and matter, in which we live;
  • The spiritual realm of the angels and spiritual beings (including the resurrected human person);
  • The One, or God.
The words "time" and "eternity" have different meanings in each one. In fact, the "eternity" of the spiritual realm, or "heaven" is not the same as the eternity in God, because heaven and the spiritual realm are creatures, and therefore finite and limited:

  • There is the relative eternity of spiritual beings not in the matter/time cosmos;
  • There is the absolute eternity of God and in God. Absolute eternity is independent of creation, whether spiritual (invisible) or material (visible)
The questions of the Arian controversy were:

  • Are the Son and Spirit simply a part of the Cosmos? This would lead to the heresies of adoptionaism or modalism;
  • Are the part of the non-temporal spiritual realm which is distinct from the One but prior to the Cosmos? Are they spirit beings (Angels)? This is a form of eminationism, similar to wht we see in Gnosticism or neoplatonism. If so, can we worship them?
  • Are they in the eternal one? If so, how can we maintain that there is one God?
Arius thought the Son was part of the second realm. This is true, of course, for his human body, but not for his divine nature and person. For Arius, the "eternal" generation of the Son was the relative eternity of the spiritual realm, not the absolute eternity of God. The orthodox (Athanasius) asserted that the Son is not a creature, but on the side of the Creator--homoousios (consubstantial) with the Father.

When I began to teach this way about five years ago, I could not for the life of me remember where I got the distinction between the two realms. It seemed to make sense, but I didn't recall where I had read about it. I certainly didn't think I'd come up with it myself. Well, now the mystery is solved. The other day I picked up the Philokalia (London: Faber and Faber, 1979) and began reading the Glossary. The very first entry is "Age" or aeon. Here is what it says:

Certain texts, especially in St Maximos the Confessor, also use the word aeon in a connected but much more specific way, to denote a level intermediate between eternity in the full sense (...aidiotes) and time as known to us in our present experience (...chronos)....There are thus three levels:

(a) eternity, the totum simul or simultaneous presence of all time and reality as known to God, who alone has neither origin nor end, and who is therefore alone eternal in the full sense;

(b) The aeon, or totum simul as known to the angels, and also to human persons who possess experience of the 'age to come': although having no end, these angelic or human beings, because they are created, are not self-originating, and therefore are not eternal in the sense that God is eternal;

(c) time, that is temporal succession as known to us in the 'present age'.
It should be noted that time as we experience it results from the apparent separation from God that comes from the fall.

This explains, by the way, in what we we become like angels in heaven. We experience the freedom from the succession of time that we are doomed to in this present age. Our bodies are freed from their slavery to matter.

I must have read this glossary text in the mid 1990s when I was studying Greek spirituality. It was lodged somewhere deep in my memory and came to the fore when I started teaching Arianism.

It is very helpful.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Fr. Cliff Ermatinger (soft "g")

My home parish has been blessed with a new pastor, Fr. Cliff Ermatinger. As it turns out, he has written several books, some of which he gave us last night when we had him over for dinner. His specialty is the Church Fathers, but he has also written on philosophy and St. Therese of Lisieux. He has just completed a book of translations of one of my favorite Church Fathers, Diadochus of Photice. It will soon be published by Cistercian Publications.


Fifth-century Christianity was a theological battlefield. With the Messalian heretics and their experientialist spirituality on the one side and the intellectualist school on the other, representatives of both extremes found themselves condemned by the Church. In this milieu of subjectivist notions of grace and negative anthropology, there appeared a true mystic, Diadochus, Bishop of Photike in Epiros. His is a theology whose two poles are God's grace and man's ability to cooperate with it by way of discernment of spirits. Diadochus's ability to salvage what was orthodox from the Messalians and the intellectualists proves that, rather than a reactionary, he was a true theologian capable of synthesis, open to the truth even if found in his adversary, and yet firm in his faith, unwilling to compromise. He is among the earliest witnesses of the Jesus Prayer.

Diadochus is the most important spiritual writer of his century, whose influence can be found in the writings of Maximus the Confessor, Simeon the New Theologian, Gregory of Palamas, and the author of The Way of the Pilgrim.

This is the first translation of his complete works in English.

Fr. Cliff's other books are:

Common Nonsense: 25 Fallacies About Life (and their solutions). Circle Press, 2005.

St. Augustine Answers 101 Questions on Prayer. Sophia Institute Press, 2009.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Spouse and Victim: The Itinerary of Grace at Work in Her Soul from Baptism to Spiritual Marriage and Self-Offering. I.C.S. Publications, 2010.

St. Anthony's parishioners are very glad to have him as our new pastor. He gives great homilies (in which he quotes frequently from the Fathers and other great saints and theologians). He also plays rugby and bagpipes. My daughter was very pleased to have a Caledoniphile for a pastor.

Friday, August 06, 2010

More on Hiroshima

One of the strangest things about conservative talk radio, to me, is how utilitarian they can be. For instance, I was listening to Michael Medved today. He was a guest on a local Chicago talk show. They were talking about Hiroshima. Medved and Big John Cody, the host of the show, bought into the argument that the killing of innocents was justified because of the proportionate good that was achieved. "Many more lives were saved." As Tollefson's essay that I linked to in my previous post said, this is the same kind of reasoning people use to justify abortion.

I know a Catholic moral theologian who do not believe there are any absolute moral norms. I heard him say so in a public gathering. I really, really don't get this, especially after Ven. John Paul II taught in Veritatis splendor that consequentialism and proportionalism are not acceptable Catholic modes of moral reasoning.

Although I know that many people abuse the idea of a consistent life ethic to justify not doing anything about abortion, there is a real sense in which there has to be a consistent life ethic. If a principle holds in abortion, it also holds in act of war: It is always wrong to intentionally take innocent human life, no matter what good is achieved by doing so.

University Faculty for Life weblog

The UFL now has a weblog.

Sample post:

“The Abiding Significance of Hiroshima and Nagasaki”

Christopher Tollefsen’s essay with that title was posted on The Public Discourse blog earlier today. http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2010/08/1485 Only a small portion of the essay deals with abortion but the essay is well worth reading for its timely reflections on the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Richard M.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

A pretty good argument for the divinity of the Holy Spirit

"Of the Holy Ghost it is also said, 'Know you not that your members are the temple of the Holy Ghost?' (1 Cor. 6:9). Now, to have a temple is God's prerogative."

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Michael Farm

William Michael, the head guy at the Classical Liberal Arts Academy, has a farm in North Caroline. He keeps a blog in which he describes what he is doing on the farm.

I have been gardening ever since I was in junior high, when I started subscribing to Organic Gardening and bought Mother Earth News Almanac. I always wanted a farm like this. That is why I subscribed to and occasionally wrote for Caelum et Terra when it was being published. I know others who have done much better at getting back to the land. We still have a hobby garden which produces a little of our food, but I don't work in our yard nearly enough to even bring it to its potential.

It is illegal for us to have chickens in our neighborhood.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Hildebrand and West

Here is an essay by Alice von Hildebrand comparing her late husband's approach to human sexuality to Christopher West's.

I have been wrestling with the Christopher West debate for over a year now. The critiques of Schindler, Hildebrand, and others seem to me to have some merit. A practical question, though, is how do we reestablish a culture of reverence for the intimate? I agree with Hildebrand that that is what the Theology of the Body properly understood would lead to, especially in light of Love and Responsibility. I also agree that the theology of the body isn't a theological revolution, even if there was a tendency to Jansenism in the American Church prior to Vatican II.

We need to have a very carefully written and documented monograph on veiling and unveiling.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

New Dominican Novices

There are 21 new novices in the Easter (St. Joseph) province of the Dominicans. One of them was my son's roommate at Notre Dame this year. He's a great guy and will make a fantastic Dominican and priest.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Scripture in the liturgy

A liturgist recently mentioned that there is a version of the new text of the missal on the USCCB web page that includes Scriptural references. This is going to be helpful for the book that I am writing on the biblical background of the Mass, although there is much more to that background than these references reveal.

I am extremely pleased with this new translation. It helps us remember that we approach the Divine Mystery with utmost humility not only because of our sinfulness, but because we are creatures who owe everything to God. I hope priests don't dig in their heals and refuse to use it.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

A nice quote

"I doubt if Mary and Joseph arranged play dates for Jesus." -- David House on the Renovo blog.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Matthew Alderman Studios

I suppose if I were a better capitalist I would charge Matt for this. Matt Alderman has just announced the opening of his new online architecture and art studio. On it you will find information about his architectural design, ink drawings, writings, and talks.

Matt, if you want to pay me for the plug, you know my number.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

New comments policy

From now on any anonymous comment will be deleted. I left the one on earlier because it is an interesting contribution to the conversation, but I don't like people who won't in some way make themselves known. I don't really like pseudonyms, either, but for now the policy only applies to "anonymous" posts.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Freddoso on Notre Dame

Alfred Freddoso, distinguished professor of philosophy at Notre Dame, recently gave a talk at the St. Thomas University in Houston about last year's dust-up over the honorary degree given to President Obama. It includes a list of proposals for how to promote genuine Catholic intellectual formation in the future. HT a Jesuit friend of mine.

I like his characterization of ND as "a national private university that is more open to Catholic faith and practice than any other national private university I know of." This is quite true. Any student who goes there with a strong, integral faith will certainly have ample opportunity on campus for it to be even further strengthened. Both my sons have had lively Catholic lives on campus and have grown and flourished as "JPII/B16 Catholics." This is not true of other nominally Catholic colleges and universities where there is hostility towards JPII/B16 Catholicism. I have seen it first hand from high administrators. Many of these schools are a desert for Catholics who believe in and try to put into practice the entirety of Catholic teaching and practice, especially when it comes to issues of sexuality. I think all Catholic colleges and universities have to figure out, and quick, that there is no future in Catholicism that doesn't run through the achievements of these pontificates. I hope bishops continue to communicate this more and more strongly to them.

The most moving passage in the Lord of the Rings

I know that is a tall order, since there are several places where one is brought to the brink of tears, but this is definitely my choice for the one that moves me the most:
Aragorn knelt beside him. Boromir opened his eyes and strove to speak. At last slow words came. "I tried to take the Ring from Frodo," he said. "I am sorry. I have paid." His glance strayed to his fallen enemies; twenty at least lay there. "They have gone: the Haflings; The Orcs have taken them. I think they are not dead. Orcs bound them." He paused and his eyes closed wearily. After a moment he spoke again.

"Farewell, Aragorn! Go to Minas Tirith and save my people! I have failed."

"No!" said Aragorn, taking his hand and kissing his brow. "You have conquered. Few have gained such a victory. Be at peace! Minas Tirith shall not fall!"
I'm tearing up just typing this.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Good theater coming up in Milwaukee

Two of my kids are in it; a third is on the crew:

Acacia Theatre Company Presents

Smoke on the Mountain
Book by Constance Ray
Conceived by Alan Bailey, Musical arrangements by Mike Craver and Mark Hardwick

July 9–18, 2010

It’s Saturday night in Mount Pleasant, NC, in 1938. The good Reverend Oglethorpe has invited the Sanders Family Singers to provide an upliftin’ evenin’ of singin’ and sharin’. The audience is invited to pull up a pew for some ol’ time gospel favorites, including “Jesus is Mine” and “I’ll Fly Away.” Ungraceful but full of grace, the Sanders family and their hilarious stories provide a bellyful of laughs and a foot-stomping good time.


Friday, July 9th at 8pm
Saturday, July 10th at 4pm
Saturday, July 10th at 8pm
Sunday, July 11th at 3pm
Thursday, July 15th at 8pm
Friday, July 16th at 8pm
Saturday, July 17th at 8pm
Sunday, July 18th at 3pm

Performances at Concordia University Wisconsin
Todd Wehr Auditorium
12800 North Lake Shore Drive in Mequon
Click here for directions

Interdisciplinary conference, Human Fertility—Where Faith and Science Meet

My friend, Dr. Richard Fehring, of Marquette University, sent me this notice. I hope I can attend at least part of it.

Dear NFP Friend,

Summer will soon be here and registrations are now being taken for the interdisciplinary conference,Human Fertility—Where Faith and Science Meet (July 15-17, 2010). Please visit our website to view the conference agenda and down-load a copy of the registration form: http://www.usccb.org/prolife/issues/nfp/Human-Fertility-Agenda.pdf.

The mission of the conference is to promote research on the science of Natural Family Planning and academic thinking about the Catholic Church’s teachings on human sexuality, marriage and family life. This academic conference is offered every four years. It is co-sponsored by the Bishops’ Committee for Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth and:

  • The Catholic University of America, School of Theology & Religious Studies
  • Marquette University, College of Nursing, Institute for Natural Family Planning
  • Saint Louis University, Nursing Center for Fertility Education
  • Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family
  • Co-sponsor of Science Sessions, Georgetown University, Institute for Reproductive Health

Please join us for what should be an exciting conference. If you would like to register, please obtain the form from:http://www.usccb.org/prolife/issues/nfp/Human-Fertility-Reg-Form.pdf and mail it along with the registration fee to the NFP Program, USCCB, 3211 4th St., N.E., Washington, DC 20017.

Please note that the site of the conference is the:Intercontinental Hotel Milwaukee, WI; 139 East Kilbourn Avenue; Milwaukee, WI 53202

www.intercontinentalmilwaukee.com A special conference room rate of $159.00 is available for conference participants. Please contact the hotel directly to book your room.

Thank you for all you do to promote Natural Family Planning and the Church’s teachings on marriage, conjugal love and responsible parenthood!

Sincerely in Christ,

Theresa Notare, PhD

Assistant Director

Dawn Eden's Thesis on Christopher West's interpretation of the theology of the body

Dawn Eden is making available her thesis on Christopher West's interpretation of the theology of the body, which she successfully defended at the Dominican House of Studies in D.C. recently. If you are a priest or work for the Church you can get it for free. Otherwise, she's asking $10 to support her doctoral work.

I've made comments on this issue before here and at HMS Weblog (You can do a search to find the posts by me and, on HMS, by others). I really look forward to reading this, so that my own critique can be better grounded. May she experience success in her doctoral studies at CUA.

I wonder if there are any other rock journalists out there I should rely on for my theological work?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Fr. Barron on high school religion lite

My favorite Franciscan priest sent me this link in an e-mail:

I have been complaining about this ever since my daughter went to a Catholic high school where the religious education consisted of watching cheesy videos of Bible stories. At they same time they were reading hard-hitting literature in lit class. When I asked the sister in charge whether they taught the Church's teaching on birth control and NFP she said, "We do present it, but we know they won't accept it." What's up with that?

Fortunately, we responded the same way Fr. Barron did. Now St. Augustine's Confessions is one of her favorite books. Alas! She has no taste for St. Thomas! Well, as Fr. Bob would say, I should be giving her St. Bonaventure.

So, Therese, should Aeneas have killed Turnus?


Behind the popular culture curve as usual. We just watched Fireproof. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the movie. I have three comments.

First, many people complain that Christian movie-making is totally lacking in artistic merit. They turn up their noses at it because it is too preachy, or poorly written, badly acted, or what have you. Now, many of the movies people complain about, I found to be seriously unsatisfactory as well. In this case, I would say that the producers succeeded in pulling off a well-crafted, if not universally excellent, movie.

It is clear that this is a low-budget film. The acting isn't uniformly great, or even good. On the other hand, some of it is pretty good, even excellent at time. Some of the actors who seem to be somewhat wooden are probably actually talking the way real people would talk in those circumstances. On the other hand, some of it is somewhat wooden. That did not substantially interfere with my enjoyment of or appreciation of the movie. It was definitely good enough, even if it didn't rise to the level of Its a Wonderful Life. The humor was very good. We laughed many times spontaneously and out loud. The "preaching" was appropriate for the context. I thought the suspense in the train scene and the fire-rescue scene were very good. I thought the characters were very well drawn and, except in a couple of spots, their line weren't forced or "purpose-driven." The only scene that made me cringe was the scene with "Anna" in the hospital cafeteria. Maybe the project was a bit above the production team's actual capabilities, but I think they overcame their own limitations--perhaps by the grace of God (and from experience from their earlier movies).

Second, my kids noticed right away that Caleb didn't start going to Church or even reading the Bible when he became Christian. The first can be explained by the fact that it is an evangelical film; I don't know what explains the second. Evangelicals who are saved often begin to devour the Bible. Maybe that would have gotten in the way of the fundamental point about the need for Christ to learn to love and to overcome one's "issues" (nod to Maclin Horton).

Third, did you notice that they had been married five years and had no kids? Since there was no mention of biological difficulties (which can contribute to the stress of a marriage and would have come up in a situation like this), I can only presume that they intentionally did not have children and that they used contraceptives.

I think the issues with pornography may be related to a previous issue that both members of the couple separating marital relations from its essential connection to fruitfulness. This puts the emphasis in the relation on "satisfaction" in the act rather than on satisfaction in enjoying the fruit of the act--the motherhood of the woman, the fatherhood of the man, and the children with which they form a community. There is already a predisposition to selfishness if one practices contraception as a regular part of one's marriage. Once "satisfaction" declines, and there are biological reasons why some aspects of "satisfaction" declines after a couple of years, if you are not beginning to enjoy the fruits of your marital relations in generous openness to the life--of each other as father and mother and of the children that come from the relation, then the fruit of your contraceptive attitude--selfishness, will ripen. Of course, many evangelicals do not see the link of selfishness and inordinate focus on "satisfaction" between contraception and pornography, so it is not surprising that it doesn't show up in this movie.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Bishop Callahan moves to La Crosse

Our Conventual Franciscan auxiliary bishop is whisked away to the see vacated by our new Archbishop.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This morning, Pope Benedict XVI announced that Bishop William Patrick Callahan will be installed as the 10th bishop of the Diocese of La Crosse on August 11, 2010.

We will truly miss Bishop Callahan’s spiritual and administrative leadership. While we are sad to see him leave, we are grateful for his service and know that he will continue to be a blessing for the people of La Crosse, just as he has been a blessing for the faithful in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

Since his appointment to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in October of 2007, Bishop Callahan has guided the development and implementation of Vision 21, led the reorganization of the archdiocesan administrative structure, shepherded the completion of the successful Faith In Our Future Capital Campaign, strengthened Catholic education and cemented the success of the Catholic Stewardship Campaign -- just to name a few. There’s no doubt that he has left earned the admiration and respect of the clergy and faithful of the archdiocese.

As he embarks on this new journey, I ask that you pray for Bishop Callahan as well as the people of the Diocese of La Crosse and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

Very truly yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archbishop of Milwaukee

Monday, June 07, 2010

Teresa Collett for Congress

There are many reasons why I would love to move back to St. Paul. While I was in D.C. this weekend at the University Faculty for Life conference, I discovered another. Teresa Collett, fellow Oklahoman and Professor of Law at St. Thomas in Minneapolis, is running for Congress in the 4th Congressional District of Minnesota, which includes St. Paul. She has the GOP endorsement, but faces a primary battle in a couple of months before she faces Betty McCollum, the incumbent DFL (Democrat) Congresswoman. Here is her campaign web page.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

So, what happened to me?

If you are wondering why the number of posts has significantly decreased in the last couple of weeks, it is because I am feverishly preparing my talk for the UFL conference mentioned in the previous post. I'm writing on the hierarchy of offenses against human dignity listed in Gaudium et Spes 27 and the effect that hierarchy has on one's political choices.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

University Faculty for Life

In Evangelium Vitae Pope John Paul II encouraged intellectuals to put their scholarship at the service of the culture of life:
Intellectuals can also do much to build a new culture of human life. A special task falls to Catholic intellectuals, who are called to be present and active in the leading centres where culture is formed, in schools and universities, in places of scientific and technological research, of artistic creativity and of the study of man. Allowing their talents and activity to be nourished by the living force of the Gospel, they ought to place themselves at the service of a new culture of life by offering serious and well documented contributions, capable of commanding general respect and interest by reason of their merit. It was precisely for this purpose that I established the Pontifical Acad- emy for Life, assigning it the task of "studying and providing information and training about the principal problems of law and biomedicine pertaining to the promotion of life, especially in the direct relationship they have with Christian morality and the directives of the Church's Magisterium". A specific contribution will also have to come from Universities, particularly from Catholic Universities, and from Centres, Institutes and Committees of Bioethics.
This weekend University Faculty for Life will meet at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. to fulfill this mandate. This will be their 20th anniversary

Hosted by the CUA Columbus School of Law and School of Philosophy. Generously Supported by Our Sunday Visitor Institute

Confirmed Special Speakers include
• Hadley Arkes
• Erika Bachiochi
• Richard Doerflinger
• John Keown
• David Solomon and Elizabeth Kirk
• James Schall and Robert Sokolowski

Concurrent Sessions on an array of Topics

“Life and Learning Conference XX” will be held in the beautiful Home of the Columbus School of Law on the campus of The Catholic University, close to the Brookland/CUA METRO Station. Campus Housing for Participants. Registration Fee of $60 includes continental Breakfast, box lunch, and Conference Banquet.

I will be there giving a paper as well. If you are interested, you can get more information on the UFL web page here.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Catholic Education Resource Center

Andrew Seeley has recommended the CERC Weekly Update. It has stuff from Fr. George Rutler, Edward Sri, Carl Anderson, George Weigel, Peggy Noonan, Sr. Prudence Allen (one of my favorites), Steve Greydanus, plus people I've never heard of. The three categories are:

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Theology of the Body and Medical Care

My article, "The Theology of the Body: Some Reflections on the Significance For Medical Professionals," which was in the Linacre Journal of the Catholic Medical Association (May 2006), is available online. Here is the abstract:
Is man just a "ghost in a machine," or is the body something other than a mechanical structure extrinsic to who we are as persons? What if the body is the necessary communication of the spirit and a necessary expression of the self. What if the body is not only that, but also a word from God Himself about Himself and about who we are? What impact would such an affirmation have on health care in the United States and in the world?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Marquette Dean Crisis

I don't wish to comment at length on the dust-up at MU over the offer and withdrawal of a contract to Jodi O'Brien for the position of Dean of Arts and Sciences. As you can expect, I can't even fathom how the offer could have been made in the first place.

Unless Marquette and other Catholic universities do something to revitalize the Catholic intellectual tradition on their campuses, they are doomed. Offering a high level position to academics such as Jodi O'Brien will undercut any effort to do so. If anyone wonders what the difference is between a place like Marquette and a place like Notre Dame, this is it. Notre Dame takes the public and explicit manifestation of its Catholic identity and the Catholic intellectual tradition. quite seriously (although clearly not perfectly!). Even if the facult as a whole isn't throroughly grounded in the Catholic intellectual tradition, places like Marquette need something like Notre Dame's Center for Ethics and Culture, or Maritain Institute, or Medieval Institute, etc. .

One of the best sources of documentation of both sides of the controversy, albeit from a strongly anti-O'Brien perspective, is the blog of Political Science professor John McAdams, The Marquette Warrior. I am especially glad that Drs. Del Colle and Johnson of Theology and Drs. Ashmore and Ibáñez-Noé of Philosophy and made the statements they did.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Praying the Office with your body

How many of you pray the office sitting in a chair, like I do? It strikes me that such an approach is several levels of abstraction from the way the office is designed or intended to be prayed. Specifically, such a mode of praying renders the prayer overly intellectual, not involving the body. The theology of the body has made me more sensitive to the importance of the body in our spiritual lives.

There are many aspects of liturgical prayer that are absent in that mode of prayer that involve the body. For instance, the normal posture for liturgical prayer is standing. In the Benedictine tradition one stands during much of the office, although one sits on a perch in one's stall during the recitation of the psalms. One bows at the "Gloria Patri" and makes the sign of the cross at the Gospel Canticle.

Usually in liturgical we face the altar or some image of the Lord (a crucifix, for instance). Normally we are in an oratory. Since we can't all go to Church, many of us have an oratory set up in our "domestic churches." That might be an appropriate place to pray the office. In the recent movie about the Carthusians, Into Great Silence, that the monks prayed kneeling in a private oratory in their rooms facing a crucifix. I at least face an image of the Sacred Heart (the same one that is to the left on my blog), although I'm still sitting in a comfy chair.

The other thing that a silent or whispered recitation abstracts from the "normal" celebration of the Office is music. The psalms are meant to be sung. When we just sit there and "pray" with our minds, we are not involving the body at all. When we just whisper we may be involving the body (the lips), but we aren't involving the body as it is meant to pray--with music.

Finally, the Office is the consummate corporate act of worship: it is meant to be prayed in a group. I know the private recitation developed in order to make missionary activity easier, but one wonders whether efficiency ought to be the only criterion for missionary activity. I mean, what might have been the missionary effect if the missionaries had traveled in groups and sung the office together. They may not have been as mobile or gone as far, but the very witness of the Body of Christ in worship may have had a deeper affect than simply proclaiming the Word with a purely private and hidden piety.

One of my criticisms of the Jesuits is their tendency to interiorize their spiritual life so much that there is no obvious manifestation of their devotion to God in their bodily life beyond Mass (which is itself often celebrated in a cerebral way). Ignatius' decision to allow private recitation of the office rather than corporate may have allowed for missionary mobility, but did we pay a price in a sense of the bodily and corporate nature of Christian worship? Might a more bodily spirituality have make some Jesuits more open to and receptive of John Paul II's theology of the body?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Obscure translation mysteries

Okay, someone explain something to me. Here is the Latin of the last line of Gaudium et spes #23.
Ad hanc vero communionem inter personas promovendam, Revelatio christiana magnum subsidium affert, simulque ad altiorem vitae socialis legum intelligentiam nos perducit quas Creator in natura spirituali ac morali hominis inscripsit.
Now, here is the English translation on the Vatican web page:
Christian revelation contributes greatly to the promotion of this communion between persons, and at the same time leads us to a deeper understanding of the laws of social life which the Creator has written into man's moral and spiritual nature.
Notice that the translator switched the order of "spiritual" and "moral" at the end of the sentence. Why? My guess: maybe it is because rhetorically Latin puts the most important term in a list first, but English puts the most important term last. Any Englishist/Latinist out there want to confirm my guess?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Fr. Fessio's new initiative

The trend toward online education continues apace. Fr. Fessio has launched a new Ignatius-Angelicum Liberal Studies Program. It combines the online teaching of college credit great books seminars (through Angelicum Great Books) with an association with the Universities of Western Civilization, who will take up to 48 credits from Angelicum. This is a way to reduce costs of college education considerably. It also gets students into a robust Catholic liberal education in high school for college credit. Among the colleges in the UWC are Benedictine College, St. Bede's Hall at Oxford, Campion College in Australia, and Catholic Distance University. It is a truly international program with an international student body.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Some thoughts on the Cathedral in Milwaukee

When Archbishop Weakland decided to renovate the Cathedral in Milwaukee (virtual tour here) there were strong reactions to the plan. I shared in the general dissatisfaction with such a radical redesign that seemed to ignore the building itself by moving the altar to the middle, the choir and organ to what was the sanctuary, and the Blessed Sacrament to the former baptistry. I liked the old copper domed baldachin, even if some thought it was chintzy.

I was in the Cathedral today to participate in a Mass at which the Notre Dame Liturgical Choir, including two of my kids, sang. What I noticed was that the new design is not as bad as I originally thought.

I am still quite critical of some aspects. The corona and crucifix really have to go. Even if they were artistically excellent, they just don't fit in a classic building. Besides, the prominence of the thorns causes in me an emotional reaction that is a distraction to the spirit of the Liturgy. I also sorely miss the Blessed Sacrament in the main part of the Church.

On the other hand, I can see why a Benedictine (Weakland) would like the design. It has the flavor of a Benedictine chapel, with the nave for the people, the altar, the choir, and the ambo. The furnishings are actually quite handsome, to me at least, especially the cathedra and the presider's seat, although they look awfully uncomfortable! I always like the baptistry at the entrance.

Besides the corona, I would probably make one change: Since it would be very difficult to move the choir back to the choir loft, so the Blessed Sacrament could be where it used to be, I would move the Blessed Sacrament to where the current presider's chair is (on the opposite side of the altar as the cathedra) and put a regular crucifix above it. Then I would put the presider's chair next to the cathedra, but a step lower. Right now it is the same height as the cathedra. That way, since the altar is a perfect square, the celebrant could face the Blessed Sacrament and the crucifix while offering the Sacrifice.

Fr. Last, are you reading this? I thought not.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Choral Music in the Public Domain

This article, a lambaste of OCP that a Facebook friend posted as a note, "The Hidden Hand Behind Bad Catholic Music," by J.A. Tucker, is a little too "snarky" for my tastes, although I am substantially sympathetic with his viewpoint.

I do wonder, and still can't figure out why "One Bread, One Body" is not a good Communion meditation. Maybe it is because I'm not well-formed enough in music. Maybe it reminds people too much musically of "Let it Be," especially since the original accompaniment of "One Bread, Once Body" was piano. On the other hand, "Let it Be" was originally intended by Paul McCartney to have "religious" overtones, even if it is about his own mother, rather than the Blessed Virgin Mary.

On the other hand, I love and prefer chant, polyphony, and traditional hymns. These are the mainstay at my own parish, the choir of which is directed by the great Lee Erickson, who also directs the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra Chorus. He does, on occasion, slip in a dignified OCP staple, even one by Jan Michael Joncas.

The best part of the article is the link to the Choralwiki, a source for public domain downloadable choir music.

Saturday, May 01, 2010


My daughter sent me this link to a column on the BBC web page about celibacy by Fr. Stephen Wang, a priest of the Diocese of Westminster. She was astounded that such a positive look at priestly celibacy would appear in the mainstream media.
I realised that I had been seeing celibacy in negative terms: 'No' to marriage, 'No' to sex, 'No' to children - when in reality it was a profound 'Yes'.
It was a way of putting Christ at the centre of your life, of giving your whole heart to those you would serve as a priest.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Catholic Book Review Monthly

At Fr. van der Peet's funeral yesterday I ran into my old friend Mary Brittnacher, who runs the Catholic Book Review Monthly web page. I've mentioned it before on this blog, but it has been some time since I looked at it myself. Wow! Have I been missing some great reviews! Here is the list from the last year:
  • Newman 101: An Introduction to the Life and Philosophy of John Cardinal Newman by Roderick Strange, Christian Classics, 2008. Download
  • Newman 101: An Introduction to the Life and Philosophy of John Cardinal Newman by Roderick Strange, Christian Classics, 2008. Download
  • How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization by Thomas E. Woods, Jr., Regnery Publishing, Inc., 20 Download
  • Flannery O’Connor: Spiritual Writings by Flannery O’Connor, ed. Robert Ellsburg, Orbis Book Download
  • A Civilization of Love: What Every Catholic Can Do to Transform the World by Carl Anderson, HarperOne, 2009. Download
  • Everlasting Man by G.K. (Gilbert Keith) Chesterton, Ignatius Press, r Download
  • Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton, John Lane Co, 1908, reprinted by Download
  • Economics for Helen: A Brief Outline of Real Economy by Hilaire Belloc, Forward by Dr. Alberto Piedra, Int Download
  • Second One Thousand Years: Ten People Who Defined a Millennium by Richard John Neuhaus, editor, William B. Eerdmans Download
As you might suspect, Mary is both a Chestertonian and a ROFTer (Reader of First Things).

Here is the mission statement of Catholic Book Review Monthly. It's purpose corresponds closely to the purpose of this blog:

Our goal is to provide a gateway into good and great books for readers who wish to read spiritual books from an authentically Catholic perspective. We aim to help readers select from the vast array of books available from both the past and the present with an emphasis on the more recent. An author profile or links to information about the author will be included when appropriate.

The reviews are meant to be primarily summaries of the books, rather than critical
assessments, though they may occasionally contain elements of criticism. Thus the reader can obtain some of the benefits of the book, and may be stimulated to read it as well.

I think Mary writes some of the reviews, and Chris Chan writes others. I don't know if she has any other contributors.