Reputable Catholic Vendors

In case you didn’t see it, Requiem Press is having a $5 book sale through December 24th (while supplies last).


Mary, Mother of the Son, by Mark Shea – Three Volume Set

So I’ve been telling you since, oh, Labor Day, to go buy these books.  It’s not just because I’m a Mark Shea groupie, though I’ll admit there is certain evidence of that.  Here’s what I found, and what I liked:

Book 1, Modern Myths and Ancient Truth, opens with a hilarious and painfully-accurate portrayal of the usual misunderstandings between Catholics and Evangelicals concerning Mary.  Shea then moves into a exploration of the “facts” behind The Da Vinci Code, as a study in how pseudo-history can be used to make bogus claims about hot topics.    It’s a detour that lays out some principles for how to evaluate other historical claims.  Nicely done, and gives you some bonus knowledge.  The remainder of the book then turns to the common accusations against Mary — she is a pagan myth warmed-over, a medieval invention, catholics worship her as a goddess, etc etc.

–> I think Mark Shea convincingly makes his case, though of course, I am catholic, so that might have some bearing on my opinion.   For  a catholic reader, therefore,volume 1 presents some basic apologetics you really need to master.  For an evangelical, here is your work laid out for you: the argument is moved to a new level.

Book 2, First Guardian of the Faith, examines how four essential doctrines about Mary relate to doctrine about Christ.  Far from being a set of “extras” Christians can take or leave as they prefer, Mark Shea shows our beliefs about Mary are intimately tied to the reality of Christ.   Certain truths about Christ cannot be properly understood unless we accept related truths about Mary.

For catholics, again, this reading will shore up your faith and help you better explain your beliefs to others.  (If you are a catechist, it may influence your multiple-choice test questions, too.)  For protestants, here is where Mark gets into the big hurdles — not just Perpetual Viginity and Mother of God (“Theotokos”), but the real doozies of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption.  If you haven’t accepted the arguments in book 1, you aren’t ready to be convinced by book 2; but regardless, it will help you understand the catholic point of view.   Once again, the protestant-catholic debate is advanced another step.

Book 3, Miracles, Devotion, and Motherhood, leaves the halls of church history and apologetics, and tackles the thorny issue of what catholics actually do in their devotional life.  Again, you need to have at least accepted the possibility that the arguments in book 1 are true.  Mark Shea devotes the opening chapter to probing the sheer uncomfortableness of marian devotion for evangelical converts and would-be converts.  Don’t skip this, even if you are already quite fond of Mary.

He then moves into a chapter on the Rosary, and if it weren’t for this book review program, he would have undeservedly lost me.  The truth is, sometimes I haven’t got much patience for other people’s prayerful medidations on this or that mystery of the rosary.  But free books were at stake, so I made myself go back and read.   Book-lust rewarded: Shea’s reflections are as sturdy as the rest of his work, taking surprising turns through humor, history, apologetics, and inspiration that actually inspires.

After this is a short chapter on private revelation and Marian apparitions.  Shea covers essential points such as the basics of how private revelations are investigated, the bit about how you don’t have to actually believe in them, and what role they might or might not play in your life.  He then gives a very moving personal account of his own private encounter with Mary.  There is an overview of the major approved Marian apparitions in the appendix.

The book closes the series with a final chapter on how Mary might belong in both the catholic and evangelical words.  My favorite line: “the simple fact is, I’m just not one of those people who usually has strong feelings about Mary.”  Written by a man who just wrote three books about her — that’s classic Mark Shea in a nutshell.


So I may have mentioned once or twice that these are excellent books.  The type is not the big fluffy stuff you see in entry-level popular evangelical books — I think there is something in the sacrament of confirmation that confers a maximum type-size on all catholic literature — but the prose is fast, readable, and entertaining.   You do need to be able to follow arguments that build over chapters and that pull together many strands of evidence.   Not difficult arguments, but ones that are treated in depth, rather than with pat one-line, or one-chapter dismissals.

Each book has a generous bibliography, as well as footnotes for controversial claims.  Many of the footnotes are to websites, which are uncomfortably emphemeral-feeling, but in reality make it more likely you’ll actually try to find the source.  So I’m not sure which I’d prefer.  Regardless, for someone wishing to engage in debate on the topics, the resources are provided to keep you moving in your work.

The target audience is both catholic and evangelical readers, and in my opinion Mark Shea effectively writes for each.   I came away edified, informed, and inspired, and would willingly lend my copy to both catholic and protestant friends, and really think both types were getting something good out of it.    (I’m not sure whether non-Christian readers would enjoy the books or not, though I’d hate to discourage anyone from giving them a try.)

I received my copy as part of the Catholic Company review program, which you might consider joining.  New applicants are still being accepted, and I can say after a year’s experience that the program is well-run, and has always been stocked with top-notch titles.  I’ve never reviewed something I would not have gone out and bought myself, mostly because when I go through the product list, there is always something there that I’ve been meaning to read.  Highly recommended.

Also, FYI, the Catholic Company is offering free shipping this week, though of course you will patronize your local catholic bookstore if you are lucky enough to be able to visit one.  But it’s a good week for mail-order for all of you who are not so fortunate.


So I kinda put off picking another book to review for the Catholic Company, on account of having taking six million years to get my Angels review up.  Procrastination pays.  Went to check the available-books list early last week, and there was the 3-Book Set of Mark Shea’s Mary , Mother of the Son.

Clicked hopefully, not quite believing this could be real.  Books arrived just minutes before I headed out for Labor Day weekend.  Happy Birthday to me!

Sailed through the first two books while out camping, and skimmed the third.  Verdict: Excellent.  Highly recommended.  (Which you didn’t need to hear from me– I *knew* they were good because A: I’m a Mark Shea dittohead and B: The books have been getting very favorable reviews by people much smarter than myself.)

Official book review coming soon.

Meanwhile, I’ll say that if you have a blog and like reading top-quality, newly-released catholic books, the Catholic Company’s reviewer program is very well run.  It does, of course, mean that you can’t get autographed copies like you could if you purchased directly from the author, but then again, you can afford to buy a *second* autographed set after you’ve confirmed how awesome the books actually are.  Since you know you’ll need to have a set of spares for loan anyway.


[Hey, and if anyone has had success making the Tiber River review program work, please let me know how.   They sent me an e-mail asking me to sign up, so I did, because how can you refuse more book-reviewing fun, even if you do have a history of being an unpredictably-paced reader??  But in my efforts so far, I have only managed to get mighty confused.  Haven’t, of course, employed any adult problem-solving skills such as, say, e-mailing the guy in charge of the program.  But you could save me that display of maturity by telling me what the scoop is. Thanks!]

PS, weather was great camping this weekend, and it was kinda nice to skip out on school for a few days.  It sure pays to start homeschooling before Labor Day, so that you get that first vacation weekend right off the bat.  Otherwise it could be weeks and weeks before you get some good excuse to cut class.

And let me add: Putting six growing people in a 26′ Airstream for long weekend is an excellent way to make your previously-cramped house seem just enormous.  I mean, wow, there is *so much* space here!  We have, you know, bedrooms and stuff.  I love it.

The Angels & Their Mission by Jean Danielou

Sophia Institute Press, 2009

ISBN 978-1-933184-46-3

Originally published in French in 1953, published in English in 1957 by The Newman Press, The Angels and Their Mission is one of the many great titles being brought back into print by Sophia Press.  I picked this out as part of the Catholic Company review program, and like all the titles I’ve chosen so far as part of that program, I can highly recommend it.

The book is a survey of the teachings of the early church fathers about angels.  Themes are arranged historically, starting with “The Angels and the Law” (of the Old Testament) and ending with “The Angels and the Second Coming”.  A full five chapters are devoted to the roles angels play in the current lives of believers — in the church, in the sacraments, in the spiritual life, as guardians, and at the time of death.

The survey is thorough and eye-opening.   Included are mention of certain beliefs held by one or another church father that are not consistent with catholic doctrine, but were, presumably, open theological questions at the time.  One of the most interesting things I learned was that the old cartoon depiction of an angel on one shoulder and a little devil on the other, each pushing and pulling at the human soul, is in fact a long-held belief taught by the church fathers.

–> And this is why I find this book invaluable.  We hear very little about angels these days.  Here is a book that remedies the doctrinal ignorance that plagues modern christians.

This is not, however, a beginner book.  The text is readable, along the lines of any of Pope Benedict’s popular works — my new word for this book was “Trisagion”.  Although I think the ideas presented would be interesting for a non-catholic who wants to compare beliefs about angels, I suspect that you really need a working knowledge of the catholic faith in order to make sense of the information.  If you are not yet comfortable consulting The Catechism of the Catholic Church, this book might not be for you.

Likewise, a little background in patristics would go a long ways.  All the quotes from the fathers are footnoted, though there is no guide to the abbreviations used in the footnootes.  If you’ve never read any of the church fathers, a book like Pope Benedict’s The Fathers would be an excellent pre-read to get you ready for this one.

Know in advance that this a book you read for information, not entertainment.  It is not light — the writing is clear but technical.  It is not humorous — no punny subheadings — and it does not contain any heartwarming Chicken-Soup-For-the-Angel-Lover’s-Soul type anecdotes.  Unlike Pope Benedicts’ writings, there are not inspiring pastoral comments tied into the theological survey.

–> But if you want to know what the historic church teaching is on a topic, here it is.  Laid out systematically, so that is is easy to find the information that you want.  And the theology is, as theology always is, inspiring and edifying on its own.

So I recommend this book as one for the shelf.  While there is value in reading the book cover-to-cover, you can safely go straight to to the chapter of interest, to be informed and delighted there where you really wanted it.

And because the book is so rich with information, you can’t possibly read it once and have retained everything.  For a catechist or apologist, you will want this at hand so that when someone asks, “Well, what *do* catholics beleive about  . . . <insert angel topic>??” you can quickly get to the appropriate chapter and review the historic teaching.

Good book.  It took me a long time to finish it, mostly due to personal busyness.  And I ended up with two copies, because I misplaced the first in the process of dragging it everywhere trying to get it read.  Now I’m glad, because I really want to keep a loaner copy on hand, without letting *my* copy off the shelf.

The vocation goes well, in a crazy, overwhelmed kind of way.  Finished school last week, Superhusband, big kids & I went to an archery event over the weekend, then big kids went off to camp Sunday evening.  First time for them, but it’s a local place where multiple friends are working or attending (including my #1 all time awesome highly-recommended babysitter, who is Aria’s counselor for the week).  So it’s not quite like ‘going away’ the way camp can be.

Meanwhile, supposedly I’m cleaning the house the week.  Dragged my way through Monday, still tired from the weekend (up waaay too late), plus took two little girls swimming.  Tuesday was grandma day, today after a short cleaning fest we took the Bun out to lunch with her best friend, in observance of her birthday.  More cleaning this afternoon, I guess.  Tomorrow, cleaning fest continues, maybe another swim, and an evening meeting to plan for Vacation Bible School.

(Yes! I am teaching VBS.  Big kids.  I get my 5th graders from CCD last year, plus the rising 5th graders.  Woohoo!  Okay, and let’s admit it, those peppy tell-it-like-it-is VBS songs really are the ticket when you are immersed in the depths of grief or despair.  Makes sense — kids need songs that fit their world, and their world is even crazier and out-of-their-control than the adult world.)

So goes life.  I repent of ever trying to do a book review during the spring and summer months.  Cleaning fest keeps getting set aside for Yard Fest and Garden Fest, plus Fitness Fest and I’m not sure what else.  Reading time just.isn’t.there.   Something to look forward to now that the days are getting shorter again — evenings inside, curled up with a good book.  Months from now, of course, but a little something to take the edge off that darkness I don’t otherwise enjoy.

–> The angel book really is very good.  And has been an immense help in my spiritual life these last few days.  But not light reading, and right now my brain is all about light.  Full review coming just as soon as I’ve completed the thing.   You can go ahead and get yourself a copy, it’s a safe buy.   Rock solid.

Hope you’re having a good summer (or winter as the case may be), and I’ll check in again now and then to keep you updated on where we are.  Meanwhile, lots of great other sites out there to keep you entertained.

Still on vocation here.  Which at this time, does include all that much writing.  But I mean to be doing at least a little bit of bloggity-work, and lately I’ve been foiled.

–>  I’m not sure if St. Anthony is just getting rather fed up with me, or if he’s got some plot up his sleeve . . . maybe he thinks I ought to own *two* copies of Angels & Their Mission – cause it’s good ‘n lost.  Lost because, I will note, I was taking it with me everywhere I went in a desperate effort to *actually read the book*.  Which promises to be quite good.  (The chapters I’ve read to date are.  Really, owning a second copy seems like a might good idea, because I think it’s going to be a lender.)

Meanwhile, poor Chris Cash at the The Catholic Company can console himself that there’s probably a plenary indulgence just around the corner for anyone who tries to herd Catholic bloggers into some semblance of order and responsibility.  (I can’t be sure that doing so is one of Holy Father’s intentions, but I’m confident the American bishops sure would like it if we’d set a good example . . . So that counts for something, right?)  And you can read the Happy Catholic’s review here while you wait for mine.

Also coming up one of these centuries, my backlog of Requiem Press books-to-review.    For today, I leave with you two words: Ronald Knox.

Ah, happiness.

Added to the sidebar, Pauline Press’s collection of printable activity sheets for kids.  Haven’t tested them yet.  Recommended by a local homeschooling friend, thanks for the link you know who you are.

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