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Posted October 15, 2007

Book: The Best Catholic 2007 Writing
Edited by: Jim Manney
Loyola Press. Chicago. 2007. Pp. 241

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

The critically acclaimed Best Catholic Writing series continues with thought-provoking contributions from Robert Ellsberg, John Garvey, Dawn Eden, John Allen, and twenty-two other essayists, poets, scholars, and journalists.

The selections this year bring vivid Catholic personalities to life (Henri Nouwen, Charles de Foucauld, Bruce Springsteen) and explore urgent topics at the intersection of faith and culture (evolution, Opus Dei and The Da Vinci Code, public prayer). Notable contributions in this edition include challenging essays on Catholic culture in America by Joseph Bottum and Farrell OíGorman, Ron Hansenís classic essay on faith and fiction, Philip Jenkinís argument that religion is the key to history, an Easter sermon by Rowan Williams, and Pope Benedict XVIís memorable address at Auschwitz. This edition includes material from the UK and Australia, and material first published on the Internet.

An Excerpt from the Book:

This is what the Church in America, at its best, can be: not only a sign of universal humanity that cuts across divides of race and class, but also a place where Catholic teaching frees us from what we wrongly deem to be freedom ó as with my fatherís submission to the monks who told him that blacks were his equals. From a perspective geographically and historically broader than any narrowly ďAmericanĒ one, the Church constantly reminds us that what we think of as liberty might well be slavery. We are called to embrace standards that run counter t what our immediate culture often teaches. Our clerical leaders are sworn to poverty, chastity, and obedience ó what could be more un-American? If Godís an American, then whyís the pope Polish? Or German? Or (one day) Venezuelan or Nigerian? And whatís he doing in Italy?

Iíve found that Catholicism can not only give me a critical perspective on America but also to help me make better sense of what I love about it. The whole notion of loving America as an idea or ideal, noble as it sounds, seems to me both more dangerous and less honest than loving it as a reality. As a Catholic whose faith is grounded in the sacraments, I know that what I love in the real sense of the word must be concrete: that which I can taste, touch, see, hear.

When I think about what I really love about America, itís stuff I can feel in my gut. Iíd miss the look and feel of the land the way I used to miss damp blue-green pine horizons when I lived in the asphalt and dry open hills of Southern California. Given time and money, thereís not much Iíd rather do than get in my car and start driving west until the grass ends in desert and rock, then high up north along the grand blue Pacific, east over high peaks and long prairies, all the way through wooded New England to the rocky Atlantic, and south toward home again. If I donít watch myself I can start sounding like that crazed quasi-Catholic Jack Kerouac, too in love with America to sit still, perpetually longing to be on the road.

Table of Contents:

I could not fail to come here -- Pope Benedict

When the swallows come back to Capistrano: Catholic culture in America -- Joseph Bottum

Opus Deiís Box-office Triumph -- Paul Fortunato

Lord Acton was right: religion really is the key to history (and other lessons from Christian history) -- Philip Jenkins

Faith and fiction -- Ron Hansen

Editing Henri -- Robert Ellsberg

How to be an American in spite of being southern and Catholic -- Farrell OíGorman

The greatest Catholic poet of our time. . .is a guy from the Jersey Shore? Yup -- Jim Cullen

The miracle of evolution -- Stephen Barr

In his steps: the stations of the Cross in Lower Manhattan -- Dawn Eden

Requiem for a parish -- Emily Stimpson

Battlegrounds -- Joan Sauro

Why Protestants canít write -- Peter Leithart

Poems -- Gregory Orr

Menento mori: the abolition of Limbo and the importance of eternity -- Ross Douthat

The Amish way: ďImitation of Christ at its most naked -- Rod Dreher

The historical Mary -- Robert Maloney

Sermon for Easter day -- Archbishop Rowan Williams

The kingdom and the flea market: why do people join churches? -- John Garvey

The hidden life of Charles de Foucauld -- Kate White

Confession -- Michael Mack

Shower of Roses -- Therese Borchard

An interview with John Allen Jr. -- John Romanowsky

How to understand Transubstantiation -- Terence Nichols

One thousand sleeps -- Terry Monagle

As sin -- Brian Doyle