I’ve decided that in addition to the events of our lives, I’m going to submit reviews to my blog as well. They will mostly be book reviews, as I am on a list on which readers write reviews of books available from the Braille and talking book program known as the National Library Service. These are usually titles a little older than the best-seller list, as it times to record them or produce them in Braille.
The last review I wrote for this list was my strong recommendation of Anne Rice’s Biography “Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession”, and then I said my next reads were going to be her “Christ the Lord books. The firstis subtitled “Out of Egypt” and opens with fictional events as Jesus’s extended family leaves Egypt after the angel appears in a dream letting Joseph know it’s safe. Jesus gradually learns that there’s something different about him from others, and some of the stories of his birth are passed along by an older half brother named James. He performs a couple minor miracles that could be attributed to natural circumstances like making the rain stop. The the book comes to a close with the story of Jesus talking to temple officials when he was about twelve and his parents coming to find him. I appreciated possibily getting a glimpse of what it might have been like to think and feel in Jesus’s shoes. Both of these books reminded me of Joseph Girzon’s Joshua series I read last Lent.
Rice’s second Christ the Lord book is subtitled “The Road To Cana” and basically covers Jesus’s life in Nazareth in his late twenties the way that she imagines it. The custom of stoning others because of sin is covered in a disturbing way which probably has some real elements in it. Toward the end of the book, John the Baptist baptizes Jesus, Jesus is tempted by the devil, Jesus gathers his disciples and performs the turning water into whine. The way she weaves fiction into the story is clever, because Jesus knows especially the bride at that wedding very well. As with her biography, I can tell a significant amount of Biblical research went into this book.
My next read was “Jesus of Nazareth Part Two: Holy Week from Palm Sunday Through the Resurrection” by Pope Benedict XVI. Those on list for a while may remember that I read Part One last Lent, and it was a hard read! Part one started at Jesus’s baptism and went through the events of the Transfiguration. Besides the dry, scholarly parts, my main problem with the first part was how defensive and judgmental the author seemed of people — especially nonCatholics or those he thought of as anti-Catholic. I saw a little bit of this in part Two, but this part seemed focused far more on the events, their meanings, and how they were portrayed, foreshadowed, and reflected upon from the perspectives of old and New Testament authors. I read this during holy Week, and — to the extent possible — I tried to read the sections of the book which occurred on particular days during Holy week. I was amazed at how much of the author’s theology rang true with me as I read, One of friends acted unsurprise, and said that given the author and I are Catholic, we should agree. Many of you know that on many socialissues, the Pope and I haven’t agreed. I think it’s wrong to exclude gays and Lezbians — even if one thingks their sexual activity is a sin. Part of being a Christian is acknowledgin that we all sin, so why do we make some sins worse than others? Also, I’m 40 years old, have been married for over 16 years, and we purposefully have no children. It probably doesn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude that I don’t agree on the Church’s stance on birth control. This book reminded me that despite differences on social issues, my theology is mostly in line with the Catholic faith.
This ties into the final book of my Lent into Easter–a biography of then Cardinal joseph Ratzinger who became Pope Benedict XVI. The author was John Allen JR,. who works for the decidedly liberalNational Catholic Reporter. He addresses that very cogently in his preface by commenting some people probably think he wrote the book to rag on the conservative Pope. I believe the author strives to be fair in his writing and — as much as possible — tries to not only give Ratzinger’s positions
but spell out the rationales for them. The Cardinal was liberal during Vatican II and has progressively moved to the right throughout his lifetime. I was troubled by some of the revisionist history regarding his parents’ time under Hitler and the Cardinal’s not acknowledging Jews’ suffering which he must have seen. Probably the thing which troubled me the very most was how he clearly used blackmail against theologians with whom he didn’t agree. It was part of his job to excommunicate those who considered themselves Catholic theologians yet were misrepresenting the Catholic faith. But he sometimes threatened to go further by writing to the German government (who paid these professors’ salaries) to say their positions were superfluous. That smacks of revenge or at least manipulation.
Reading this book gave me a little bit of hope too. I’ve often wondered if a right-winged high church official would hate me if he knew I was married and purposely had no children. I grew up with Catholics convincing me that I had to have children if I wanted to marry, and I’ve been pretty public about saying this just doesn’t work for me and even articulating my reasons. One of the most outstanding is that I don’t care for young children and therefore have no desire to be a parrent. I’ve often wondered whether someone who really wanted to could get me excommunicated from my own church because of my stance. My paranoia went up a knotch when a guy from a social media site came after me last year saying my immortal soul was in danger,, and sex wasn’t worth that. He told me that I had to live celibately in order to be in communion with the church. He didn’t ask about our circumstances or any reasons for our decision. He was also skeptical that the priests with whom I’ve discussed my quandary were in communion with the church themselves. This book reassured me that it’s probably unlikely that anyone is going to come after me in this way. The Cardinal was concerned about people teaching and writing as Catholic theologians and misrepresenting our faith, and I see vailidity in these concerns.