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Book Review: The Way of Perfection

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During March 2015, I read Baronius Press’ The Way of Perfection to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the birth of St. Theresa of Avila, one of the first two female doctors of the Church.  St. Teresa of Avila, a Spanish Carmelite nun who lived and wrote during the Counter Reformation, penned The Way of Perfection as a handbook for the nuns in her convent, explaining: (1)  the reasons and rationale for committing to the contemplative life; and (2) how to make progress in one’s spiritual life.  As with all of Baronius Press’ offerings, Catholics are in urgent need of this book and every effort should be made to widely distribute it among local parishes and schools.

IMG_0402While I have long known that The Way of Perfection is a “Catholic classic,” I was skeptical when Baronius Press sent me a copy of the book because it was difficult to envision how a handbook for the Carmelites could presently effect a man living in modern times with no hope of living the contemplative life until retirement.  Simply put, the charity, order, and humility that St. Teresa of Jesus envisioned for the reformed Carmelite order must be present in our homes if Catholic families hope to withstand the buffets of modernism.  As St. Teresa puts it:

I see very great evils, and that human forces do not suffice to quench the fire started by the heretics, and which is gaining such proportions, that it seems to be necessary to act as in time of war.  When the enemy has over-run the whole country, the lord of it, seeing himself closely pressed, takes refuge in a city, which he causes to be well fortified.

If every man’s house be his castle, then let each man see to it that his castle has the requisite defenses to overcome modernism, beginning with the methods for spiritual advancement provided in The Way of Perfection.  For St. Teresa, humility and charity are the cornerstones of these defenses.

IMG_0406St. Teresa embraces humility to Christ and His Church throughout the book in a manner that must be described as heroic. She briefly discusses Enlightenment key-words, such as “rights,” “liberty,” and “independence,” with the understanding that were these concepts to exist in reality, our submission to Christ and His Church precludes us from exercising them in a manner incompatible with justice and virtue.  Humility drives St. Teresa’s desire for perfection; her wish to wholly submit her will to Jesus leads to the heroic virtue for which she was canonized.  To St. Teresa, humility was more than some phony self-deprecation.  It was the realization that one must submit one’s will wholly to Christ and His Church in order to achieve salvation.

Second, St. Teresa advocates for charity as demonstrated in its purest form, through the concern for the salvation of the souls of others. She is obsessed with bringing souls to Christ, and at one point mentions that if she were a man, she would willingly lead an army for Christ because it is better that 1,000 die prematurely in the arms of the Church than one die outside of it. Such things are not spoken of in softer, more modern realms of the Church but military warfare aside perhaps it is high time that men rediscover the importance, significance, and lordship of Jesus, who did not compromise with those aligned with the devil.

Days after finishing the book, I was struck by the fact that the two cornerstones of St. Teresa’s thought, humility and charity, or the desire to love Jesus more than ourselves and the desire to love others more than ourselves, uniquely parallel the two great commandments in the Gospel (Matthew 22:37-40).  It is interesting that St. Teresa built one of the strongest spiritual lives in the history of the Church — a spiritual life that perfectly conformed to Church teachings — through a unique focus on two of the most fundamental and simplistic precepts of the Christian faith.

It is interesting that some scholars have debated whether St. Teresa’s writings are compatible with those of the Angelic Doctor, but to me St. Teresa is the perfect compliment to St. Thomas Aquinas.  It is always extraordinarily comforting when experience confirms what we know in theory.  While the Angelic Doctor so wonderfully laid out the doctrine of reason and that of the Catholic Church in a manner that speaks to his unique relationship with truth and reason incarnate — our Lord — St. Teresa beautifully applies the doctrines of the Church to her daily life to achieve personal spiritual growth and formation — which is perhaps the most worthy reason for studying doctrine in the first place.  In this sense, the two doctors of the Church build on one another and certainly do not stand in contrast.

St. Teresa approaches the Catholic life with an enthusiasm and vigor frowned upon by many quarters of the modern Church. Like a doctor for the soul, she prescribes the medicines considered taboo in modern times — mortification, self-denial, and an uncompromising loyalty to Christ’s Church.  Every father should consider purchasing a copy of The Way of Perfection when forming his family and spiritual life.

St. Teresa of Jesus, ora pro nobis.

Book Review: The Curious Bartender

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My wife gave me The Curious Bartender: An Odyssey of Malt, Bourbon, and Rye Whiskies by Tristan Stephenson for Christmas, in part, because it is a great looking book for a shelf or coffee table.  The book is an odyssey of the world’s whiskey making experience, covering the history of whiskey, how it is made, the major current distilleries, and several blend and cocktail recipes.  With an old-time cover and page after page of fantastic pictures inside, I was a little skeptical that Stephenson could provide more substance than most of the watered down whiskey books that have flooded the market in recent years.

I finally picked up the book one night when I needed a mental break from law and Chesterton, and after a few hours I found myself on page 50 and unable to put the book down.  Not only is this book markedly different — and better — than the seemingly endless parade of clone-like whiskey books currently hitting the market, but it is actually quite enjoyable.

Stephenson does an excellent job of writing in a style that is simultaneously informative and engaging.  He generously sprinkles unforgettable anecdotes into his narrative history of whiskey making.  For example, he notes that George Washington owned the largest distillery in North America at the time of the American Revolution, and that bourbon received its name because it comes from Bourbon County, Kentucky — which in turn was named in recognition of the generous support Louis XVI of the Bourbon Dynasty gave to the revolutionary efforts.

Stephenson’s work is also shockingly readable given how thorough and informative it is.  He paints with broad brushes at times, but does not fail to leave out important details.  His description of how whiskey is made is the best I have read in a book thus far.  One can almost picture standing on the floor of the distillery with him, looking up at the copper stills as he explains how they function.

My one complaint with Stephenson is that he has a somewhat stubborn modernist streak that perks up from time to time.  For example, he briefly gives credit to the Chinese for inventing distillation because of the discovery of a pot with fermented rice.  He just as quickly backtracks on this conclusion, however, when he truthfully admits that there are many reasons why fermented rice might be at the bottom of an ancient pot given the standards for cleanliness in ancient cultures.  This rambling leads the reader no closer to understanding the circuitous path that distillation has traveled in the past several hundred years.  Overall, however, I found that he rarely allows his opinions to get in the way of the great story he has to tell.

The suggested blends of whiskies near the end of the book are intriguing.  Few whiskey books actually suggest blends for readers to experiment with; a sort of “make-your-own-bottle” approach that I find fascinating.  Unfortunately, making these blends is unrealistic unless you can afford to drop a few hundred dollars on several bottles of scotch.  He has, however, inspired Andrew and I to try our hand at blending the next time we get together.

This is a great book for whiskey lovers of any level of knowledge, including beginners.  I wish we had this book available when we began our journey with whiskey, as it would certainly have shortened the learning curve.  I would recommend it to our whiskey-loving readers.

Review: Baronius 1962 Daily Missal

1962 Missal

The Baronius Press 1962 Daily Missal is essential for any Catholic Gentleman who aspires to appreciate the beauty and fullness of the Catholic Faith.  Summorum Pontificum, one of Pope Benedict’s XVI’s many gifts to the modern Church, ushered in a new era of appreciation for the Mass of the Ages, Tradition, liturgical seasons, and the authentic Catholic culture that inspires saintly behavior.  The 1962 Daily Missal is the key to unlocking this momentous and wondrous gift, the lens through which the Catholic Gentleman can examine and appreciate its contents.

Like everything that Baronius publishes, the 1962 Daily Missal is a true work of art.  The pictures are worthy of the holy contents of the missal, and contrast sharply with the scribbles in the modern paperback missals found in parish pews.  The binding and cover are built to withstand the frequent study every Catholic Gentleman should give his prayers.

When used at a Mass in the Extraordinary Form, the 1962 Missal is a worship aid in the authentic sense of the word in that it augments the Catholic Gentleman’s worship of Christ.  For each Mass, the Missal includes the Introit (the entrance antiphon), Collect (a short prayer before the Epistle), Lesson (Epistle), Gradual (psalm), Sequence (Gospel verse), Gospel, Offertory, and Secret (prayer at the end of the offertory), as well as Communion and post-Communion prayers.  Because these prayers are in Latin, the Missal’s English translations aid the Catholic Gentleman in his efforts to understand prayers and readings he is not familiar with as the Mass progresses.

The preface to each feast day includes a brief description of the historical roots behind the celebration in a language befitting the occasion.  For example, for the feast of St. Joseph of Cupertino, the Missal states:

St. Joseph, a humble Franciscan Friar of Cupertino in Italy, who could acquire but little of book knowledge and needed divine help to qualify for the priesthood, was favoured by his crucified God with a marvellous grace of contemplation, and with the remarkable power of miracles.  He dies at Orsino A.D. 1663.

The brief descriptions — which encapsulate the heart of a feast or saint’s life in a mere three sentences — gives the modern reader context to the original beauty of liturgical feasts and seasons that have since become obscured in American Catholic culture.  The origins and reasons for the liturgical seasons are explained more clearly in the 1962 Missal than they are in any other Catholic publication in widespread use.

It would be a tragic mistake to assume that the 1962 Missal is only useful with respect to the Mass in Extraordinary Form.  The first 150 pages of the Missal are a practical field-Catechism for the Catholic Gentleman in that they give him the basic knowledge and tenants of the Catholic Faith and the tools required to ease his path toward heaven.  Included in this practical Catechism are the most elementary basics that every Catholic surely knows — such as the Ten Commandments and Angelical Salutation (“Hail Mary”) — as well as other important concepts that most have forgotten or were never instructed in — such as the Six Precepts of the Church, the Angelus, and the Regina Caeli.  The 1962 Missal also includes Devotions for Confession, Devotions for Communion, Vespers, and Compline, all of which help the Catholic Gentleman actively participate in the sacramental life of the Church and draw him closer to Christ.

We here at Whiskey Catholic give our highest recommendation to the Baronius Press 1962 Roman Missal. We quote exclusively from Baronius texts for the purposes of this blog, using either the 1962 Roman Missal or the Douay-Rheims as the situation dictates.  Every Catholic Gentleman, especially those  embarking on an exploration of Summorum Pontificum, is urged to purchase one.

Book Review: Man Alive

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Editor’s Note:  It is impossible to discuss Man Alive without a detailed analysis of the plot.  Therefore there are many, many spoilers below.

Man Alive is one of G.K. Chesterton’s most obscure and overlooked works of fiction.  While the book appears superficial and silly in the first few chapters, like everything Chesterton writes, it is profoundly spiritual and nothing short of a stroke of genius.

Unlike many of Chesterton’s classics, this book takes some time to warm up.  Chesterton’s description of the opening scene is impossibly long, and the plot evolves at a glacial pace as he sets the four story lines in motion for the final climax.  The reader will need to commit to making it through a somewhat dry — and seemingly pointless — 60 pages before realizing that Chesterton had a plan all along.

Man Alive tells the story of an incurable optimist, whose eclectic personality and incurable joyfulness lead others to think he is an insane criminal.  Each criminal charge is defeated, however, because either the “victims” refuse to accuse the main character or because an eclectic optimism is not enough to hang a man, no matter what society may think.

For example, the main character challenges the intellectuals who claim that God does not exist — and that the world is so depraved that no reasonable person would allow another to suffer through its drudgery — by brandishing a firearm and putting the fear of death into the intellectuals until they confess a will to live.  This will to live is authentic because it comes not from an evolutionary perspective, but from a realization that the world is — and always will be — a place that has many goods, whether that be because of the people who live it in, the rhythm of nature, or God himself.

Similarly, the main character spends his vacations courting his wife as if he never knew her, from a first date through the wedding.  In doing so, he keeps his passion and appreciation for her at a level many men’s wives would envy today.

Part of the genius behind the book is that the main character’s optimism carries him beyond the spirit and letter of the law.  We are commanded not to covet our neighbors’ goods.  The main character breaks into his own home from time to time to determine what he would steal so that he can covet his own goods.  There is something poetic and intensely refreshing about his actions.

I am drawn to Chesterton and Waugh because these men display an optimism that challenges me — and I suspect many other Catholics as well — to live a lifestyle of true optimism.  The Catholic optimist does not see the world as if it were filled with “skittles and beer” — but rather intensely believes that each man has the power to change lives for the better by living more joyfully and by loving more selflessly.  By exposing others to the joy and love that a true Catholic lifestyle brings, the optimistic and faithful Catholic will open even the most hardened of hearts to truth.

If you are like me, and fall into a pessimistic rut from time to time, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.  It has been barely two months since I’ve read it, and already I would rank it among the top ten most influential books on my life.  It has certainly challenged me to pursue my vocation with greater joy and I think it could do the same for many pessimists I know.

Book Review: Fairy Tales in Latin

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When my daughter was born, I found most of my childhood picture books to be extremely boring.  There was something strange about a grown man reading a first-grade book to a newborn.  Luckily for me, Andrew showed up at the baptism with the perfect gift — Fabulae Mirabiles’ Fairy Tales in Latin.

Reading my daughter Fairy Tales in Latin has proven to be a rewarding experience.  She is at an age where if I say something with enough enthusiasm I am likely to get a giggle or smile.  It has also exposed both her and I to “the language of the enlightened” — something I never experienced either in high school or at Boston College.  As an attorney and a Catholic I have always felt that I should know more Latin than I do, but never found the excuse to get around to it.

Most people are unwilling to read Latin to their children because they are afraid that neither they nor their children will IMG_0176understand what is being said. Let me respond with two points.  First, children under a certain age never understand what is said.  Second, this book is a fantastic teaching tool for those who are new to the language.

Because the stories are familiar, I could piece together most of what was written on the first and second try.  If you don’t understand magnus malus lupus when reading The Three Little Pigs,  you’re just not trying that hard.  The same goes for non per comma men-men-menti.  I am convinced that when my daughter can talk she will be referring to her chin as a “mento.”

Additionally, the index to the book provides a helpful glossary of vocabulary words.  Typically if I am stuck on a sentence, I can figure it out with the help of one or two key words.

I also enjoy reading the original content of the old fairy tales (spoiler alert: the magnus malus lupus doesn’t make it out alive).  The poor ending some of the evil characters face also serves as a source of wholesome amusement rarely found in children’s books.  This book is certainly one of the best baptism gifts our daughter was given.

Times have changed since my college days, but nights with a glass of scotch, my daughter in my arms, and a few pages of Fairy Tales in Latin is now a perfect night.

Book Review: Decline and Fall

Decline and Fall was recommended to me by our fellow whiskey Catholic writer Nick, who is currently on a six year sabbatical (if you know what I mean).  I began reading Decline and Fall after finishing Chesterton’s book on Aquinas, in short because I was looking for something a little more lighthearted before I launched into another book on philosophy or theology.  Like a fine single-malt, Decline and Fall fulfilled my expectations and provided a truly enjoyable experience.

Decline and Fall is likely not for everyone.  Evelyn Waugh has an extremely dry sense of humor.  His language, diction, and tone are entirely serious450px-Evelynwaugh and he feels no need to point out the hilarity of certain situations to his readers to make sure they “get it.”  It took me more than one chapter to get over the incredulous “did I read that right???” feeling.

From my perspective, Waugh’s masterpiece is a “trip” through modernism.  He places his modern-thinking characters into extremely realistic situations — school, the workplace, and prison — even if their roads to these destinations are entirely implausible.  The three environments into which Waugh places his lab-rat characters allow him the freedom and imagination to explore the complexities and failings of modernism.  A central flaw of modernism, and Waugh’s characters, is that the more modern and educated they become, the more removed from reality they are; to the point where they are wholly incapable of recognizing the basic hurdles before them.

Evelyn Waugh makes me think.  He has a deep understanding of modernism, such that he easily identifies and clearly articulates some of its most obvious flaws.  Simultaneously, he has a difficult time understanding why modernism is attractive and why people would seemingly turn off their basic common sense in following a life-style which seems to bind and blind rather than free and illuminate.

Like so many of the great Catholic thinkers of our time he had a very deep understanding of (1) the meaning of words and (2) the purpose of actions.  Consider his thoughts on participation in the Mass:

Participation’ in the Mass does not mean hearing our own voices. It means God hearing our voices. Only He knows who is ‘participating’ at Mass. I believe, to compare small things with great, that I ‘participate’ in a work of art when I study it and love it silently. No need to shout. …If the Germans want to be noisy, let them. But why should they disturb our devotions?

His quote articulates my discomfort with those who feel that they must act as ministers of sorts to be full participants in their religion, something the Holy Father might refer to as clericalism.  When confronted with changing cultural norms, whether those norms be in Church or society, Waugh disassembles the entire system in an effort to ask why we are changing and how new norms will serve us better.

My first foray into Waugh was completely enjoyable.  I tend to read at night and my wife was frequently woken up with my laughing as I came upon one situation more absurd and witty than the next.  I encourage any Whiskey Man to give Decline and Fall a try, perhaps with a glass of Glenmorangie.

Creating a Reading List

As I am in the midst of an extended Summer Break, I created an extensive (aka unrealistic) reading list. As someone who prefers to read several books at once, I separate books into one of three categories. The categories are:

  1. Books that I think I would enjoy
  2. Books that I think I should read (otherwise known as the “Ya I’ve read that” category)
  3. Books that I think I need for my own betterment (typically spiritual reading)

When I have free time during the day I read from the second category, during my set time for spiritual reading I read from the third category, and in the evenings I read from the first category. Each type serves a particular purpose.

The first type is for enjoyment with the side effect of personal betterment. While much can be gained from reading for pleasure, the primary purpose remains pleasure.

The second type is for cultural knowledge and personal betterment, with the possible side effect of pleasure. There are certain books all educated and cultured gentlemen should have read to be considered educated and cultured. Basically the canon of Western Literature falls under this category.

The final type is for personal betterment, aided prayer and contemplation, and continued study of God.

Below is my abbreviated summer reading list which may be of help to you in forming you own:

Enjoyment:

  1. The Last Gentleman by Walker Percy
  2. Constantine: Roman Emperor, Christian Victor by Paul Stephenson
  3. Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan

Western Canon:

  1. Crime and Punishment by Fyodr Dostoyevsky
  2. Guide for the Perplexed by Maimonides
  3. Collected Poems of T.S. Elliot

Spiritual Reading:

  1. The Three Ages of the Interior Life, Volume 2 by Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, OP
  2. Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross
  3. The Secret of the Rosary by St. Louis de Montfort

I find this categorization of reading to be extremely helpful to both read more in total, cover wider areas of study, and understand the purpose of each endeavor. I hope that you may find it helpful as well.

Book Review: Baronius Douay-Rheims

Douay–Rheims

The Baronius Douay-Rheims pocket Bible is a fantastic tribute to the Catholic response to Protestantism. The Douay-Rheims translation originated in the English College of Douay, France, and was published two years before the Protestant King James Bible.  The English College was a haven for British Catholics during the years immediately following the exile imposed by Elizabeth I.  The Douay school acted as the English Catholic seminary during the first decades of Protestant England and eventually sent well over 300 priests to England, 160 of which were martyred by those who insisted that religion should be subservient to the state.  Many of these martyrs returned to their homeland carrying the Douay-Rheims translation. Following their example, when the first English Jesuits traveled to Maryland, they also carried the Douay-Rheims.

The leather-bound Baronius Douay-Rheims is incredibly beautiful in its simplicity.  Pocket sized, the Bible is complete with gold-edged pages andDouay–Rheims two ribbons.  The illustrations inside are wonderfully done; neoclassic and awe-inspiring.  I have never been a fan of “realist” religious art.  I simply do not care what a Biblical scene “actually looked like” because it is more important to focus on what is going on beyond the mere physical appearances of those present.  The Douay-Rheims illustrations communicate the sense that there is something important, and even earth-changing, in each etching.

This sense of reverence goes to the heart of why so many Catholics still appreciate the Douay-Rheims translation.  In addition to retaining the older names of the books (The Book of Revelation is instead The Apocalypse of St. John the Apostle), the translations themselves, perhaps because of their age, convey a sense of poetic formality not found in modern translations.  For example, consider how beautiful the Douay-Rhems recounts the events of Pentecost:

And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind coming, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.  And there appeared to them parted tongues as it were of fire, and it sat upon every one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they began to speak with divers tongues, according as the Holy Ghost gave them to speak.

And now the New American translation:

And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.   Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.

The first text conveys a sense of reverence not found in the second.  It is also worth mentioning that the footnotes of the Douay-Rheims seem more attuned to explaining the text in light of Church doctrine while most modern translations are far more concerned with explaining historical-critical critiques of the text.  If I wanted unreliable footnotes I would read a Unitarian Bible.

The Douay-Rheims Bible is a direct translation from the Latin Vulgate, although the translators did use earlier Greek and Hebrew scrolls to determine where the word “the” should be placed throughout the text, a subtlety that was not common in English translations during the time period.  It is not always clear to Catholics why a translation from the Vulgate is far superior to translations based on Greek and Hebrew originals.  First, the Catholic Church declared Jerome’s Vulgate the official Bible of the Church during the Council of Trent, giving it authorized standing.  Second, Jerome composed his Vulgate prior to the fall of Rome.  Many ancient texts and documents did not survive the destruction of Rome and rise of the Dark Ages.  Jerome likely had access to manuscripts which have since been destroyed, meaning that his Vulgate is probably the most complete picture of the original texts we will ever have.

The purpose of the Douay-Rheims Bible is to give a literal English translation of the Vulgate.  The literal translation, more than anything else, is a conveyance of the events which took place in the Bible, and is designed to give the faithful a sense of heritage and insight into the life of our Lord.  The Bible does not pretend to be the most accurate English translation of the original texts in the sense that it does not accommodate colloquialisms and other contextual clues.  This is not an oversight.  It is a recognition of the proper use of the Bible by the laity; a hearkening back to an era in which the laity were not encouraged to use the Bible to form their own opinion about things.  There is something freeing in the knowledge that the Douay-Rheims is designed for prayerful and leisurely use, not for lay scholarship.

I simply can’t think of a better book to have on your night table than the Douay-Rheims Bible.  Beautiful, reverent, and well-made, the book recalls the struggles of English Catholics, helps inform the current generation about how Church doctrine relates to Scripture, and imparts a sense of prayerful respect for the texts themselves.  No Catholic Gentleman’s shelf is complete without one.

The Douay-Rheims Bible, of which we were provided a complimentary copy, is published by Baronius Press.

Review: Baronius Knox Bible

Knox Bible

The Knox Bible is one of the crown jewels of English Catholicism, a translation that does justice to the Latin Vulgate while avoiding the clumsy nature of its vernacular predecessors.  While you can never judge a book by its cover, sometimes how a book looks is a good indicator of what’s inside.  Simply put, this is how a Bible is supposed to look, feel, and be.  The leather binding shows a high degree of care and communicates that this is a book which is meant to last countless uses.  The Bible is supposed to invite the reader to engage with it after a hard day at work.  In fact, Bible’s should be inviting particularly because it is in our hardest times that we need them most.

Similarly, the beautiful ribbon, single-columned text, and golden edges enhance a sense of worth and usefulness to the book.  This is a book I wouldn’t mind passing on to my children as a family heirloom.

As wonderful as the book and text are, it’s difficult to appreciate the depth and beauty of the Ronald Knox translation without reading his editorial “On Englishing the Bible,” which is Knox Bibleincluded in pamphlet form to those who purchase the book.  The editorial, which runs just under 100 pages, peels back the curtain to give a behind the scenes look at what goes into translating the words we so often read and take for granted.  It also reveals a certain frank sadness, or incredulity, at what the author finds to be a persistent disinterest in the Bible in mainstream Catholic culture.

Knox’s methodology for translating the Vulgate into English is sensible because it preserves the original meaning and beauty of the Vulgate without compromising the essence of what is being said by being too literal.  For example, when the Vulgate could be translated into English in two different, but equally plausible, ways, Knox would go to the Greek original to get a clearer picture.  Although Knox uses less conjunctions than the Douay-Rheims (“Not this man, but Barabbas” becomes “Not this man; Barabbas”) to make the language sound less antiquated for the 20th century, he preserves those parts of the Bible which have become culturally sacrosanct, such as the Lord’s Prayer.

Knox’s pamphlet really makes me think.  Every time I read a passage or chapter I find myself putting it back down to consider a thought of his that had never occurred to me before.  He describes the Englishing of the Bible at one point as a response to the “chill blasts of rationalism” which “threatened to stunt the development of spirituality.”  Understanding the English Bible as a reaction to rationalism seemed strange to me at first given that so many rationalists, such as Thomas Jefferson, have picked it as their ill-forged weapon of choice against Christianity.  Of course, Knox follows this surprising statement with the view that “if a religious minority [is] to survive, it must have a culture of its own, a literature of its own,” a concept he credits John Wesley of first realizing.  I have spent a few scotches thinking this quote over.

One of the things I did not fully appreciate about Knox is his sense of humor, and I promised that I would share this highlighted section with our readers.

If you translate, say the Summa of St. Thomas, you expect to be cross-examined by people who understand philosophy and by people who understand Latin; no one else.  If you translate the Bible, you are liable to be cross-examined by anybody, because everybody thinks he already knows what the Bible means.

It’s always comforting to know that Knox took his work seriously but kept it largely in perspective.

Besides the first edition G.K. Chesterton, the Knox Bible and Knox’s editorial are easily the most interesting books on our shelf.  No Catholic Gentleman’s collection is complete without it.  Just be sure to have a good scotch handy when you crack the cover for the first time. . .

You can find Baronius Press’ Knox Bible here, of which we were sent a complimentary copy.

Why you should know a bit about Thomism

A Short History of Thomism

Today, in Churches around the world, the hymns of St. Thomas Aquinas will be sung. The traditional chanting of Pange Lingua, with its famous last two verses collectively known as the Tantum Ergo, accompany the Transfer of the Eucharist. And while most of us have at least cursory knowledge of the 5 ways and some of his prayers and chants, it is vital that the Catholic Gentleman increases his understanding of the Angelic Doctor.

When Pope Leo XIII issued the encyclical Aeterni Patris, he intended it to be a launching pad to a revitalized Catholic Philosophy and Theology, founded upon the thought and works of St. Thomas Aquinas. In naming St. Thomas the theologian par excellence, the study of his teachings became mandated in Catholic seminaries and schools throughout the world.

While the Angelic Doctor’s influence has certainly waned in Catholic Schools since the 1960’s and the near collapse of neo-scholasticism, his importance is still recognized by the Church. The document Gravissimum Educationis of Vatican II, in its section on Catholic Universities, emphasized turning to the approach of St. Thomas when considering new problems. Furthermore, the 1983 Code of Canon Law called for the teaching of St. Thomas in the formation of Clerics (Canon 251). We are all called to know our faith, both to increase our own faith and to assist those around us. Knowing the thought of St. Thomas goes a long way in achieving this ideal.

I want to emphasize that we should know something not just about St. Thomas himself, but about Thomism in general. The continuation and development of the work of St. Thomas form the philosophia perennis, the perennial philosophy which forms the backbone of much of our Church’s moral and doctrinal teachings. Familiarizing yourself with this school of thought will help you speak Truth better to those around you, and to understand it better yourself.

One fantastic resource for learning more about St. Thomas and Thomism is A Short History of Thomism, by Fr. Romanus Cessario, OP. The book is written as both an introduction to the basic tenets of Thomism and an overview of the figures who continued to develop his thought through the centuries. Well-written and concise, A Short History of Thomism is a great introduction to the school of thought that, more than any other, speaks the truths taught by the Catholic Church. The Church speaks best when she speaks St. Thomas, and this short work is the perfect way to familiarize yourself with the thought that grounds much of Catholic teaching.

A Short History of Thomism is published by The Catholic University of America Press.

St. Thomas Aquinas, ora pro nobis.