Sunday, April 27, 2014

Review: The Imitation of Christ

The Imitation of Christ
The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I discovered The Imitation of Christ by reading St. Therese's (the Little Flower) The Story of a Soul. She referred to Thomas a Kempis multiple times in the telling of her story. After having read Imitation, I can see where St. Therese gets her devout humility, since this devotion is central to Thomas a Kempis' religious life.

I began to read Imitation before Lent, but I didn't get too far into it and put it aside while I read other texts. It just happened that I picked it up again during Lent, and I will now read this text every Lenten season to come. A Kempis offers Catholics a true "reset button", which we are all asked to press at Lent - as we are asked to pray more, give alms, go to confession and to fast as we follow Christ's Passion. A Kempis' Imitation is the perfect text to help us perform such severity of devotion. He strips away the layers of ego as he shows the reader a true Catholic attitude, and as he gives us all hope for a better life in Jesus Christ.

Readers who have difficulty reading the text might want to skip to the last section of The Imitation, where they will find a beautiful devotion to the Holy Eucharist.

I highly recommend The Imitation of Christ as yet another worthwhile theological and devotional text in the history of the Catholic Church. It is a great Lenten read but, obviously, it can be read and appreciated at any time in the liturgical year.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Review: Heaven's Song

Heaven's Song
Heaven's Song by Christopher West

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I truly enjoyed Heaven's Song: Sexual Love as it was Meant to Be, by Christopher West. This book on John Paul II's Theology of the Body (TOB) focuses on JP II's "hidden talks" and, due to certain potentially loaded ideas, such as the liturgical relationship between man and woman's sexual union as it points to the Divinity of the Trinity, the book is meant to be read by people who are already acquainted with most of the basic doctrines of the TOB and can appreciate the finer theological points raised here.

Besides West's clear expounding of JP II's revolutionary hermeneutics of the the Bible's Song of Songs and Tobit, I also liked how the author set out his chapters. There is part of a practical case study at the beginning, followed by analyses of the TOB doctrines, and then the rest of the case study, followed by reflection questions and a suggested prayer. The form of the book seems to focus less on the theoretical and more on the practical application of the ideas presented in the TOB, giving the reader a sense that they are attending one of West's presentations.

The case studies offer a wide cross-section of society, real people, including married couples, engaged/dating couples, divorcing couples, a single mother and also a priest, and how all of these can benefit from a deeper understanding of the TOB.

Heaven's Song is definitely worth reading, but not as one's introduction to the Theology of the Body.

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