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Richard J. Grebenc "rgrebenc" RSS Feed (Cleveland, OH USA)
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Keeping Mary Close: Devotion to Our Lady through the Ages
Keeping Mary Close: Devotion to Our Lady through the Ages
by Mike Aquilina
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.83
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Appreciating Jesus' mother since the beginning, November 9, 2015
“Keeping Mary Close” focuses on Marian devotion from the end of Christ’s earthly ministry until the Council of Ephesus, famous for affirming Mary as "Theotokos" against Nestorius, in 431. Tendencies in the last two hundred years to “minimize or dismiss” early Marian devotion is what the authors intend to counter. They do this well. Starting with Scripture, they survey all appearances and mentions of Mary in the Gospels. References to her in Paul and Revelation are also examined. Next, pseudipigrapha (ancient Christian writings not included in the canon of Scripture –think Gospel of Thomas), oracles, and traditions are reviewed. Short excerpts from these sources show an enduring and increasing interest in Jesus’ mother. A short chapter on the etymology of the name of Mary, including the famous Old Testament figure of that name (“Miriam”) is interesting. Most of the remainder of the book deals with doctrinal issues regarding Mary: her virginity before, during, and after the birth of Jesus (a fascinating pagan document slurring Mary is excerpted here); Mary as “Theotokos” or the “Mother of God” (Nestorius, and Julian the Apostate, certainly did not agree); the Immaculate Conception, i.e., Mary’s being preserved from all stain of sin, developed from the first Christian generation’s understanding of Jesus’ birth; and, the Assumption or Mary being taken to heaven body and soul without corruption (we are shown its roots go back to the Old Testament).

In other chapters, Mary as the New Eve, the antitype of the first woman, is shown to be established by the mid-second century. This is a fascinating motif and the parallels and contrasts between our first mother and our heavenly mother should be understood by all Christians. Near the end of the book, Mary, Star of Evangelization, is highlighted in her role in the early Church and throughout the centuries to the present day. The last chapter speaks of the so-called Rabulla Gospels, illustrated in the sixth century, which highlight Mary’s important role in salvation history. A good explanation of the special type of devotion due to Mary is explained here as well. The book closes, in an appendix, with a long excerpt from Blessed John Henry Newman on “The Dignity of Mary.”

If there is one criticism I have of this work, it is that it left me wanting more! It is just over 120 pages and can be read in an afternoon. Fortunately, an extensive bibliography allows the interested reader to go in-depth on any of the topics covered in the book, and more. Two additional works that the reader may find helpful are in my personal library; both are edited by Br. Stanley G. Mathews, S.M. and published by Grail, St. Meinrad, Indiana:” The Promised Woman” (1954, on the Immaculate Conception) and “Queen of the Universe” (1957, on Mary’s Assumption and Queenship).

This book, in a forceful way, shows that a Christian tradition without Sacred Tradition is an impoverished one. No Catholic doctrine of Mary in any way goes against the Bible. But ancient tradition, faithfully passed down, as shown here, by Jesus’ own disciples and their followers, gives us so much more to love about Mary and additional reasons to honor her in the special way that her own Son honored His mother.

For this reason, this book is highly recommended for Catholics whose own Marian understanding and devotion has waned or never really was a significant part of their prayer and worship. It is also a fine apologetical tool – a gentle way to introduce Protestant friends and family to the long, solid, and biblically-based understanding of Mary that was in place in apostolic times and has grown ever since. If nothing else, it will give all but the most hard-hearted a deeper appreciation of the Woman who said “Fiat!” to the angel (Luke 1:38)


Biblical Roots of the Mass
Biblical Roots of the Mass
by Tom Nash
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.56
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The source and summit of the Christian life" explored through the venerable divine Scriptures, August 8, 2015
“The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures just as she venerates the body of the Lord” (Dei Verbum, 21).

“The Eucharist is ‘the source and summit of the Christian life.’" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1324 quoting Lumen Gentium, 11).

Tom Nash does a great service in bringing together these two vital aspects of the Christian life (and I do mean vital as it is derived from the Latin vita, meaning “life”). In doing so, the reader not only gains a much deeper appreciation for the Mass but also for Scripture. The reader cannot but help in coming away with a greater knowledge of, and love for, both.

Nash takes us through salvation history to clearly show how Old Testament sacrifices anticipated imperfectly the perfect New Covenant fulfilled in Jesus. There is also much support in the New Testament (not only in the Gospels, by the way) for the Mass and how we understand it. Along the way, but particularly toward the end of the book, the author gets apologetic, defending the Mass and the sacrament of the Eucharist against Protestant objections. The final chapter goes beyond apostolic times to talk about the celebration of the Eucharist in the early Church.
As for how the book is set up, there are several nice features:

*Background Reading suggestions, all but one from the Bible, are highly recommended preparation for each chapter, even though the text is chock full of Bible quotes. Often there are many references, so you may be spending an hour or more in the Good Book, but it would be well worth the reader’s time.

* The chapters vary in length from a few pages to over twenty but are divided into relatively short sections so one can receive a good amount of substance even if the reader can only tackle a few pages at a time. Ample quotes from Scripture, primarily, but also from the Catechism, encyclicals, other writings coming from the Church and its luminaries, and Jewish writings, provide much depth and support for this work. Erudite but accessible, the interested, educated, and engaged reader should have no trouble with the material. (For those who would like to brush up a bit by reviewing an overview of salvation history, start with John Bergsma’s "Bible Basics for Catholics: A New Picture of Salvation History" and then maybe add Scott Hahn’s "A Father Who Keeps His Promises: God's Covenant Love in Scripture.")

* Footnotes are often skipped by non-academics but I would not suggest that here. Very often, interesting additional information is provided that really enhances the text.

* Questions for Reflection and Discussion (anywhere from three to nine questions often with multiple parts) at the end of each chapter is an excellent way to reinforce the material. This is ideal for group study and reading clubs (which I highly encourage for this text). While some questions are answered in the chapter, others require going to outside sources (often Scripture) for answers. Reflection questions challenge the reader and help to make the material his own.

* The Bibliography is extensive, providing the interested reader many other sources to pursue particular topics of interest.

* Indices for Scripture and Catechism of the Catholic Church citations are a great help to researchers or anyone interested in pursuing a particular line of study or inquiry.

I highly recommend this book to Catholics who want a deeper appreciation for both Scripture and the Mass. But I would encourage anyone interested in the Mass and the sacrament of the Eucharist to engage this material. Get solid information from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, as faithfully conveyed by Mr. Nash.

I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher, Sophia Institute Press, in exchange for this review.


Life of Christ
Life of Christ
by Fulton J. Sheen
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.22
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5.0 out of 5 stars The indispensable life of Christ, April 11, 2015
This review is from: Life of Christ (Paperback)
A book that I have meant to read for years has now been completed by me. My only disappointment is that I waited this long. Outstanding. I would find it remarkable if a better life of Christ has been written.

Sheen remains entirely faithful to the scriptural texts while weaving in historical data and spiritual fruit. I am sorely tempted to perpetually read this book, starting over the moment I have finished. In any case, I will certainly be referring to it again and again it my studying and writing. I noted many places of particular insight as I went.

Sheen is an intellectual giant and a spiritual master. Is there any question that such a work would be so profoundly insightful and moving?

I have little doubt that this will be my favorite book read this year.


Glory Days in Tribe Town: The Cleveland Indians and Jacobs Field 1994-1997
Glory Days in Tribe Town: The Cleveland Indians and Jacobs Field 1994-1997
by Tom Hamilton
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.14
71 used & new from $0.01

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Step back into the glory years of the Tribe, March 24, 2015
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Longtime columnist Pluto and longtime announcer Hamilton collaborate on a wonderful book detailing the glory years of the Cleveland Indians. It is a fun trip down memory lane for one who lived through it and a great way for those too young to fully appreciate that time to get a glimpse into a special time in Cleveland sports that will not be repeated.

The structure of the book is outstanding. Chapters mainly deal with individual personalities (players and management) providing depth about their part in this golden era of Tribe baseball. Even close watchers of the Indians will get some nuggets here.

There are several sections of "Fans Write In" that I skipped. Not interesting to me, but I'm sure others will enjoy hearing from other die-hards.

Pluto has written plenty about the Tribe and shows an intimate knowledge of the team. This book is essential for any Tribe fan's bookshelf.


Joy to the World: How Christ's Coming Changed Everything (and Still Does)
Joy to the World: How Christ's Coming Changed Everything (and Still Does)
by Scott Hahn
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.91
60 used & new from $2.94

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It contains wonderful meditations on the whole Christmas story, December 24, 2014
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The author said in an interview that this book began as a scholarly work but quickly turned much more personal. It contains wonderful meditations on the whole Christmas story. No element is unaddressed: Mary, Joseph, the Holy Family, the angels, the shepherds, the Magi, and more. Throughout, Hahn, in this beautifully written book, skillfully weaves together scripture (Old and New Testaments) history, scholarship, meditations, and personal stories & reflections, seamlessly. Particularly relevant for Advent or the Christmas season, it certainly can be read with profit anytime.


Evangelizing Catholics: A Mission Manual for the New Evangelization
Evangelizing Catholics: A Mission Manual for the New Evangelization
by Scott Hahn
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.29
54 used & new from $11.35

14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Embrace the challenge and get fired up for the New Evangelization!, May 18, 2014
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I have read many of Scott Hahn's books, but I will not hesitate to say that this is my favorite one yet. With a flood of books on the New Evangelization coming out in recent years, Dr. Hahn still manages to add much that is fresh to the conversation.

The book is divided into three major parts: The Call, The Response, and The Message. Prepare to be challenged in each section starting in the very first chapter: "[The New Evangelization] is the mission with which you and I have been charged. And it is a mission shot through with the weight of eternity, one for which each of us 'will give an account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead' (1 Pet 4:5)." This is a responsibility with everlasting consequences, and the author does his level best to equip us for this duty.

The first part provides a fascinating history of the New Evangelization, lets us know that evangelization is not the sole property of Protestants, emphasizes the indispensable role of the laity in evangelization, and stresses that evangelization involves the whole person (mind, body, and spirit) over the course of a lifetime (with a special emphasis on the Eucharist).

The second part begins by looking at the proclamation of the gospel writers as a model for us today and then looking at the early Church's radical approach to family and society that still applies today. Next the focus is on the seven steps to make the family the primary field of evangelization. But it doesn't stop there as we spread the good news (with hints how best and most appropriately to do so) to friends, neighbors, coworkers, fellow students, the media and more.

The last part serves as a catechesis and apologetic for the Catholic faith. We Catholics must be well grounded in our understanding of sin, atonement, covenant, and the Mass if we are to be properly equipped to share the Faith with others. Hahn does a phenomenal job, in a clear and concise way, of helping the reader understand these key concepts. Finally, we are told that we are called to be faithful, not successful -- it is not "our" success, anyway, and we only set ourselves up for disappointment. "[F]idelity is what God wants from us. He wants us to live the Gospel, and he wants us to proclaim it. He wants us to love him, and he wants us to lead others to his love." (166)

I cannot recommend this book too highly. Get a copy. Mark it up and then keep it handy. Get additional copies for friends and family. Recommend it to your pastor and see if you can start a reading group at your parish. Or maybe just gather your Catholic friends and do something on your own. This book will get you fired up for the New Evangelization by its powerful call, helpful approaches, and beautiful exposition of the faith.


Leviticus (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries)
Leviticus (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries)
by R. K. Harrison
Edition: Paperback
38 used & new from $1.34

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Leviticus dull, plodding, and irrelevant? Not anymore., March 8, 2014
Excellent volume from the Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries series. As I make my way through the Bible in a year, I am not simply working through the scripture text but I am also reading associated notes and commentary. R. K. Harrison's "Leviticus" was on the shelf so I thought I would use it as a companion through a biblical book that is notoriously thought of us as dull, plodding, and irrelevant. I was not disappointed.

A lengthy Introduction explains the title, nature, authorship, dating, purpose, theology, and more of the third book of the Torah, thus preparing the reader well for the actual text. The commentary explains in significant detail the context, history, and culture (Jewish and otherwise) of the times. The importance of rituals for purposes of hygiene and overall health, anticipating much later understanding of the contraction and spread of disease is fascinating and enlightening. Details about fauna and flora are also interesting. All of this shows the author's interest in the scientific basis for the many laws in Leviticus.

All of this is done in light of the New Testament. The reader will find very few pages go by until Christ is mentioned once again. Seeing how the Old is fulfilled in the New (including practical application to us today) should be a joy to Christian readers and certainly does not take away from the impressive historical and scientific scholarship found here.

The book concludes with two appendices (no explanation as to why the author felt compelled to include these): a translation of Lev 13 and "Sex and its theology" that focuses on male and female differences and homosexuality.

This book deepened my understanding and appreciation of a particularly challenging book of the Bible. Highly recommended for anyone, but especially those who have grudgingly worked their way through Leviticus in the past with little understanding of it or those who have avoided it entirely due to its reputation. Remember, it is the Word of God which, in the words of "Dei Verbum," "remain[s] permanently valuable" (no. 14) Don't miss out on any part of it.


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A welcome addition to the reader's Pauline knowledge and/or a tool for reflection and meditation, July 21, 2013
Looking for a short book to read today, I happily came across on my shelves this slim volume by the eminent Msgr. Knox taken from a series of six talks given at Westminster Cathedral on the Sunday evenings of Lent, 1950. The titles of the conferences: "The Pauline Approach," "St. Paul and the Old Testament," "St. Paul and Christ's Divinity," "St. Paul and Christ's Humanity," "St. Paul on the Mystical Body," and "St. Paul on the Risen Life of the Christian."

His approach: "I want to study St Paul's letters in isolation, forgetting for the moment that we have any Christian tradition, any Gospel narrative to supplement them." What we discover is that St. Paul dovetails with the gospels while concentrating attention on different things (e.g., no mention of Jesus' bio and virtually no quoting of Him). Then, throughout the book, Knox points out certain emphases of Paul's that the reader may not have considered or which may not immediately come to mind to, especially, the non-Bible scholar (e.g., Paul giving Christian theology the Fall of Adam; Christ dying as our representative, not in our stead).

In the concluding words of this little book, Knox brings full circle what he proposed at the beginning: "[Paul] has preserved for us, concurrently with [the Gospels] yet independently of them, the same tradition of Christian teaching which has come down across all these centuries to you and me; only, he tapped it at the source."

A recommended read that can be taken as quickly or as slowly as you'd like; with the former it is a welcome addition to the reader's Pauline knowledge; with the latter it becomes a tool for reflection and meditation, particularly if all Scripture references are also looked up and read.


The Reed of God
The Reed of God
by Caryll Houselander
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.13
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One long prayer with the Blessed Mother, July 14, 2013
This review is from: The Reed of God (Paperback)
It seems to me that one of the best things a person can say about a book upon completing it is that he wishes it was longer. This is my experience with "The Reed of God." Not simply a journey with the Virgin Mary from the Annunciation to the Assumption, it is one long prayer with her. Spiritual insights into her life as Mother of Jesus evolve into spiritual insights into how we are called to live our lives as Christians. A real, human Mary becomes a real, human exemplar for us as we walk along our journey to God. All of this comes during a time when the author is in the midst of the carnage of the Second World War in England. Acknowledging the devastation and loss, she rather chooses to focus on the love of Christ and His mother, a love that overcomes everything, a love we are to accept, espouse, share, and imitate.

Eminently quotable, you will find passage after passage that you will wish to mark so that you can return to them time and again or pass them along to friends. (One of my favorite examples: "What we are asked to do is to be made one with Christ, to allow Him to abide in us, to make his home in us, and gradually, through the oneness that results from living one life, and through the miracles of His love consummated again and again in Communion with Him, to become Christs, to live in Him as Our Lady did.") Take it to prayer, reading a chapter, a page, or a paragraph as the Spirit moves you -- you will be blessed.


Jesus of Israel: Finding Christ in the Old Testament
Jesus of Israel: Finding Christ in the Old Testament
by Richard Veras
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.66
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "To aid the reader to come to a deeper certainty about Jesus Christ", July 1, 2013
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I purchased this book because I thought it would be a survey of prefigurements of Jesus in the Old Testament. While it certainly does talk about some of the types of Christ in the Old Testament (as found in Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, Moses, David, Elijah, and Elisha who get the most treatment), I found this to be much more useful for contemplation rather than as a theological or historical text (it is accessible to any interested reader in high school or older). The two or three reflection questions at the end of each chapter emphasize application to the reader's life today. Since it was not what I expected, I was tempted to put it down more than once early on. I'm glad I did not. Some of the insights the author provides are thought provoking and the typology he proposes is not always obvious but it is often profound (e.g., the baker and cupbearer in the Joseph story in light of Jesus on the cross and Elijah and Elisha as Christ and the disciples at the Ascension). Along the way, a short but comprehensive overview of the history of the Chosen People is provided. Short chapters allow this book to be dipped into when one has a few minutes here or there, but one could spend hours contemplating the depths of Scripture as presented here.


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