I asked for a coloring book and what I got was . . . encyclicals.
The good news is that if you pick up your kid after school still wearing your pajamas, but you’ve got a volume of apostolic exhortations on the passenger seat of your minivan, that counts for something, right?
What’s in the book: Pope Francis: The Complete Encylclicals, Bulls, and Apostolic Exhortations, Volume 1 contains Lumen Fidei, Evangellii Gaudium, Misericordiae Vultus, Laudato Si’, and Amoris Laetitia. Other than a brief introduction at the beginning of the collection, what you get is the English-language text and footnotes, right like it came off the Vatican’s website, forever and ever amen.
Why it’s better ran than reading on your digital device: Because reading on paper is better than reading digital.
Pros & Cons, in no particular order:
- If you like books, this a book.
- The text is a nice size, but there isn’t a ton of white space for notes.
- If you leave this paper-book, rather than your iPhone, sitting by your easy chair, you are far more likely to skip Facebook and mindlessly scroll through an encyclical instead.
Is it better than printing off a copy and putting it in a binder? Well, there isn’t as much white space for notes. Also, you might be shy about writing all over such a nicely-published product. On the other hand, think of how much amusement your heirs will receive as they gather around at your wake and try to decipher your more acerbic comments. Unlike binders full of printed-out encyclicals, you’ll probably never wonder if you should just recycle the bound version.
Is it healthy to keep this kind of product lying around the home? It’s much better for you than reading press coverage, that’s for sure. On the other hand, if gathering all the Holy Father’s magisterial comments into one volume is going to cause you to mutter, “Dammit, Jim, the answer to the Amoris dubia is right there in paragraph 64 of Evangelii Gaudium!“ don’t say you weren’t warned.
Verdict: I reluctantly concede that I gained more spiritual benefit from this review item than I would have from acquiring a second coloring book. Looks like it starts shipping December 26th, so ask the wise men to bring you one for Epiphany.
Earlier this fall I received, also from Ave Maria, a review copy of 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person by Jennifer Roback Morse and Besty Kerekes.
This is a super book. I kept it lying around at hand, read a page or two at a time, and breezed right through it.
What it is: A collection of practical advice on dating, discerning marriage, and preparing yourselves for lifelong, life-giving marriage. Each “tip” is a few paragraphs long, so it’s not overwhelming. After a couple decades of marriage I can affirm all the advice is spot-on. The book is charitable but unflinching on the tough topics — this isn’t your girlfriend telling you, “Whatever you choose is fine,” this is your mother letting you know that in fact cohabitation is a bad idea and you’ll have a more successful marriage if you resume living separately until the big day.
Unlike a certain strain of neo-Victorian sentimental claptrap, the book takes no opinion on who should do the cooking or whether feminine genius involves crochet. The tips do advise you to consider whether you and your intended spouse hold compatible views on money management (but observes that different couples happily manage their money differently — the goal of the book is to guide you into marital happiness, not fiscal prowess).
Who would like this book: People who are looking for sound guidance on how to find the right spouse. I would give this book to a young person who generally takes your advice and has expressed a desire to think and act carefully where marriage is concerned. I would not give this book to an adult child with whom I’d just finished arguing bitterly over the current love interest or relationship habits — awkward. I think the book does have great potential for book clubs both for young persons (high school and up) and for parents who want to be more intentional about guiding their children towards good relationships.
Verdict: I’m glad to have this one on my shelf. It’ll get lots of use.
Related #1: YOU from Ascension Press
You’ll recall that I’ve been working through this set since mid-August. I’ve been going slowly because I’m reading every word and paying close attention — there is a ton of material and the stakes are high. So far, I hold with my initial extremely positive impression. The parent book (finished) is top notch. You want to do this study with parents at your parish. It hits the perfect three-part requirement:
- It’s short. Parents don’t have a lot of time to read.
- It doesn’t assume parents are already on board with the Theology of the Body.
- It provides a ton of depth and insight for any parent, regardless of where you fall on the spectrum.
I’m halfway through the teacher’s manual (which also contains 100% of the student text) and am very impressed. FYI: This text is targeted towards the average teenager living in today’s typical teenager’s environment. If your child is a very sheltered homeschooler who doesn’t do digital devices and thus is enjoying an innocence other kids just don’t get anymore, this series is not for you, until your student is ready to step off into the deep end of Other Kids’ Lives.
But most students at your parish probably go to public school or to a private or parochial school that’s sordid enough to keep up. [Remove head from sand, please.] YOU is for that kid. The depth and scope of the material is sufficient that I’d advise starting no sooner than ninth grade. (Ascension’s Theology of the Body for Middle School would be the right product for younger students who are already dating and/or using the internet freely.)
My first choice on format would be for parents to complete the parent book first, and then go through the student series in class with their children afterwards. There is nothing dumbed-down, at all, about the student material. It will not be boring or childish for grown-ups. You can safely assume that many of the parents of your parish youth have questions or doubts about chastity; if you let parents use this program as a Please Don’t Get Pregnant Push Off Sex Until College safety net, you’re cheating your kids and your parents both. Don’t go there. Get the parents involved as much as you possibly can.
Final verdict coming after I’ve completely finished the whole works.
Related #2: All the coloring books. My friend Sarah Reinhard reviews the ever-expanding array of Catholic adult coloring books over at the Register.
Related #3: Jimmy Akin All Year Long. Julie Davis at Happy Catholic reviews Jimmy Akin’s A Daily Defense: 365 Days (plus one) to Becoming a Better Apologist. What I want for Christmas is the complete collection of Ronald Knox’s detective stories, but this would be a pretty happy second choice.
Related #4, gifts for you, since it’s the week of Mandatory Joy: Back when Msgr. Knox was just Mr. Knox, he wrote this satirical application of the Historical-Critical Method to the Sherlock Holmes mysteries. After enough years of priestly ministry, he went on to write “Hard Knocks,” a moral analysis of church bazaars; go here and scroll down to the bottom. Happy Advent!
Book covers courtesy of Ave Maria Publishing and Ascension Press.
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