Booklet Review: The Mass Explained for Kids

The Mass Explained for Kids is my latest Catholic Company review item, and as usual it is a good one.  I’ll cut to the chase: This is an excellent tool for anyone who wants to make sense of the Mass.

What it is: A short, affordable booklet from Pauline Press that walks through the new translation of the Mass.  Even-numbered pages contain the text of the Mass and all the necessary instructions (sit, stand, kneel, rise, bow, beat chest, shut up priest says . . ., etc.).  On the facing page are notes explaining what is happening, what difficult vocabulary words mean,  and all kinds of other useful information.

Why I like it:

  1. I’m always looking for a good Missal to give to non-Catholic grown-ups who come to Mass, that makes it easy to follow along.  This one wouldn’t stand out as a kid’s book, if you put a sticker over the “for kids” on the cover.  At $1.95 retail, you can afford to send them home with your guests as souvenirs.  It would be pretty easy to put post-it notes at key places when your guest needs to pick up the hymnal.
  2. The explanations are great.  Tons of good info.  But the format makes it easy to read as much as your brain can take, and leave the rest for another day.
  3. There are definitions or explanations for all the new words showing up with the new translation (“consubstantial”, “incarnate”, etc.).  In addition, all the changes are in bold face.

Who is it for?  People who can read pretty well.   Other than the cover art, there are no pictures.  All the explanations are written clearly, and my very average-reading 4th grader says she had no difficulty understanding them.  But you do need to be ready to tackle big words and gather useful information from your reading.    Words like “epiclesis” and “anamnesis” have pronunciations (“ep-ih-CLEE-sis” and “an-am-NEE-sis”).

Useful for catechists?  Absolutely.  The format makes it super easy to find the info you need for class, and the explanations are already translated into plain English.  Much easier than tearing through a pile of Scott Hahn books trying to remember where you found that quote that one time, and/or trying to translate The Catechism into something ordinary mortals can understand.  Plus I learned some things I didn’t know.

Other important info:  It’s 5.5″ x 8.5″, with a flexible heavy-paper cover, very trim, so designed to be stuffed into your purse in doled out during Mass.  But note the cover is not paperboard, so don’t let the baby put it in her mouth. Also there’s some info about the Daughters of St. Paul in the back, who have got to have the coolest charism in the universe.  Nuns that run bookstores and a publishing company.  How awesome is that?


Thanks to the Catholic Company for filling the mailboxes of bloggers with excellent products; this one is coming to Mass with us this Advent, no question about it.   In addition to asking for an honest review (check), our sponsor would like me to also tell you that if you need a Catechism of the Catholic Church or a Catholic Bible, they sell those too.

Mater et Magistra – Renewal Time

Mater et Magistra magazine reminds you to renew (if now is your time to do so).  Click here, it’s easy.  And though the print edition is lovely, it will still be a great little publication even if it goes all-digital.  Support your small catholic homeschooling press today.

Theology of the Body For Teens: Middle School Edition

The Catholic Company very kindly sent me a review set of the Theology of the Body for Teens: Middle School Edition bundle. Okay, so I begged for it.  They sent an e-mail out to all the reviewers (they are still accepting new reviewers) asking who wanted it, and I gave it my best me-me-me-meeeeee! and made the cut!  Yay!  And then I told my DRE, who explained how she was busy trying to finagle a copy on loan from another parish.  Because yes, it is that good.

What’s in the packet:

  • A student book.  Eight chapters of substantial, readable lessons.  Upbeat format.  Rock solid teaching.  You will need one of these for each student.
  • A teacher’s guide.  It’s the student book page-by-page, with helpful teaching notes.  Includes some lesson-planning ideas, answer keys of course, additional information about the Theology of the Body, and supplemental material on difficult topics.  If you are teaching this as a class, you need this book.
  • The parent’s guide.  This is a small book (75 pages, pocket-size) that explains what students are learning.  It is more elevated, adult-level content, focused on how to parent middle-schoolers — it is not a re-hash of the student guide at all.
  • The DVD collection.  There is a set of videos for each chapter of lesson, plus additional material on difficult topics, and a show-this-to-the-parents chapter that explains what the course is about.  The videos are fun, held the interest of my small test-audience of adults (me) and kids (mine), and add significantly to the content of the course.  You would want these if you were teaching this as a class.

What does the course cover?

Well, the focus is John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, but it comes down to: How do I live?  What will make me happy?  And what do I do with this body I’m growing into?

Most of this is not about sex.  It’s mostly about virtue, identity, and love.  How do I love and respect myself and others?  How do I build good relationships?  How do I know what God wants me to do?  It’s a serious, useful, substantial set of lessons that really teach how to be the kind of person God wants you to be.

–>I read the student workbook first.  I found it helpful for me, personally.  To the point that in my opinion, parishes would do well to offer the course to both teens and their parents.  As in: I myself, a grown-up, NFP-using, CCD-teaching, cave-dwelling bona fide catholic dweeb lady, found this to be a course that pushed me to grow in my Christian life.

What Age Student?

The books are targeted towards middle-schoolers — grades 6th to 8th.  I may be under-estimating his maturity, but I felt that my own 6th grade boy, who lives a fairly sheltered catholic-homeschool life, and is not one bit interested in girls, he was not ready to fully benefit from the program.  I held onto a copy of the student book for us to use at home, and when my parish offers it next year (please God), I will send him then.  But for girls (who mature earlier), and for boys and girls who are more fully immersed in our sex-saturated culture, this is about on target for as young as 6th grade.

Sex-related topics are taught in a wider context.  First students learn how we use our bodies to communicate, how we must make an effort to grow in virtue and purity, and how we should not use others for our own gratification, within the wider context of regular life.  It is only after these essentials are thoroughly explored, many weeks into the course, that students are shown how they apply specifically to sex.

Sexual topics are dealt with directly but modestly.  If you don’t know what porn is, all you’ll find out is that it is “the display of images for the purpose of arousing lust”.  (Lust is “a vice that causes people to view others as objects for sexual use”).   So this is a step more mature than earlier-grades catechesis, where the details of “impurity” are left entirely to the reader’s imagination.  If your student is not yet ready to learn about the existence of pornography, sexting, and fornication, hold off on this course for now.

Difficult topics are not presented directly to teens.  There are some video segments the instructor can choose to present depending on the maturity of the group, as well as supplemental teaching material in the teacher’s manual.  One teaching technique I found very helpful was a script where a teacher reads a scenario (young people gathering in the alley behind a movie theater), but the actual misbehavior is not specified.  The teacher then asks: What do you think was happening there?  It’s an opening for students to share the kinds of things they know are going on in their community, which the instructor can then address as appropriate.

I’m cheap.  Or poor.  Do I need to buy the whole nine yards?

The materials are made to be used together.  For a knowledgeable parent wanting to teach at home for the minimal investment, purchasing just the student book would provide a substantial lesson for the least cash outlay.  Note however: The other items do add to the overall content of the course. This isn’t a case of the videos just repeating what the book says, or the parent book being a miniature version of the student book.  Each element contributes new and useful material.  If I were teaching this in the classroom, I would want the whole collection, no question about it.  As a parent, I would want my children to view the videos.

Is it Protestant-friendly?

It’s a very Catholic program.  (Don’t let the “Pope John Paul II” thing fool you.)  You’ll hear references to saints, to the sacraments, the Catholic faith.  BUT, keep in mind, this is all just normal healthy human life.  Love, virtue, modesty, chastity — these are for the whole human race.  The message is right on target with what any Christian youth program would want to teach.  So if you are comfortable with Catholic-trappings,  you could work with the whole course as-is, and just explain to your audience that it was made by Catholics.  If not, you may want to get the materials for yourself, and use them to train yourself how to teach these topics to your teens.

Summary:  I give it a ‘buy’ recommend, if you are responsible for teaching a young person how to act like a human being.  Thanks again to our sponsor The Catholic Company, who in no way requires that I like the review items they send, but would like me to remind you that they are a fine source for a Catechism of the Catholic Church or a Catholic Bible.

The Youcat

So I dropped by my local catholic bookstore yesterday in search of confirmation gifts.  (Got ’em, and they are NOT BOOKS.  The nieces will suspect I am an imposter.)  Shop owner says, “Look over there, we’ve got the new Youcat in.”  Waves toward rack with all the neat items-to-be-promoted.

I smile.  A pained smile.  Um, okay.  Thanks.

Because you do not know how many reviews of this book I have not read.  Many.  If there is someone on that sidebar who wrote a review of the YOUCAT, I saw it and skipped it.  Not interested.  Just not.  Too perky.  What a goofy name.  And plus what’s wrong with the big catechism, ya know?  Do I look fifteen?  No, I do not look fifteen.

So then I wander over to the promo rack, and well, I’ll just take a look at the thing.  Might as well see what it is.  Someone might ask me about it.  My DRE might try to make me use it or something.

Open it up to a random page.  Read a sample.  Told the shop owner, “You just sold a book.”

[She proceeded to sell me two CD’s by playing samples of these guys off her PC while she was at it.  Smart lady.  Crack for catechists.]

Anyway, the story with the Youcat is this:

It translates the Catechism for you.  It’s a quick, easy way to look up the catholic teaching on something, and get answers in words kids can more or less understand.  You still need to understand the teachings of the church yourself.  Big Catechism isn’t going anywhere.  But if you want the words to give to kids?  Here it is.  Plus, if you’re in a hurry, you don’t have to really think about the answers when you look something up.

Compare and contrast . . .  In the big catechism, here’s 1755-1756:


1755 A morally good act requires the goodness of the object, of the end, and of the circumstances together. An evil end corrupts the action, even if the object is good in itself (such as praying and fasting “in order to be seen by men”).

The object of the choice can by itself vitiate an act in its entirety. There are some concrete acts – such as fornication – that it is always wrong to choose, because choosing them entails a disorder of the will, that is, a moral evil.

1756 It is therefore an error to judge the morality of human acts by considering only the intention that inspires them or the circumstances (environment, social pressure, duress or emergency, etc.) which supply their context. There are acts which, in and of themselves, independently of circumstances and intentions, are always gravely illicit by reason of their object; such as blasphemy and perjury, murder and adultery. One may not do evil so that good may result from it.

Here’s the Youcat.  A simplified version of those paragraphs is given, and then this:

The end does not justify the means.  It cannot be right to commit infidelity so as to stabilize one’s marriage.  It is just as wrong to use embryos for stem cell research, even if one could thereby make medical breakthroughs.  It is wrong to try to “help” a rape victim by aborting her child.

What you need to know.  To the point.  Answers the questions students actually ask in class. 

You could leave it lying around for the kids at home to read, too. Or the adults.  And I’ll admit, the sunny cover and all the photos and drawings do make you want to read the thing.  It’s as if someone at the Vatican really really wants people to learn the Catholic faith.  Maybe the guy who wrote the foreward, for example. 

You can order yours directly from Ignatius, stop by your local catholic bookstore if you are a good, holy person who happens to have such a thing nearby, or support one of the blogger-friendly internet retailers such as The Catholic Company (coming soon) or Aquinas and More.  Basically, no excuse not to have one.  Well, okay, don’t go into debt for it.  But aside from that.

Book Review: Why Enough is Never Enough

So I have told you to buy this book about three times now.  But perhaps you were waiting for your tax refund.  Or perhaps you holding out for my official Catholic Company review, because you, too, had noticed I’d utterly forgotten to post it.  Now you will have to think up a new excuse.

The book you want is:  Why Enough is Enough: Overcoming Worries about Money — A Catholic Perspective, by Gregory S. Jeffrey (OSV, 2010).

What you’ll be getting is:  A book about how to develop a healthy relationship with money.  This is not a book about how to write a budget.  It is not a book about whether to pay off your credit card or your student loan first, or which kind of retirement account to have.  There are other books about that, and they are worth your time. I like those books.  I am a firm believer in the message of [many of] those books.  But this book is more important.

–> If you don’t have a healthy relationship with money, you will never be able to manage it well.

You might be able to accumulate it.  You won’t be able to live well with it.

And conversely: No matter how diligent and prudent and immpeccably sensible you are, it is possible that you just won’t have much money.  Life can be hard.  There is something about your relationship with money that matters much more than your bank balance. And this is what the book is about.

Is this book too hard for me?  No.  Very readable.  Lots of funny stories.  Good candidate for a book club or a parish study group, because it is approachable, friendly, encouraging, and a quick read.

Is this book protestant-friendly?  I think so.  It’s a catholic book, for sure.  Talks about things like “The Church” and “The Catechism”.  But I can’t recall anything that a non-catholic would find objectionable.

But I’m money master, and I have the 401K to prove it.  Surely you don’t mean I, too, should read this book??  Actually, yeah. That ‘buy’ recommend is across the board.  Because though the topic is money, the topic is really your spiritual life and your relationship with God.  If you have a great handle on money, this book is exceedingly helpful in showing you how to take the principles you are using without knowing it when it comes to cash, and applying them to other areas that you do struggle with.

(In keeping with sound financial principles, make that a “borrow” or “beg” recommend, if you don’t have the cash on hand.)

Can I skip around and stuff?  I don’t recommend it.  And I don’t usually say that.  Read it from page 1 forward, you will get the most out of it that way.  BUT, it is so chock full of useful tidbits, that I, the reviewer, can just randomly open anywhere, and find nice review-quality quotes.  Like this:

The notion of trading pleasure for joy works particularly well for almsgiving.  Money can provide a certain amount of personal pleasure, and that can be a good thing.  But the pleasure that comes from spending money is different than the joy of giving it away . . .  to help another person — to provide food, clothing, shelter, education — is a joy that lingers. (p. 116)

Or this:

To believe that every success is motivated by a heart filled with greed is to expose the envy in your own (p. 40).

And this:

God intervenes in our lives constantly.  Not in the sense that he forces: love does not impose.  Rather, we are offered a never-ending series of invitations that await our cooperation.  Even though burdened with self-deception, we can hope to learn humility, because we are aided from on on high. (p.6o).

And one more I really like, and then I promise to quit:

Imagine if we replaced the language of “social justice” with that of “personal justice”.  What if, instead of speaking of “unjust social structures”, we examined “unjust personal behaviors’?  Again, that is the proper starting point.  Society is made up of individuals.  To have any hope of changing social structures, we need individuals willing to embrace their own call to holiness.

–> FYI on this last one: Jeffries is not arguing that we should ignore problems that are properly dealt with at the governmental level.  Read it and see — in fact there is a great story about how the homestead laws of the 19th century had a very powerful — negative — structural impact on North Dakota farm life.  But yes, if it is your opinion that other people’s money should be spent to relieve the poor, but your own wallet is clamped shut, then indeed he will take you to task in no uncertain terms.


So that’s the book.  Get one of your own.  Courtesy of our very patient sponsor The Catholic Company, who reminds me  to remind you that they are also a great source for a Catechism of the Catholic Church or a Catholic Bible.

I also see that The Catholic Company is . . .

STILL Accepting new applicants:

With the completion of our new review book ordering and reporting system, we are now capable of handling more reviewers.  You are welcome to invite other bloggers to join in the fun.  You can find info on joining at

So if your book appetite dwarfs your book budget, sign up.  Great program.  [And FYI, even though I keep ending up with books I really like, they want you to post honest reviews.  I just happen to honestly like this one.]

Someone invent this, please: Leaf Net

Here’s the situation:

  • I have trees in my yard.
  • I like to use the fallen leaves for mulch.
  • I do not like to hassle with elaborate procedures for shredding leaves.
  • (No, I do not own a bag for my lawn mower.)
  • But dried up leaves blow away — into the neighbors’ yards — if I just put them out unshredded and un-composted.

So what I want: Inexpensive biodegradable netting I can put over a layer of leaves to keep them in place, right there in the flower bed on the front lawn, until they compost all on their own.

And it needs to be a color that blends with the leaves so it doesn’t make my yard look really super ridiculous.  My yard looks ridiculous enough as is.

Go to it, inventors.

Thank you.

c.a.i.t.u. & other castle news

CAITU: Coolest Author In The Universe.

[Be French.  Speak in Acronyms. It’s good for your brain.]

I’ve lately determined that the CAITU is John McNichols.  Who totally took care of my beleaguered boy after my complaining post the other week.  And that’s not the first time he’s proven his credentials, though I will not embarrass him with too many tales of his kindness to internet strangers.

(And FYI, no I’m not an old friend of his brother-in-law’s cousin’s law school roommate’s favorite veterinarian.  I have no stock in Sophia Press. I get no commission on the sales of Tripods Attack, which you should read, because it is fun and because it is what we need more of — enjoyable catholic fiction.)

So that’s how you become the CAITU.  AND you write a steampunk alternative history alien-attack G.K. Chesterton catholic thriller, AND you take care of the fans with Strom Thurmondesqe responsiveness.

Nominations for SCAITU are still open.  I think maybe the alien thing isn’t strictly required.  But it helps.


Other Castle News:

Thinking of going with Kolbe next year. For the two big kids.  Am open to opinions if anyone wants to share.  (Have already mined the brains of a couple trusted internet friends who are long time happy Kolbe families.)  The reason is this:  My kids really like checklists.  Love ’em.  Mr. Boy just wants to get his assignments, get them done, and be free.  Aria likes forms so much she begged the SuperHusband to buy her a blank receipt book she saw at the hardware store.  (I consoled her by printing off a handful of 1040-EZ’s to play with.  She’s thrilled.)

We were planning to switch to a more formal curriculum with one of the major catholic curriculum providers come high school.  Mr. Boy will be hitting middle school, so time to make the transition and learn the expectations, so he isn’t blown out of the water in 9th grade.  Kolbe has a decent no-nonsense high school curriculum* of the kind that has gotten students into college for the past three generations or so.  AND, they issue checklists.  Which would free me up from writing my own.

So that’s what we’re thinking about.

Despite being a little out of rhythm this week, due to relatives visiting over the weekend, school is going pretty well this month. Which is noteworthy any time you combine “homeschooling” with “january”.  What we’ve been doing is after breakfast and a morning clean-up, kids work independently on checklist items.  (For the two littles, that’s just a box of activities they can choose from at will.)  Then I call each kid in for an individual class, youngest to oldest.  Then group class for penmanship, french and science.  Then big kids get work assignments for the afternoon, and littles are free.  When we stick to this, it runs pretty smoothly, and everyone is happy.

January is Science Fair Month. We took a break from Zoo Pass Science Class to work through A Drop of Water, and this week kids are now pausing that to conduct science experiments.  Mr. Boy wants to know if acorns pop like popcorn.  Aria asks whether hard boiled eggs truly are easier to peel if you plunge them into ice water after cooking.  And the Bun is attempting to freeze bubbles.  Results to be revealed to the admiring real-life public on the 29th.

Deskavation Sucessful. Found it.  Wood!  Then lost it again.  And I’ll have you know my miraculously-given organizational system is still working, even with intermittent clutter-flooding.  But here’s what, and sit down before you read this: The girls room is clean.  Consistently clean. Three girls ages 4, 6 & 8, in a 12×12 room that is also used for storage. As the SuperHusband said before we tackled the place, we have 1950’s living space, 1990’s lifestyle.  (And I would add: 1930’s personality.)

We cleared out the excess junk, designated and labled places for everything, including certain spots labeled “empty” so no one tries to pile stuff there. Then we developed  a successful inspection method.  We go through the room, and check each drawer and shelf, and toss anything that doesn’t belong there into the middle of the floor.  I look on the label to remember.  It is so much easier to ask “Are all the things in this space the ones on the label?” than it is to try to negotiate a generic sort of fuzzy standard of cleanliness.

The foot is great. Not exactly normal, but highly highly functional.  In the category of attending pro-life marches, visiting museums, grocery shopping, cleaning out the house, all that stuff.  It’ll do.

That’s the highlights of castle news.  Upcoming on the blog:

  • Usury part 3, of course.

And should I start a deskavation series? Because here’s the thing: Most organizational tips are written by people who are already organized.  So they say ridiculous things like “throw out your catalogs as soon as they arrive”, or “write all event dates in your calendar the moment you learn of them, then throw the original away”.  Ha!  You make it sound so easy.

But I’m thinking that just like there people who can’t magically keep their bank accounts balanced just by “spending less”, but need little tricks like cash envelopes to make it work, there are people like me who need painfully obvious baby-step methods to keep the house running smoothly.  And we’re discovering some of these things. So I thought maybe that might be helpful.  Or else entertaining, in a voyeuristic reality-show kind of way.



*Yes, I know that this whole “classical” education label thing is about as accurate a historical replica as a Red Ryder wagon is to a horse and carriage.  That’s fine.  I’m not running a seminary here.  We are the trade-and-merchant class, our children are signed up for a nice practical education that will get them into engineering school.  And ask my pastor about roofs, sound boards, and programmable thermostats — you could do worse than a business or engineering degree if you have a calling to become a parish priest. But for those who really do want the same type of education as Thomas Aquinas (whose grandfather was not a plumber), this guy is doing his best to re-create just that.

Hide Me in Your Wounds CD

Hathaway posts his fan mail, and also mentions the lives changed by listeners to his own homegrown prayer CD.

I do not actually get to listen to my copy.  There’s no CD player in my truck, and very little quiet around the house*.   But here’s what my copy is super useful for: CCD.

Because after a while, I’m 98% sure the kids are sick of listening to my voice.  So at the end of class (or the beginning, or the middle), I can pick out a lesson-appropriate prayer off the CD, and the kids can quietly meditate to the sound of somebody else.

FYI John has a very neutral accent and clear voice (he is a trained singer), and no weird dramatic stuff.  Just prayers.  From a guy who has a for-real prayer life, which I know because I have caught him at it.  Prayers include about everything you could want a student to know:

Byzantine Opening Prayers
Come Holy Spirit
Breathe in Me O Holy Spirit
Lorica of St. Patrick
Morning Offering
Acts of Faith, Hope and Love
Short Aspirations
Prayers for Priests,
and the Holy Souls
Morning Prayer of J.H. Newman
St. Michael Prayer
Litany of the Saints
St. Bridget Prayers
St. Therese Prayer
Prayers of St. Ignatius
Franciscan Peace Prayer
St. Anselm Daily Prayer
St. Michael Chaplet
Prayers for Spiritual Growth
Litany of Humility
Prayer to the Infant of Prague
Flos Carmeli

Or at least enough to keep you quite busy.

FYI I am in the middle of trying to persuade the man to record a music CD for use in religious ed, too.  Let him know if you have a hymn request for that.  Something you want to be able to teach your students in class (or children at home), but maybe you want some help leading, because you aren’t  a brilliant musician.  Or maybe you are a brilliant musician, but you still like to play a CD for the kids when they sing.


*Yes, I know I listen to audio books while exercising or folding laundry.  I guess I should listen to prayer CD’s while doing that.  Hathaway nods.  But you don’t understand, John, I’ve got this great lecture series on Byzantine history — I didn’t even know I *liked* Byzantine history.  Hathaway says, maybe you’ll like praying, too.  You could be surprised.

Book Review: Disorientation

Disorientation, John Zmirak, ed.  (Ascension Press, 2010)

The first universities were schools of theology.  Eight hundred years later, they still are — it is only the the theology that  has changed. At my State U (circa 1990), our catechism was the New York Times. In English 102, I learned how the Bible was one of many ancient works of literature testifying to the truths of modern liberal morality. In philosophy I learned that free will does not exist – our every action is predetermined at the molecular level. In geology I learned that population control was the solution to all the earth’s problems. (How I was supposed to do anything about it, what with my molecules telling me to have so many children, no one ever explained. But no doubt the Invisible Hand would guide me, per Saint A. Smith.)

It was a hodge-podge of errors, spread all over the ideological map.   No wonder, what with the fundamental moral dictate being Nobody Really Knows, But We’re Sure It Isn’t All That Old Fashioned Stuff.

Meanwhile, I had finished high school as my parish’s “Catholic Student of the Year”, armed with a faith as enthusiastic as it was flimsy. I was not at all prepared for the collegiate onslaught that was coming. No surprise that by the time I earned my BA I had long since left the Church.

What I had hoped, therefore, when I first picked out Disorientation for my Tiber River review book, was that it would be something more like Amy Welborn’s Prove It! books. I wanted to be able to hand my eighteen-year-old niece a readable collection of explanations about how to wade through the intellectual mire. Something gently persuasive – she might not be all that strong in her faith, so she might need to be convinced herself.

And I know I’m demanding, but there is something else I wanted: I was looking for a book that would be comfortable even to the non-catholic. A catholic book, sure, but dealing with wide principles, more the realm of natural law than of doctrine. Nearly all the topics in the book, after all, are of interest to readers of any faith, not just Catholics or even just Christians.

Unfortunately, this is not that book. So I was disappointed there. [Let this be my plea: Dear Catholic Publishers, Please issue a companion volume that is my dream book. Thank you. Jennifer.] But that doesn’t make it a bad book, just a different book. And I think some of my readers, and many fans of the famous bloggers who co-authored Disorientation, are going to really like this one.

Here’s the low-down to help you decide if this book is a good fit for you:

The essays assume you are already on board with the book’s theses. For the most part, there is very little effort to win over the doubtful – this is much more in the preaching-to-the-converted category. There are acknowledgments of the grains of truth to be found in each of the errors discussed, but mostly the essays are offering ammunition for your next debate. Invigorating reading, and a lovely antidote if you’ve accidentally read too much National Geographic lately. But not something you can hand to your on-the-fence, mildly-catholic friend, unless you’re trying to start a fight. Er, enlightened discussion.

The authors speak for themselves. If you like what Elizabeth Scalia has to say about relativism, you’re going to like her essay. If you like Father Z’s take on modernism, you’ll be a happy camper. But just because, say, you’re a total Mark Shea or Jimmy Akin groupie, does not mean that Father Z’s essay is going to fall in line with how one of those two would have handled Father Z’s assigned subject, or vice versa. And let me tell you in advance: the essay on feminism is going to raise a few hackles. Just will. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

[Note to Tiber River readers on my orthodoxy rating: I didn’t find anything in the book that was contrary to the Catholic faith. But you could be a solid catholic and disagree with some of the opinions presented.]

Keep in mind these are essays. Sounds obvious, I know. But you know how when you a read a blog – even one you really like – there are usually certain types of posts you skip? If you happen to usually skip the long, rousing essays written by your otherwise favorite author, well, here’s a collection of what you were skipping. On the other hand, if you always gloss over the pet-blogging waiting for the big guns, here they are.

The Verdict: A bunch of your are going to really like this book. It’s a compendium of superstar catholic bloggers at their most curmudgeonly, laying into all the weird modern ideologies devoted fans love to hate. Strong appeal potential for anyone who loves a great debating society.