By: Colin Kerr
Any father would want health for his children and happiness for his wife most of all. Thank God that, for as much as these two things are possible in this vale of tears, both of these were received this year.
This father would also want books. This is what I ask for most Christmases. This year my wife was particularly successful and chose these three great books: On the Dormition of Mary: Early Patristic Homilies, translated and introduced by Brian Daley (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1998), St. Germanus of Constantinople, On the Divine Liturgy (SVSP, 1999), and Karl-Josef Kuschel, Laughter: A Theological Reflection (Continuum, 1994). I had never heard of the latter, but it looks quite interesting, as it surveys perspectives on laughter from Homer all the way up to Umberto Eco, with the Bible playing a big role in between. I can’t say much more about it at this point, since I haven’t read it yet. The other two will be winners, as is everything from SVSP. I love the Fathers, as you know. Now I have about a dozen of the cute and yet incredibly valuable books of that publisher’s “Popular Patristic Series.”
You will remember St. Germanus from my post on the feast of St. John Damascene and the Iconoclastic Controversy. As for the homilies on Mary’s Dormition (or sleep, i.e. death), this substantial volume contains homilies from both St. John Damascene and St. Germanus as well as from St. Andrew of Crete and others.
I also gave myself a present – actually two presents – during my visit to Ottawa yesterday, which included my mandatory visit to my favorite used bookstore in that city, Book Bizarre. What would a man like me pick up who already possesses far more books than he’ll likely be able to read in the near future, especially when this particular bookstore contains so many treasures? Well, I purchased Joseph Pearce, Literary Converts (Ignatius, 1999) and P. N. Furbank, Diderot: A Critical Biography (Knopf, 1992).
The former likely requires no explanation from me for why I purchased it, other than for why I would purchase this book when Ignatius Press is so generous to me, regularly sending me so many of its great books to review? The simple answer: I really want to read it and don’t want to wait and hope that they will send it to me. The second choice requires some comment. I find the ‘Enlightenment’ fascinating. Its intellectual curiosity and, frankly, naivety, with respect to the religion and morality anyway, fascinate me. Diderot was, of course, one of the most influential (and naïve) figures associated with this movement. I like to read deeply about every aspect of our cultural history, but this one is obviously very directly pertinent to the cultural war we face today.
Suffice it to say that I shall review all of these books for you in due time. And perhaps I should get in the habit of regularly reminding you that I can’t do this without your financial support, whether that is by means of taking out a subscription to the Review or by making a donation. You can do either through this website. Or, consider mailing a check, if that is your preference. Let’s have a culturally-rich and faithfully-Catholic New Year! And help me to do what I can to make that happen…