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Eucharist Transforms Bread and Lives


OUR DAILY BREAD: Glimpsing the Eucharist Through the Centuries
SACRED THEN AND SACRED NOW: The Return of the Old Latin Mass
MARRIAGE: The Dream That Refuses to Die
Children's Books for Easter

OUR DAILY BREAD: Glimpsing the Eucharist Through the Centuries, by Ralph Wright, O.S.B. Paulist Press. 160 pp. $16.95.

Reviewed by SISTER JUDITH MESCHER, O.S.C., a Poor Clare nun for over 25 years and now part of Franciscan Monastery of St. Clare in Cincinnati, Ohio.

FOR 2,000 YEARS we have had the gift of the Eucharist as the presence of Jesus Christ in our lives. Ralph Wright gives us a history of that presence through the centuries by recalling the writings of the Church.

Writers through the centuries (this book is arranged chronologically) show the growth of faith and understanding of the Eucharist as a real and tangible presence of Jesus in our lives. It becomes clear that this belief in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is the same for Paul, Justin, Ambrose, Gregory, Francis, Teresa and John Paul II.

In today’s world, our culture teaches us to believe only what we can see and touch and understand. Ralph Wright is recalling us to faith in the very life and presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. For Jesus is our healer through his very Body and Blood or, as St. Ambrose said, “the very medicine that makes us holy.”

St. Symeon (sometimes called the New Theologian, although he lived 1,000 years ago) agrees: “Communion with his Body and Blood gives us life and restores us to holiness and sinlessness—it gives us true freedom.”

St. Thomas Aquinas captures the whole of this book beautifully: “Now in order that we might always keep the memory of this great act of love, he left his body as food and his blood as drink, to be received by the faithful under the appearances of bread and wine.”

Pope Benedict XVI brings the presence of the Eucharist into our own needy and troubled world: “The process of transformation must not stop at the bread and wine. The Body and Blood of Christ are given to us so that we ourselves will be transformed in our turn. We are to become the Body of Christ, his own Flesh and Blood.”

Ralph Wright’s flowing poetry and hymns at the beginning of each century add a different dimension to the writings. The words may help us to grow in faith and understanding of the Eucharist in our lives and to see in new ways the presence of Jesus as life-giving. There is much food for thought and contemplation in his writings.

Being a Poor Clare, I have a life centered in the Eucharist and this is so for Ralph Wright, a Benedictine. His book expresses that great centeredness through the centuries up to this present day and continues to teach people new aspects of the Eucharist in their lives.

As we grow in appreciation of the great sacrifice that Jesus gave by being present in the Eucharist, we become that Eucharist itself and are called to go out to share with others the very Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Pope John Paul II said, “As we draw life from the Eucharist, may we give that very life to others.”

You can order OUR DAILY BREAD: Glimpsing the Eucharist Through the Centuries from St. Francis Bookshop.


JESUS SPEAKS TO ME ON MY FIRST HOLY COMMUNION, by Angela M. Burrin, illustrated by Maria Cristina Lo Cascio. The Word Among Us Press. 46 pp. $12.95.

Reviewed by MARY JO DANGEL, assistant managing editor of this publication.

I WISH THIS BOOK had been available on the many occasions I’ve searched for First Communion gifts. Angela M. Burrin’s short Bible stories, from creation to Pentecost, are told by Jesus. Many of these stories involve food: Adam and Eve forbidden to eat fruit from a specific tree, Moses and the Passover meal, Jesus feeding 5,000 people and Jesus giving his body and blood to his disciples at the Last Supper—the first Mass.

Although this book will be given to many second-graders, I doubt that many of them will have developed the skills to read it until they are a little older. That’s where the giver comes in: reading the story to the First Communicant and listening to the child’s reaction. As a grandma who wears trifocals, I liked the large print.

The book also includes prayers that should be familiar to children making their First Communion, including the Sign of the Cross, the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Act of Contrition.

The cover illustration by Maria Cristina Lo Cascio also appears with the story of Jesus blessing children. This Jesus is portrayed as a huggable teacher who always has time to spend with children.

Making the book inviting to return to over and over is the inclusion of blank pages for the child to insert photos and programs from the special day, record the date and other pertinent information, list the people who came and write special memories of the big event.

My granddaughter, Sarah, who is now a third-grader, says she could read the book now but doesn’t think she could have at the time of her First Communion. But older children will be inclined to read some of the stories whenever they are looking back at the photos and other memories of this most important day in their lives.

You can order JESUS SPEAKS TO ME ON MY FIRST HOLY COMMUNION from St. Francis Bookshop.


WHAT EVERY CATHOLIC NEEDS TO KNOW ABOUT THE EUCHARIST: A Guide for the Liturgical Assembly, by Michael Kwatera, O.S.B. Resource Publications. 56 pp. $9.95.

Reviewed by PAT McCLOSKEY, O.F.M., editor of this publication and a priest for 33 years.

THIS SHORT BOOK from the director of Benedictine oblates and director of liturgy at St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota, explains the flow of the Mass, often making its points through quotes from prayers used at Mass.

The book is really a single chapter. Father Kwatera’s text has 20 subheads, a page of endnotes and a two-page bibliography.

Early on, he writes: “Human life really is one great passover from life to death to eternal life, but there are many mini-passovers in our lives: from sickness to health, brokenness to wholeness, hatred to love, disunity to unity, guilt to forgiveness. The Lord Jesus has given us a special passover moment to strengthen us in our mini-passovers: the Eucharist. The many passovers of human life come together most visibly in our celebration of the Eucharist.”

Father Kwatera continues: “The ultimate eucharistic response of the assembly is to go out as disciples of the Lord Jesus, renewed and refreshed and recommitted to living and being his Body, his presence, in the world.”

Toward the end of the book, Father Kwatera explains: “It is true that the riches of the Eucharist are limitless; Christ’s infinite love for us insures that. Yet as with any meal, we can take away from the eucharistic banquet only as much as we are prepared to receive. A grateful heart increases our capacity for God’s love. May the Holy Spirit give us a healthy appetite for the Lord’s life-giving food.”

This book, which also includes a short section on eucharistic adoration outside Mass, can meet the needs of people in the RCIA, lectors, extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, parish liturgy committee members and all who seek to allow God’s grace in this sacrament to shape their lives.

You can order WHAT EVERY CATHOLIC NEEDS TO KNOW ABOUT THE EUCHARIST: A Guide for the Liturgical Assembly from St. Francis Bookshop.


SACRED THEN AND SACRED NOW: The Return of the Old Latin Mass, by Thomas E. Woods, Jr. Roman Catholic Books. 120 pp. $15.95.

Reviewed by NORM LANGENBRUNNER, a diocesan priest ordained in 1970 and pastor of St. Bernard of Clairvaux Church, Cincinnati, Ohio.

ON JULY 7, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI issued, on his own authority, a papal ordinance permitting use of the 1962 Roman Missal as the “extraordinary form” for celebrating Mass. His motu proprio also made possible a return to the pre-Vatican II rituals for Baptism, Marriage, Penance and Anointing of the Sick.

Sacred Then and Sacred Now is a defense for restoring the Tridentine Mass. The author celebrates the pope’s decision as a liberation of the liturgy of the pre-Vatican II Church and describes the so-called Latin Mass as “a great treasure that deserved its rightful place in the Church.”

Author Thomas Woods reviews Pope Benedict’s reasons for restoring the old Mass (the 1962 Mass was never legally abolished; there is no contradiction between the two missals; restoration of the old Missal may lead to reconciliation with those who have rejected the new Missal) and supports the papal decision by questioning whether a pope (in this case, Pope Paul VI) had the authority to change the rite in the first place.

Woods quotes the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI): “The pope’s authority is bound to the Tradition of faith, and that also applies to the liturgy.”

Woods bolsters his defense of the restoration by stating that the new Mass led to abuses and problems, that the very presence of female altar servers is “objectively a kind of spiritual immodesty,” and that priests alone should distribute Holy Communion because, although priests have a normal human need for exclusive relationship with another, “the priest finds it in his exclusive custodianship of the Eucharist.”

Catholics who want to justify or defend the restoration of the Tridentine Mass will find their arguments in Woods’s book. Catholics who reject the idea of going back to the old way will be appalled by and recoil at the same argumentation.

Neither Pope Benedict in his motu proprio nor Woods in his book addresses the basic norms which the bishops at Vatican II voted to accept in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: 1) the rites should be distinguished by a noble simplicity [#34]; 2) they should be short, clear and free from useless repetitions [#34]; 3) parts which suffered loss through accidents of history are to be restored [#50]; 4) the treasures of the Bible are to be opened up more lavishly [#51]; 5) the “common prayer” or “prayer of the faithful” is to be restored [#53].

Pope Benedict had been warned that his decision to promote the old Mass, even if he called it “the extraordinary form,” would detract from the authority of the Second Vatican Council and would lead to greater disarray or divisions in parishes. In his letter to bishops, the pope said he believed both fears were unfounded. The very publication of Woods’s book underscores that both fears were not unfounded.

It is possible that the publication of Pope Benedict’s Summorum Pontificum and the decision to promote the Tridentine Mass may be the most remembered act of his pontificate. It is more than possible that Thomas Woods’s publication of Sacred Then and Sacred Now will be among the least memorable events of his publishing career.

You can order SACRED THEN AND SACRED NOW: The Return of the Old Latin Mass from St. Francis Bookshop.


THE LITTLE LOST LAMB, written and illustrated by Geri Berger Haines. Pauline Books & Media. 39 pp. $8.95.

Reviewed by CHRISTOPHER HEFFRON, an assistant editor and the poetry editor of St. Anthony Messenger.

WHEN I WAS very young, I was lured away from my dad by the bright, shining lights and loud, interesting noises of the toys in a department store. He turned his back to me for only a second and I was off.

For a few moments, I felt exhilarated, free. One too many unfriendly and unfamiliar faces, however, convinced me that I was too young for such independence. Luckily, within minutes, I found my dad.

I learned a valuable lesson that day. The world can be a terrifying place, full of terrifying faces. When you’re smaller than everybody around you, everybody seems a potential threat. Safety might not always be fun, but it’s always best.

That lesson was also shared by the title character in The Little Lost Lamb, written and illustrated by Geri Berger Haines.

Befitting a children’s book, the premise is rather simple: A restless lamb thirsts for adventure and leaves the safety of the flock (and a kind shepherd who bears a striking resemblance to Jesus) for the big world. At first, the lamb is captivated by the sights, sounds and smells around him. But a leg injury and run-ins with a few hungry, unpleasant animals force the lamb to regret deviating from what is safe and comfortable.

Since children’s books rarely end in carnage, I’m giving nothing away when I say that the lamb doesn’t become a meal for some vicious carnivore. The shepherd finds his lost sheep and brings him back to the flock, wounded but wiser.

Geri Berger Haines presents the timeless parable of the sheep and shepherd in an engaging and appealing manner. Parents can use this sweet tale as a lesson to those who have a need to wander too far in both their geographical and spiritual lives. God finds us no matter how far we tend to stray. Thanks to this author and illustrator, forgiveness and redemption have never looked quite so cute.

While the tribulations of the injured lamb can prove just a trifle cloying for adult readers, Catholics of the toddler demographic should remain steadfastly engrossed in the plight of this naïve but brave-hearted lamb.

You can orderTHE LITTLE LOST LAMB from St. Francis Bookshop.


MARRIAGE: The Dream That Refuses to Die, by Elizabeth Fox-Genovese. ISI Books. 191 pp. $25.

Reviewed by SHARON TOMKO GREENBERG, an editorial assistant at St. Anthony Messenger.

ALTHOUGH THE BOOK is titled Marriage: The Dream That Refuses to Die, this is not a book of dreams and romance. Instead, with the skills of an educator and the passion of a reformer, Elizabeth (Betsy) Fox-Genovese traces a history of the human desire to be loved as well as valued members of society.

While celebrating the literary images of longing and exaltation between individuals, she notes the practice of arranged marriages. Even among the ancient civilizations, there was a struggle between two competing agendas: immediate personal satisfaction and the long-term demands upon the individual for a family’s survival and improved quality of life.

Fox-Genovese directs the reader to appreciate our American ideals, life and law. Her source material for the book comes from three lectures given at Princeton University when she was their distinguished visiting scholar in 2003-2004.

The book, with its citations and references, may be enjoyed by scholars but it created a bit of a reader’s bog for me. Yet, having points that are verifiable is refreshing.

Fox-Genovese exposes the intent of those who would abuse one of our nation’s most treasured resources, our freedom of speech. Clearly dismayed, she challenges us to note the "parallels between the movements for abortion and same-sex marriage and [hear] their clever use of rhetoric [seeking] to obscure their shared goal of reducing or erasing communal claims upon the individual.” Behind the appealing rhetoric of same-sex marriage proponents and pro-abortion proponents lies a frightening new world in which all relations are “contracts of realization of desire.”

Such a theoretical unpinning renders human relations by definition “temporary and volitional,” and beyond the accountability that preserves both our integrity and our species. Such legal and political agendas serve, ultimately, “to liberate the individual from all binding engagements.”

Fox-Genovese has given voice to my own misgivings as I hear legislators speak of expedient needs and necessary funds to control our cities’ population or temporary marital contracts to serve the public good.

You can order MARRIAGE: The Dream That Refuses to Die from St. Francis Bookshop.


Children’s Books for Easter

The Crucifixion and Resurrection are the central elements of our Christian faith. These books, intended for children, can return all of us to the heart of the story.

THE CHILDREN’S BIBLE, by Sally Tagholm (DK Publishing, 356 pp., $24.99), is an elegant retelling of the Bible stories, based on the New International Version of the Bible. Its lavish original artwork (most in four-color), gilt-edged pages and a ribbon marker make it a great choice for children older than 10. Besides the stories from the Old and New Testaments, the book has a glossary of the Bible’s key characters and a good index. Time lines and great sidebar information like features on King Herod and the Jewish revolt of the first century are helpful.

THE EASTER CAVE, by Carol Wedeven, illustrated by Len Ebert (Concordia Publishing House, 32 pp., $9.99, hardcover; $6.99, paperback), is aimed at children ages four through seven and uses memorable repetition to tell the Good Friday and Easter story.

EASTER ABCs, by Isabel Anders, illustrated by Shelly Rasche (Concordia Publishing House, 32 pp., $8.99, hardcover/$5.99, paper), presents quatrains that compress the Easter message into a form two- to five-year-olds can understand.


Books can be obtained through St. Francis Bookshop on the Web or at 8621 Winton Road, Cincinnati, OH 45231, phone 1-800-241-6392. All orders must be prepaid. Add $4 for postage and handling, $2 more for each additional book. Ohio residents should also add 6.5 percent for sales tax. The Bookshop offers a free catalog.

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