Books: February 2009 Archives

RJN2.jpgI am still saddened by the death of Father Richard John Neuhaus. Many are. I pray for him regularly at Mass and while saying the rosary and I find myself wondering what he'd say about this or that today. First Things arrived the other day and I shelved it temporarily because I've got other things to read first (what, I am not going to drop everything to read FT???); I look forward with eagerness to read to First Things as much today as when I first was introduced to the magazine by friend Father Edward Oakes but I have to admit it is still a little awkward seeing RJN's name on the cover.


One of the last gifts he gave to us is the forthcoming book, American Babylon: Notes of a Christian Exile. It's not a book from the grave as it was in production long before RJN got ill and died. I am looking forward to it as I have looked forward to everything RJN wrote for publication or said in the public forum.


Available from Amazon

A Google preview of American Babylon


Product description


neuhaus_american_babylon.jpgChristians are by their nature a people out of place. Their true home is with God; in civic life, they are alien citizens "in but not of the world." In American Babylon, eminent theologian Richard John Neuhaus examines the particular truth of that ambiguity for Catholics in America today.


Neuhaus addresses the essential quandaries of Catholic life--assessing how Catholics can keep their heads above water in the sea of immorality that confronts them in the world, how they can be patriotic even though their true country is not in this world, and how they might reconcile their duties as citizens with their commitment to God. Deeply learned, frequently combative, and always eloquent, American Babylon is Neuhaus's magnum opus--and will be essential reading for all Christians.


Let me recommend to you the Richard John Neuhaus Online Archive, a well stocked blog of materials by or on Father Richard.

In Church, I seem to frequently sit in the dollar section. What I find curious is that those who merely give dollar are the same ones who drive luxur cars, have good jobs and take beautiful vacations. When it comes time to give to the Church's ministry these same people don't give the traditional tithe and nor do they give 5%. I think some pastors are happy if they get 1-2% from the congregants. Why are Christians --and I am particularly speaking of Catholics here-- so miserly when it comes to supporting the Church and giving gifts to the priests. For goodness sake, priests don't even get a fruit basket at Easter any more let alone a gift on the anniversary of ordination! Ecclesial ministry is not about the perks, it is a about the cross and resurrection of Christ, but there is a tradition of showing respect and love for those who Passing the Plate.jpgpreach the God's Word. Christian Smith, a Sociologist at the University of Notre Dame (my alma mater) co-authored a book on the giving patterns of Christians today. Passing the Plate: Why American Christians Don't Give Away More Money, is published by Oxford University Press. The book is "Making use of social surveys, government and denominational reports, and interviews with Christian pastors and church members, the book assesses such influences on charity as consumerist culture, mistrust of the policies and competence of nonprofit administrators, the hesitation of clergy to ask for money, and the mechanisms by which American Christians give. It also suggests ways that clergy and lay church leaders might convince their congregations of the imperative of generosity." I agree with one reviewer: this is ought to be required reading for serious pastors not because of a need for money but what it is says about thinking of Christians in the pew.

The press release

Dr Smith is also the director of Notre Dame's Center for the Study of Religion and Society

PS: I am reminded of the purpose of the common fund collected in the ecclesial movement of Communion & Liberation:

From the Movement's beginnings, one of its most educative actions has been the so-called "common fund." This is a fund whose aim is the furthering of the Movement's work through support of missionary, charitable, and cultural activities. Everyone gives freely to this fund, contributing monthly a percentage of income (at the beginning of the Movement's history this was called the "tithe"). The purpose of this gesture is to witness to a communal concept of personal property and a growth in awareness of poverty as an evangelical virtue. The amount each one gives is not important, but what matters is the seriousness with which one fulfills this freely made commitment. It is this seriousness that permits each person to be educated to charity.

Would that clergy and people take the same idea up in the parish?

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]



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This page is a archive of entries in the Books category from February 2009.

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