Category Archives: Book Review


I just finished reading a book. I recommend it to you, especially, to read during these forty days (not too many of which are left…) The nice fellow who wrote an introduction to the book said: “The thinkers examined in this book have all grown unbearably uncomfortable with the current metaphysical arrangements. Each reimagines the Judeo-Christian epic in global, transcultural, and macrohistorical terms and in the process refigures our relationship to God and our place in the cosmos.” (Goodness! One of the ways to know you are quoting from a brainy tome these days is to look at what your spell-checker doesn’t know.)

Father O’Sullivan, may he rest in peace, used to recommend me to the care and protection of Our Lady of Divine Discontent when as a young man I would sometimes sit with him and grumble about structures and strictures, position and privilege…and stupidity. He liked a letter I wrote which was published in my college newspaper; and smiled at me.

In that letter I had grumbled about buildings and busyness, rules and rites, walls and wished for no walls at all before finishing by writing: “I would have no church at all.”

Along with one of my teachers the long suffering priest said, “You are young, Peter.”

Now I know that without walls there is no way to have windows to open.  Or, to have windows to break.  Without walls what use is a portico?

Towards the very end of his book (proof that I read that far) the author writes about something he calls “ontological dissent”, and quotes some fellow who goes on a bit about “rules” of one kind or another which he he uses to argue that we should finally consent to only one rule: “the rule of the way of the world.”

Fine, I supposed.  “What is that?”

The author doesn’t say.  What he does say is this:  “The thinkers here would undoubtedly agree, but they would point out that there is another rule: the Rule of St. Benedict.  And that in the monastic life, we see a synthesis of distributist economics combined with a metahistorical critique.”  He could have saved the jawbreaker words and simply said “it’s common sense.)

My spellchecker needs a check-up.

Let me know if you would be interested in reading the book, and I will tell you its name.  There are no pictures.

Saints vs. Sinners

This is a book review.  Those of you not interested, those seeking yet one more re-telling of that great play (there is always one, isn’t there?) seek your satisfaction in another place.

We just finished reading The Secret Cardinal, by Tom Grace, and thought it the perfect thing for a whole bunch of people.  First of all, it’s a “Tech” book; a thriller in the style of Tom Clancy’s thrillers.  It has a lot of military and high tech jargon for you computer fans.  It has a lot of what I would call John Wayne shoot-’em-ups.  It also has the Chi-Coms and the Mafia bonded in misery to inflict harm on everyone, everywhere.

That latter is a moral judgment on my part.  But, who better to bond in misery?

Most of the action takes place in Rome, inside Vatican City, and in various places inside China. A team of highly trained warriors and Our Hero, Nolan Kilkenny, a tall, handsome, red-haired, Irish-Catholic…can you tell why I like the book?…infiltrate themselves into China to rescue an imprisoned bishop of the underground Catholic Church from Chifeng prison, a place where he has languished in solitary confinement for decades.  Of course they face the stock challenges; sadistic, psychopathic, murdering Chinese secret police, Machiavellian mafia plotters and skullduggers, betrayal and the odd technical failure.

But, they also meet courage, purity and faith; wisdom, kindness and grace.  That’s what made this, for me, such an unusually satisfying book to read.  And, of course the book has all of the stock characters, the pretty girl, the tough old “gunny”, the knowing old Man (in the form of the Cardinal Camerlengo), the brave and self-sacrificing soldiers and the pure and simple peasants.

Everything is put in motion by a John Paul II clone whose dying wish is for the bishop’s freedom and return to Rome.  It only adds body to the soup that the rescue attempt unfolds during a conclave and the search for a traitor inside the Vatican.

How that unfolds, how the whole story unfolds, is worth a few night’s reading, or one long afternoon during the next few months when the TV screen is, praise God!, free of the roar of the crowd and Budweiser ads.

There’s several graphically related scenes of violence you may wish hadn’t been there.  I found them and the detailed references to the types and qualities of such things as wines…the atmospherics, if you will…a bit over done.

I’ll give it three Soup Spoons.  Since I do a bit of cooking for a living, that’s my rating system.  So, three spoons.  It holds together well, and nourishes both body and soul.  What Mr. Grace has his humble bishop say about forgiveness is worth the price of admission.