NEW BOOK: Heroism and Genius: How Catholic Priests Helped Build—and Can Help Rebuild—Western Civilization

I recently received a book by Fr. William J. Slattery which has been truly intrigued.

Heroism and Genius: How Catholic Priests Helped Build—and Can Help Rebuild—Western Civilization


What’s this about?   Our author says:

With stubborn facts historians have given their verdict: from the cultures of the Jews, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, and Germanic peoples, the Catholic Church built a new and original civilization, embodying within its structures the Christian vision of God and man, time and eternity.

The construction and maintenance of Western civilization, amid attrition and cultural earthquakes, is a saga spread over sixteen hundred years. During this period, Catholic priests, because they numbered so many men of heroism and genius in their ranks, and also due to their leadership positions, became the pioneers and irreplaceable builders of Christian culture and sociopolitical order.

Heroism and Genius presents some of these formidable men: fathers of chivalry and free-enterprise economics; statesmen and defiers of tyrants; composers, educators, and architects of some of the world’s loveliest buildings; and, paradoxically, revolutionary defenders of romantic love.

Okay?   Yes, every priest, seminarian and prospective seminarian needs this book.   Lay people need this book.

Think about how much our Catholic identity depends on the influence of priests.   So, formation of priests as priests seems to be pretty important.   Priests are formed not only by priests. They are formed by parents and parishes and present trends.   However, they are also, I hope, formed by priests of the past, great figures and saints.

Another note.

I’ve started to read.  This guy can really write.  His prose is wonderful.  Listen to this… from the beginning of the Preface…

To set the tone in the introduction, Slattery opens with Aragorn’s instruction of Boromir about the role of the Dúnedain, the difference between Gondor and the North, the hidden labors of the misunderstood men of the North.  Tolkien‘s words, mind you, not the dreadful gruel from Philippa Boyens in the movies.  It’s a strong opening image (especially if you are a traditional priest these days:

‘But my home, such as I have, is in the North. For here the heirs of Valandil have ever dwelt in long line unbroken from father unto son for many generations. Our days have darkened, and we have dwindled; but ever the Sword has passed to a new keeper. And this I will say to you, Boromir, ere I end. Lonely men are we, Rangers of the wild, hunters — but hunters ever of the servants of the Enemy; for they are found in many places, not in Mordor only.

‘If Gondor, Boromir, has been a stalwart tower, we have played another part. Many evil things there are that your strong walls and bright swords do not stay. You know little of the lands beyond your bounds. Peace and freedom, do you say? The North would have known them little but for us. Fear would have destroyed them. But when dark things come from the houseless hills, or creep from sunless woods, they fly from us. What roads would any dare to tread, what safety would there be in quiet lands, or in the homes of simple men at night, if the Dúnedain were asleep, or were all gone into the grave?

‘And yet less thanks have we than you. Travellers scowl at us, and countrymen give us scornful names. “Strider” I am to one fat man who lives within a day’s march of foes that would freeze his heart or lay his little town in ruin, if he were not guarded ceaselessly. Yet we would not have it otherwise. If simple folk are free from care and fear, simple they will be, and we must be secret to keep them so. That has been the task of my kindred, while the years have lengthened and the grass has grown.

‘But now the world is changing once again. A new hour comes. Isildur’s Bane is found. Battle is at hand. The Sword shall be reforged.

Sets the tone.

And there is the book’s alluring structure…  I dare you to use my link, above, and then click on the book image for a preview of the Table of Contents.  I suspect you’ll be hooked.

Also… while this is an engaging read, it’ll keep you read for quite a while.  Interspersed with illustrations, there’s a lot of text.

For scale.

This is a winner.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Hard-Identity Catholicism, Priests and Priesthood, REVIEWS, Seminarians and Seminaries and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Henry Edwards says:

    “I dare you to use my link, above, and then click on the book image for a preview of the Table of Contents. I suspect you’ll be hooked.”

    I did, and was. Just downloaded it to my Kindle and that of a favorite priest.

  2. jaykay says:

    Thank you, Father. I’ve just downloaded the free sample for Kindle and will probably buy it. In fact, the hardcover option looks very attractive, as a book I’d like to have in my permanent collection.

    So that looks like my Christmas reading is sorted! Thanks again.

  3. Mariana2 says:

    Henry Edwards says:
    “I did, and was.”
    Same here.

  4. Pingback: Of Self-Evident Proofs… | The Deus Ex Machina Blog

  5. Uxixu says:

    I love book Aragorn. None of the self doubt or inner conflict of movie Aragorn, but a man who knows himself and is confident and assertive. The ultimate hero.


  7. Semper Gumby says:

    Thanks Fr. Z, this book is added to the reading list.

    I understand there are LOTR movie fans, but the remarks here of “dreadful gruel” and “movie Aragorn” reinforce my decision to never see those movies.

    Great Tolkien excerpt to set the tone.

Comments are closed.