BOOKS in my stack, recently received and other

Someone asked me what I was reading these days.   Frankly, I am not into all that much at the moment, since I am catching up on some things.  However, I have recently received some books that I intend to get into.

On, second thought, one of these I have already gotten well into and it is bearing a lot of fruit in my mind and heart.

The great Card. Sarah’s book in English translation.  I had spent time with it in the French original, but of course it is a little easy to read in one’s native tongue.  The translation is dependable.

I warmly recommend this for priests.

The Day Is Now Far Spent

Coincidently, in the Novus Ordo today, I believe the Gospel is the meeting of disciples with Christ on the road to Emmaus.

This book is intended for slow exploration.  Proof of this intention lies in the very construction of the cover, which has extension flaps that can be used as bookmarks.

I was sent a copy of a new translation into English of St. Robert Bellarmine’s…

On The Most Holy Sacrifice Of The Mass

Bellarmine, Doctor of the Church, is one of the greatest of minds which Holy Church has produced.

The other day, I gave a remote talk to a group in Washington DC via ZOOM.  A question had been put to me about resources for the spiritual life during this time of COVID lockdown.  I focused on traditional  things, since I knew that this was not their usual focus.  I explained that while there are good recent sources for our study and reflection, having the older, well-tested materials also was like adding ranks and registers of a great pipe organ, which will build waves of harmonics as it thunders in the vaults of the mind.

Imagine spending time with Bellarmine thinking about the Mass.  As a matter of fact, his work, old as it is, in timely.  Why? I ran into something at a liberal liturgy blog which suggested that the writer understood little or nothing about the priest’s own Communion during Mass, thus underscoring the question: When has Mass been celebrated?  When the species are consecrated and separated?  When they are co-mingled?  What is the essence of the Mass?   These are important questions, for they also have to do with concelebration and the Communion of priests, with Mass stipends, with fulfilling obligations.

In a time when a large majority of Catholics (catholics?) don’t know or don’t believe what the Church teaches about the Eucharist, Bellarmine speaks to us clearly.  He was in an environment when clarity was necessary.

Also there is a section on “Private Masses” which is terribly interesting, especially right now when so many priests are saying Mass privately.


America on Trial: A Defense Of The Founding by Robert R. Reilly

I haven’t cracked this much except to look at the forward which has a direct explanation of the book.  Starting from the principle, “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God”, we read, “The purpose of this book is to explain that law, show its preciousness, and begin to contrast it with our contemporary ways.  It prepares us to formulate the case to save ourselves.”   Note: It is published by Ignatius Press.


Swords and Shadows: Navigating Youth Amidst the Wiles of Satan by Charles D. Fraune.

Note the cover art by Tissot.

The author is a high school teacher who desires, “to give the real Truth” to his students.  He really believes in the Devil and the attacks of the Enemy on the soul.

The author says from the nonce: “The plight of the youth is why I wrote this book: to share what I have seen, experienced and learned about this war.”  The Church which Jesus Christ has instituted has perfected the art of spiritual warfare and is constantly training new soldiers.  Learn to see how Satan acts and attacks and resist him.  Take up the weapons of Holy Mother Church.  Wait no longer.  Fight, and be free.”

There are practical tips in this book for young people about things common to them, for example, music.  Included are prayers and an examination of conscience.  This is a manual.


by the same author…

Slaying Dragons

Note the subtitle: “What exorcists see and what we should know“.

A couple chapters might be of particular interest

Chapter 9 – Resisting Diabolical Influence
Chapter 10 – Protecting Your Spiritual Life

Here is an excerpt from the Introduction:

Anyone who is paying attention to spiritual matters at this time in the history of the world is aware that things are quite destabilized. The practice of the Christian faith is dying in most parts of the world. The majority of Catholics do not believe the teachings of the church and do not even attend Sunday mass regularly. Many Catholics, in addition to many Protestant groups, are capitulating to the spirit of the world and embracing as good those acts which have always been seen as gravely immoral. Exorcisms, and a demand for them, are on the rise all throughout the world. In the US, the number of adherents of paganism and witchcraft have risen two figures surpassing the number of registered Presbyterians. Satanists feel quite comfortable being out in the open and US laws have been proven powerless to stop the spread of this evil into the public sectors of our society.

In the midst of this perfect storm, many church leaders have demonstrated themselves to be unwilling to teach the fullness of the Church’s traditions in matters of belief and practice. As a result, most Catholics do not believe, or even think twice about, the existence of the devil or spiritual warfare, even though Sacred Scripture is filled with references to this aspect of our spiritual lives. Further, due to the rising number of Catholics who live and remain in a state of mortal sin, exposure to the influence of the diabolical is extremely high. These Catholics, though, are completely unaware of the spiritual danger they are in, and of the weapons they can use to protect themselves and combat the demons that pursue them.

Perfect storm, indeed.

Folks, we are at war.


A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II by Adam Makos

I have a strong helping of military history and writing by warfighters in my reading diet.  I find it invaluable for what I do for reasons that are obvious.

This book introduces two men who would eventually face each other in the sky on opposite sides of hostilities.  What happened would be called “the most incredible encounter between enemies in WWII.”  I haven’t gotten into this at all, but I am intrigued.

Also, I see a theme that runs through the stack.

For your consideration.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. bobbird says:

    Also add to the list, a short read and easily found online, is the French Catholic economist/statesman Frederic Bastiat and the iconic “The Law”. Writing at the dawn of socialism in the mid-19th century, he saw through it and explains its evil with simplicity and brevity. I have found non-scholastically inclined HS seniors warm generously to the work.

  2. It is very good and timely that St. Robert Bellarmine is finally being introduced to the English-speaking world. We really need his refutations of the many errors that still plague the Church, and his clarity concerning the papacy, about which he wrote extensively.

    Ryan Grant, the translator of Bellarmine’s works, is a walking encyclopedia and fascinating to listen to. Also a traditional Catholic and fellow Idahoan. Let it never be said: can any good thing come from Idaho?

  3. acardnal says:

    Thanks for this! I always enjoy learning what you are reading.

  4. Michael in NoVA says:

    I read A Higher Call a few years ago. It is a very powerful book. The author also starts out convicted that he will never say anything nice about Germans from WWII. What happens? Well, I don’t want to spoil it for you.

    One warning, Father. Once you get 100 pages in, you’ll find yourself lost to the world as you try to finish it. :)

  5. Joe in Canada says:

    Bellarmine – Saint, Doctor – and SJ
    Father, is your heart softening towards the SJ?

    [There’s then and there’s now. There are some and there are others. Qui distinguit…]

  6. Semper Gumby says:

    Thanks Fr. Z and Michael in NoVA for the recommendations of St. Bellarmine and A Higher Call.

    Card. Sarah’s The Day Is Now Far Spent is worth reading. Though, there is a section around pp. 230-50 where the Cardinal miscomprehends the West, America, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Russia. No problem, the Cardinal is entitled to his opinion. There are many other chapters in the good Cardinal’s book rich in insight and inspiration.

  7. Lockwood says:

    For tales of spiritual (and sometimes physical!) warfare, I recommend the Problems of Human Happiness series by Fr. Owen Francis Dudley. The protagonist is the “Masterful Monk”, Father Anselm Thornton. The series is not fully available on Amazon. St. Bonaventure Publications however is producing hardcover reprints. The first volume, “Will Men by Like Gods”, isn’t yet available, so start with the second volume, “The Shadow on the Earth”, and take it from there in order.

  8. Lockwood says:

    PS. Fr. Dudley served as a chaplain in the First World War and was wounded in action. He subsequently was very active in the Catholic Missionary Society of England. The “Masterful Monk” books were written before the middle of the last century, and the stories are very much rooted in their times (for example, Fr. Dudley was very worried about the rise of Bolshevism and the great popularity of materialist writings by the likes of H. G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw). Some of the vignettes and characterizations can be jarring to modern readers.

  9. Semper Gumby says:

    To continue with the theme of Fr. Z’s recommendation of “A Higher Call” here is the story of Captain Roy Woolridge.

    In 1942 Capt. Roy Woolridge, a British Engineer officer, fought at the Battle of El Alamein in Egypt. This battle ended in defeat for the German General Erwin Rommel.

    In early 1944 Capt. Woolridge was in England, assigned to a commando unit covertly scouting the Normandy beaches and mapping the minefields and obstacles. Gen. Rommel was in France, commanding the German forces assigned to repel any Allied landings.

    An excerpt from a Daily Telegraph article of Nov. 20, 2014:

    “Captain Roy Wooldridge, who was in the Royal Engineers, was taken prisoner during a covert night-time mission to examine submerged mines along the French beaches weeks before the D-Day landings.

    “He was not wearing his Army uniform, nor carrying identification, due to the intense secrecy surrounding D-Day. He was treated as a spy and ought to have been shot.

    “But Field Marshall Rommel, in charge of Germany’s “Atlantic Wall” defences and highly respected by the British, requested he personally question the new prisoner at a chateau in Brittany.

    “Capt Wooldridge, a hero of the Battle of El Alamein two years earlier at which Rommel was defeated by the Allies, was stunned when he was presented to the high-ranking officer.

    “Rommel, known as the Desert Fox, asked the Briton if there was anything he needed, to which Capt Wooldridge cheekily replied “a good meal, a pint of beer and a packet of cigarettes”.

    “To his astonishment, his wish was granted when he was ushered into Rommel’s mess where all three items were waiting for him.

    “Capt Wooldridge ate the food, drank the stein of lager and smoked the German cigarettes, but kept the empty packet as a souvenir. Thanks to Rommel, he survived and was sent on to a prisoner of war camp.

    “Now aged 95, Capt Wooldridge is to appear on BBC1’s Antiques Roadshow on Sunday, where he will tell expert Graham Lay his story.”

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