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Book Review: Food for the Soul by Dr. Peter Kreeft

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Generations of Boston College students have been profoundly influenced by the wisdom, intelligence and wit of philosophy professor Peter Kreeft. Countless readers have benefited from his voluminous writings. Bishop Robert Barron’s Word on Fire Institute is arguably the world’s most sophisticated and effective communicator of the New Evangelization. So, when Dr. Kreeft and Bishop Barron join together on a project, its tremendous success is not surprising. Such is the case with Food for the Soul, Dr. Kreeft’s reflections on the Sunday Mass readings during Liturgical Year C.

In his book’s introduction, Dr. Kreeft names two intended audiences: priests who want a little help with their Sunday homilies and “the laity who are hungry for more of the ‘bread of life.’” It is no mean feat to write both for seminary- trained clergy and the average person in the pew who—no matter how well-read—rarely has the priest’s theological knowledge and formation. But among Dr. Kreeft’s gifts is his ability to speak to both audiences, such that he is neither talking down to clergy, nor over the heads of laity.

The sturdily bound book’s layout is straightforward. Each Sundays’ three readings are presented and followed by Dr. Kreeft’s separate reflections, with a ribbon bookmark to keep your place. He combines his vast theological knowledge with the philosophical apologist’s rhetorical skill to both plumb the readings’ depths and demonstrate their application in our own devotional lives. He has the homily in mind, so these are not simply academic commentaries on the readings, but practical meditations on how the readings apply to a Catholic’s spiritual journey at every place along the road. Or, to use the book’s own metaphor, Dr. Kreeft both whets the appetite and provides food for the soul.

Perhaps the most important aspect of Food for the Soul is how Dr. Kreeft weaves the readings together from week to week, rather than treat each Sunday as discrete and separate from the prior or subsequent ones. He often refers back or ahead, to help readers understand that our Christian lives are part of the liturgical year’s continuous narrative. He invites us not simply to read, but to enter into the story of creation, fall, redemption and church through a rich variety of metaphors and analogies, to which we all can relate and from which we all can grow.

Here’s one of countless examples that strikes me as especially effective, for the seventh Sunday of Easter: “If splinters from the cross aren’t drawing any blood from you, you are probably not close enough to the Man who suffered and died on it for you.”

Food for the Soul is a triumphant collaboration between two of the most effective Catholic communicators in the U.S. I highly recommend it for every household.

Food for the Soul: Reflections on the Mass Readings, Cycle C by Dr. Peter Kreeft is published by Word on Fire Institute. It is available for purchase at bookstore.wordonfire.org, $34.96.

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