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CNS reviews books, May 10

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By Allan F. Wright Catholic News Service

Henry Libersat, a deacon for the Diocese of Orlando, Fla., offers a timely book on practical ways to speak about Jesus and the church in “Catholic and Confident: Simple Steps to Share Your Faith” (Servant Books; Cincinnati, 2012; 93 pp., $10.99).

The beauty of Deacon Libersat’s book lies in its practicality. Catholics are often intimidated by the word evangelization, viewing it as a Protestant word or associating it with imposing one’s belief on another. Catholics have often used the excuse of not knowing everything about the faith to exclude them from talking about Jesus or the church.

He states early on that: “It is our love of God and neighbor, rather than academic degrees, which brings people to Christ and his church. This duty and privilege is for all Catholics.”

Deacon Libersat shares his own story of continual conversion to Christ as a cradle Catholic. He was taught the teachings of Jesus and the church yet had with no encounter with Jesus until later in life. His personal acceptance of God’s love for him changed him dramatically in 1976 as he went from a person who knew about Christ to someone who had a personal relationship with Christ.

He points to models of faith-sharing from characters in the Scriptures. The account in St. John’s Gospel of the man “blind from birth” who received his sight back is highlighted. The blind man simply was made aware of Jesus, recognizes Jesus in a new way and begins to follow Jesus. Deacon Libersat challenges the reader to identify “your own personal experience with God’s saving love and the stories of other people you know are the essential and foundational messages that will bring people to Christ.”

This book is an excellent tool for Catholics and especially useful for grandparents who have been faithful Catholics throughout the years yet may find it difficult to articulate who Jesus is to them to family and friends.

Patrick Madrid, one of the country’s premier Catholic apologists, takes a look back over his many years defending and explaining the Catholic position to various people on a myriad of topics in “Envoy for Christ: 25 Years as a Catholic Apologist” (Servant Books; Cincinnati, 2012; 315 pp., $19.99). He begins by tracing the roots of his entrance into the field of Catholic apologetics early in 1988 when Karl Keating transitioned from “doing apologetics as a part-time hobby to a full-time enterprise.”

This book takes excerpts from Madrid’s radio, magazine and personal encounters with those who call into question and even outright attack the Catholic Church and gives you an insider view of the nature of the questions and the Catholic response. One naturally becomes emboldened about the church and its fidelity to Christ through Madrid’s clear explanation of Catholic teaching as he also dispels the misinformation so many believe about the church and Catholic teachings.

Most Catholics lack the depth of knowledge Madrid has accrued over the years and this book provides insight to the strength and reason of the Catholic position and the authority of the Catholic Church, which he makes accessible to the average person in the pew or those who no longer enter the pew.

As a defender of the Catholic faith for 25 years, Madrid exhibits courage by wading into hostile waters and witnessing to other Catholics that they have reasons to believe which are founded solidly in Scripture, tradition and reason.

The personal way he writes makes this book much more than a resource for disputed questions focusing on Catholic belief and practice.

“Yours Is the Church: How Catholicism Shapes Our World,” by Mike Aquilina (Servant Books; Cincinnati, 2012; 134 pp., $14.99), focuses on the role the Catholic Church has played in culture, history and society and how the church has been a positive agent for change over the centuries.

In his introduction he makes the bold claim that “everything about our modern world we think is good is there because of the church.” He continues to support that thesis by giving examples of how the Catholic Church nurtured modern science, made music great, inspired great works of art and literature, made women and children people and elevated human dignity.

In one of his more moving chapters, Aquilina speaks about how the Christian concept of philanthropy and charity was revolutionary because while others in society have been charitable, the focus was on themselves so charity’s intention was not to raise the poor but themselves. “Roman philanthropy was really a matter of drawing attention to the philanthropist. It was not a response to the needs of the poor; in fact, the more gaudy and useless the display, the more effective it was at producing the proper impression of lavish generosity.”

While Aquilina doesn’t go too in depth with each topic he does provides the reader with enough information to make a valid point.

At a time when the contribution of the Catholics is written out of history and the voice of the church seems to be viewed as irrelevant, this book renews a sense of honor to the way Catholics have promoted advances in the arts and sciences and restored the dignity to the human person which comes from God.

This book would be an ideal gift for younger readers who have little or no idea of the church’s contribution in forming society and giving them information to help them challenge those who may disregard the Catholic Church or attack it.

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Wright is academic dean for evangelization in the Diocese of Paterson, N.J., and the author of several books, most recently “Jesus the Evangelist: A Gospel Guide to the New Evangelization” (Franciscan Media). He lives with his wife and three children in New Jersey.

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