We’re excited to share Bishop Barron’s newest book, Vibrant Paradoxes: The Both/And of Catholicism. Read below to discover the Foreword by Dr. Peter Kreeft, philosopher, apologist, and author of over 70 books, along with a special, limited time offer….
IMPORTANT NOTE: For the next 48 hours, if you order a copy of Vibrant Paradoxes from Amazon and then forward your receipt to [email protected], we’ll email you three free bonus eBooks by Bishop Barron:
- BONUS #1 – Bishop Barron’s Recommended Books (eBook)
- BONUS #2 – How to Discern God’s Will for Your Life (eBook)
- BONUS #3 – Thomas Aquinas 101 (eBook)
But here’s the deal: these bonuses are limited to the earliest customers. The first 500 people who send in their receipts will receive all three eBooks. However, the next 500 will only receive the first two eBooks, and the next 500 will only receive the first eBook. After that, the bonuses dissapear.
The final deadline for getting your free bonuses is Thursday, May 19 at midnight ET, so don’t delay!
(If you’ve already purchased the book from Word on Fire, don’t worry. We didn’t forget about you! You should have received an email with links to all three bonuses. If you purchased the book from Amazon or elsewhere in the past, you’re still eligible. Just forward your receipt to [email protected].)
Any publisher will tell you that collections of short essays usually sell as well as thread. But this book will be a best seller, because these little gems are pearls.
My most common response when asked to write a Foreword, or a recommendation to a publisher, or a blurb for a book, is a polite “thanks but no thanks.” I am a curmudgeon, for I have read so many books that I am bored with most of them. Occasionally I will say yes because the manuscript sent to me is worth publishing; but even then I usually merely do my duty, like a professor reading a term paper, giving it just a good enough read to know it is good enough to publish, but without much passion, love, fire, or enthusiasm, and certainly not reading the whole thing from cover to cover with delight. That is how it is with 90% of the books I’m sent, and 100% of the collections of short essays.
Everyone complains about the dullness of Catholic homilies and essays. Nearly all our priests are good priests (their job, of course) and some are good kings (administration), but none are great prophets and preachers. Since Fulton Sheen died, there have been exactly zero Catholic masters in this field.
Technically, Bishop Barron’s articles are essays, not homilies, because most are not reflections on the Scripture passages assigned in the liturgy of the Mass. They range, like free horses. Some are philosophical, some theological, some ethical, some apologetical, some psychological, some sociological, some personal, some historical, some about current issues, some about perennial issues, some about all of the above. They are “homiletic,” though, in that there are pastoral. Pope Francis memorably said that the Church’s shepherds ought to smell like the sheep. These do. They point to crucial foods or dangers that the sheep most need to know today.
Bishop Barron is already famous for his blockbuster CATHOLICISM film series and is a master of both visual and verbal media. Here he shows another side: he is simply the most readable and delightful Catholic essayist alive.
As a philosopher, I like to prove my claims with logical arguments, especially when they sound outrageous. Here’s my proof. Its major premise has 12 parts. It answers the question: What are the most important qualities of a Catholic essay? The minor premise is the data you hold in your hand. Each of these essays do all 12 of these things. The conclusion is my First Place award.
So what should a good essay be?
First, it should be interesting. It should wake us up, not put us to sleep. After it is finished, the reader should spontaneously pray, “Thank God for that!” rather than “Thank God that’s over!” If it made him happy, its termination should make him unhappy.
Second, it should have “existential import.” It should make a difference to our lives. Life is too precious and time too short to waste it on mere words.
Third, it should be short. Like his hero, St. Thomas Aquinas, Bishop Barron has an amazing ability to put a lot of stuff into a small space without stuffing it. These are bite-sized edibles. Each is just the right size to read and think about over a single cup of coffee in the morning, or a quick trip to the bathroom an hour later.
Fourth, since it is short, it should be concentrated, unified. It should teach just one major point. In the classic Protestant “three-point sermon” the preacher first told you what he was going to say, then said it, then told you what he said. Sermons were invented in an age before all our technological time-saving devices robbed us of leisure. Homiletic essays should not be sermons, not even short sermons.
Fifth, it should be clear. I think it’s quite clear what “clear” means. The mind’s eye should not have to search for its light.
Sixth, it should make us think, not just feel good. In fact it should make us think deeply. It should be profound.
Being clear is rare, but being clear and profound (points five and six) at the same time is extremely rare. St. Thomas Aquinas did exactly that. So does his disciple and apprentice.
Seventh, it should be surprising. It should tell us something we didn’t know, or understand, or appreciate before. (This is almost never true in Catholic essays, except in the sense that I find it always surprising that Catholic essays are never surprising.)
Eighth, although it is short, it should be tall; though small, it should teach a “big idea,” an idea that stays with us. We don’t have enough space or time in our memory banks to hold millions of little ideas; that’s why we remember only a few big ones. We don’t have to deal with the moth on the living room rug but we do have to deal with the elephant.
Ninth, it should be apostolic. That is, it should stem from a strong, loving, and enthusiastic personal faith in The Faith. When we read it we should hear the authority of Christ and his apostles, to whom he said, “He who hears you, hears me” (Luke 10:16).
Tenth, it is not scholarly but personal, so the tone should not be at all pompous or patronizing. It should reveal that the shepherd has been among his sheep, sensitive and listening to their needs and questions and ignorance and hungers, and that he cares about their souls and minds and lives.
Items nine and ten do not lead in opposite directions, although many people think they do. But Jesus was neither compromising nor insensitive. Truth and love were equally absolute for him.
Eleventh, because it shines eternal truths on temporal things, it should be both old and new. This involves what theologians call a “hermeneutic of continuity” rather than a “hermeneutic of discontinuity.” Jesus said it more simply: that every scribe of the Kingdom should take from its storehouse things old and new. St. Augustine called God himself “Beauty ever ancient, ever new.” Good essays should make old points in new ways, apply old truths to new events, and show how the Catholic faith is truly “catholic,” that is, “universal,” like a prism that translates its unitary light into many different colors.
Twelfth, and most important of all, it should bring us closer to God.
These little gems shine brightly from all facets. Enjoy their light and color.