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Kay Winchester

Kay Winchester

Kay Winchester lives and works in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York. Website URL:

Red, White, Blue, and Catholic

By Stephen P. White. Missouri: Liguori Publications, 2016. 96 pages. Paperback $9.99, at both Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Every four years, Americans are reminded of a great gift that we have been given, namely, the right to choose those who will represent us at the highest levels of government. This is never a privilege to be taken lightly; I still remember, as a young child, my grandfather, who was a first generation American and a veteran of World War I, reminding everyone he met on Election Day that it was not only their right, but their sacred duty to "get out and vote."

In addition to being Americans, nearly 70 million of us are also Catholic, or identify as Catholic. Even taking into account those who are not yet old enough to cast a ballot, that's a substantial percentage of the electorate, about 32 million or one quarter of the voters in the 2012 election; the question is, does being a Catholic have any bearing on who we vote for and how we live out our other responsibilities as American citizens?

In his new book, "Red, White, Blue and Catholic," Stephen White explores these questions. Though not a very long read – it is only 96 pages of actual text – he manages to hit enough high points to engage the reader in some very probing self-analysis. And although he certainly talks about presidential politics, he reminds us that we are citizens every day of the year, not just on the "first Tuesday following the first Monday of November" in even-numbered years.

Anyone looking for a simple "checklist" of who and what to consider in the voting booth will have to wait until the last chapter – number six – for a summary of that information. In the first chapter, White outlines the Catholic understanding of both politics and civil society; "[T]he four permanent principles of Catholic social teaching [are] dignity of the human person, solidarity, subsidiarity, and the common good" he says. It is crucial that he begins here because without the cohesion provided by this discussion, all the rest could simply be a series of potentially disjointed issues. Once that foundation has been laid, he goes on to discuss things like marriage and family, truth (as opposed to relativism), economics, and finally freedom and the law.

Throughout the book, White emphasizes that we cannot simply be bystanders to this process of representative government; we must, as both citizens and as Catholics, be active participants at every level of society. "In the United States today," he says, "we often blame our social ills on our laws and our politicians. Although they are far from being blameless, we must not shy away from taking a hard look at ourselves to understand the real challenges facing our nation. We need virtuoso citizens. In Christian terms, we need disciples. More than that, we need citizen saints."

Although his approach is not complex or opaque, Stephen White's book is never-the-less not a quick and easy browse – rather, it will cause the reader to slow down, reread passages (and even whole pages), highlight text and underline and jot questions in the margin, and that is perhaps its greatest strength. To be fully appreciated, it's going to demand a little work. By the last page, not only will voting become (hopefully) a more thoughtful process for the reader, but the whole way we conduct ourselves as Catholic Americans will take on new meaning and new importance. As White says at the end, "There is nothing we can do to better serve and defend our democracy than to live every single day as good and faithful Catholics."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Stephen P. White is a fellow in the Catholic Studies Program at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D. C. A graduate of the St. Patrick's Evangelization School in London, England, he studied politics at the University of Dallas and philosophy at the Catholic University of America.

White's work focuses on applying Catholic social teaching to a wide spectrum of contemporary political and cultural issues. A regular contributor to CatholicVote.org, his work has also appeared in the National Review Online, Magnificat, the Catholic Herald (UK), TheCatholicThing.org and FirstThings.org.

Since 2005, White has been coordinator of the Tertio Millennio Seminar on the Free Society, a three-week seminar on Catholic social teaching, which takes place in Krakow, Poland, and places emphasis on the thought of St. John Paul II.

"This book 'Red, White, Blue and Catholic' is written out of love for both Church and country," he says in his introduction. "This is a book written to argue and defend what it presumes at the outset: that being a good citizen is an integral part of Christian discipleship and that the greatest contribution we can make as citizens is to live our Catholic faith wholeheartedly and without reserve.'

  • Published in Reviews

Miracle at Janet's Mountain

By Richard L. Hatin. West Virginia: Headline Books, Inc., 2015. $23.28 paperback, $4.99 Kindle or Nook. 448 pages.

When I first met the author of "Miracle at Janet's Mountain," he was doing a book signing and waving a light saber at the Barnes and Noble on Dorset Street in South Burlington. As it turned out, the store was hosting a special Star Wars promotion that day, and Hatin was more than willing to participate in the celebration, even though his newest work is a far cry from the adventures of Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker.

To call "Miracle at Janet's Mountain" a feel-good book doesn't quite do it justice, although most readers will feel very good while reading it. As its title implies, it is about a miracle–several of them, in fact–and what can happen when people are brought face to face with a direct intervention from the divine.

There are some strong positives in this story. To begin with, the main character, Janet, the woman through whom the miracles take place, has Down syndrome. Though in her early 30s, she lives at home with her parents and works as a bagger at the local supermarket. When she is not helping her favorite cashier, Mrs. Wannamaker, Janet has a special place she goes to in the meadow adjacent to her family's home. A relatively small granite outcropping, it has never-the-less become known in the family as "Janet's Mountain," and it is where she loves to go to draw.

It doesn't take long for the miraculous events to begin. Janet has an encounter at her mountain with a "pretty lady" who looks vaguely familiar to her. Running back to the house, she retrieves a holy card with a picture of the Blessed Mother on it. Showing it to her new friend, Janet remarks that not only does she look like the lady on the card, but "You even look like the statue at church." Mary–for indeed, it is the mother of Jesus–then tells Janet that she has come to her because God has chosen her to do a very special job.

Suffice it to say that the story progresses from there. There are miracles and healings, but perhaps the most interesting aspect of the book is how various people react to and are changed–or not–by their encounters with this remarkable young woman and what she allows God to do through her. The author has managed to include just about every segment of society we would expect to become involved in such an event. The Catholic Church and its representatives, for instance, have very different reactions to what has happened (along the way, the reader will no doubt learn something about the Church's protocol for dealing with such things.) The media, so prominent in every other part of our lives, is omnipresent here also–in fact, we get a glimpse of what Jesus' life might have looked like had he been born into a world of 24/7 cable news. People, both supporters and protesters, show up in the thousands, and a famous televangelist also becomes part of the story.

The only flaws are minor, grammatical ones (there are a number of places, for instance, where the author switches tenses from one sentence to the next, and some details are over-explained). But overall, both the story and the tone in which it is told reminded me very much of the late Father Joseph Girzone's "Joshua" series. If you are familiar with and liked those books, you will very likely enjoy this one as well.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Richard Hatin was born in Burlington, Vermont. He attended local elementary and high schools and graduated from St. Michael's College in Colchester in 1971, where he earned a bachelor's in English Literature.

In 1974, Hatin joined the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, working for the New England Office of Community Planning and Development. He retired from that position as Deputy Director in 2010, at which time he turned his attention to writing.

Since then, Hatin has published two other books of fiction in addition to "Miracle on Janet's Mountain." "Evil Agreement" was released in 2012, and "Deadly Whispers," which won an Honorable Mention at the Los Angeles, Great Southeast and San Francisco Book Festivals, was published in 2013.

"My first and greatest passion is to explore the eternal conflict of good versus evil," he said of his writing. "As a young child I was hooked on stories from the Bible. I was schooled early on that 'good always triumphs over evil'" although, as he also noted, "evil may lose in the end, but it sure can produce a great deal of pain until it's defeated."

Currently, Hatin lives in Hooksett, N.H. with his wife, Anne Marie. Together, they have three sons and three granddaughters.

  • Published in Reviews

Word by Word: Slowing Down with the Hail Mary

A few months back a couple of Catholic friends of mine were discussing their experiences with different types of prayer. All was going along rather smoothly until one of them brought up the topic of Mary; at that point, opinions were exchanged and I was surprised to hear the conversation take a rather heated turn. The issue in dispute? The speed with which the Hail Mary should be said when praying the Rosary. One was inclined toward a rapid though prayerful recitation, while the other favored a slower, more meditative approach.

  • Published in Reviews

The Abbey: By James Martin SJ.

 

I have always enjoyed Jesuit Father James Martin's books as well as his commentaries on television, so it was surprising that when I picked up his latest work, "The Abbey," I did so with mixed emotions. It's not that I anticipated questioning the overall quality of his thoughts or his writing; rather, I was wondering whether he could successfully navigate the switch in genres. Father Martin, who has produced some very moving commentaries, retreats, reflections and memoirs, has now ventured into the world of novel writing, and I was curious to see if he could pull it off.

  • Published in Reviews
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