(Chartwell Press, 2013) Am I fulfilling my duties as a member of the laity? It’s a question many of us fail to consider routinely, and perhaps we are ill equipped to give an informed response. What does Christ— through the Church—ask of us? Russell Shaw’s newly expanded Catholic Laity in the Mission of the Church: Living Your Personal Vocation provides a thorough discussion of this essential topic.

Shaw’s treatment of his subject is anything but superficial. His opening chapters cover the development of the laity’s identity in the Church from apostolic times through the Second Vatican Council. Shaw then unpacks the Council’s rich teaching on the mission of the laity, from the understanding of the personal vocation to the significance of the apostolate of the laity. A warning against clericalism, a prevalent obstacle to the true lay vocation, and a detailed analysis of various challenges facing the laity are included.

Catholic Laity in the Mission of the Church serves as a well-researched refresher for those who have sought to understand the Church’s teaching about the role of the laity and a sure-footed introduction for others who lack formation in this area. Shaw’s definitions of terms and summaries of ecumenical councils, Church documents, and relevant individuals makes this text useful for any reader.

To assess whether we have been faithful to our lay vocation, we must first apprehend its purpose. Catholic Laity in the Mission of the Church informs its reader to this end and inspires the lay faithful to live out the dignity of our calling.

—Melissa Knaggs

(Image, 2011) When defining Catholicism, many first turn to its unique practices and characters—the Mass, the sacraments, Mary, priests, and the Pope. Others point to its intellectual traits—its distinctive apologetics, theology, and philosophy.

In Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith, Fr. Robert Barron explores these typical characteristics but doesn’t stop there. He looks through many more lenses to reveal the core of Catholicism.

Barron is not just concerned with what’s good and true about the Catholic tradition but also what’s beautiful. The Catholic faith is not just a matter of the mind and the soul but of the body and the senses. Therefore if we want to fully understand “the Catholic thing” we need to gaze on art, history, culture, music, literature, and architecture.

In his Catholicism book, as well as in his epic ten-part film series with the same name, that’s exactly what Barron does. Over the last five years he has traveled to more than fifty locations from Rome to Jerusalem to India to Poland to highlight the Catholic tradition in all of its splendor, richness, texture, and genius.

Barron is a systematic theologian at heart and his Catholicism book reflects that. It presents a complete tapestry of God and His Church. The book touches upon every facet of Catholicism—Jesus, the Apostles, Mary, the Church, the saints, prayer, the sacraments, and more.

Without hyperbole, I can say that this will now be the first book I’ll recommend to anyone exploring the Catholic faith.

—Brandon Vogt

(The Crossroad Publishing Company, 2008) Frank Hanna’s What Your Money Means: And How to Use it Well is a refreshingly well-presented, popular exposition of classical ethical teaching on wealth and responsibility. He writes to appeal to the widest possible audience, but his endnotes and certain references throughout the text reveal Hanna’s own Catholicism and the deep debt he owes to Catholic social teaching for the principles he elucidates.

In this very personal work, Hanna explains that upon making a fortune in the business world at a relatively young age, he set himself to discover what enduring principles applied to such wealth. The present volume is the product of that quest.

The book addresses everything from the difference between non-essential wealth and the amount required to permit us to fulfill the duties of our state in life, to the universal destination of goods, ending with some practical guidelines on how to implement the duty of tithing prudently. The conversational tone allows the reader to be led through some profound truths with relative ease. Hanna often directs his text towards those of his own class, but the teachings are universally relevant and apply to all of us, no matter how much (or how little) personal wealth we possess.

Leavened with a collection of comic send-ups of the stereotypes of wealth and power, Hanna’s work is a genuine contribution to the literature on wealth and responsibility. This book could be fruitfully read by anyone with wealth of any quantity and the responsibility to use it well.

—Chris Sparks