Book Reviews – December 2021

Christmas Around the Fire. By Ryan N.S. Topping. Reviewed by Mark McCann. (skip to review)

Meet the Gentle Jesus: First Communion Preparation Program. By Liguori Publications. Reviewed by Mark McCann. (skip to review)

The Healing Imperative: The Early Church and the Invention of Medicine as We Know It. By Mike Aquilina. Reviewed by Joseph Tuttle. (skip to review)

A Deacon Prays: Prayers and Devotions for Liturgy and Life. By Greg Kandra. Reviewed by Christopher Siuzdak. (skip to review)

Priestly Fatherhood: Treasure in Earthly Vessels. By Jacques Philippe. Reviewed by Fr. David Vincent Meconi, SJ. (skip to review)

Continental Achievement: Roman Catholics in the United States, Revolution and Early Republic. By Kevin Starr. Reviewed by Robert Rooney. (skip to review)

Christmas Around the Fire – Ryan N.S. Topping

Topping, Ryan N.S. Christmas Around the Fire. Gastonia, NC: TAN Books, 2019. 296 pages.

Reviewed by Mark McCann.

In an age of rampant secularism and self-worship, the true meaning of Christmas and its power to draw us into a season of new beginnings has grown strangely quiet. Our Catholic Christmas traditions have begun to fade and, for many, are easily cast aside as the noise and insanity of our modern world closes in around us. But then, an extraordinary work of art enters the scene to call us back to that place where sacred past meets hopeful future in the joyful moment that is the Incarnation.

Christmas Around the Fire, by Catholic author Ryan N. S. Topping, is a profound and delightful collection of writings that, like the sacred Scriptures, draws together a diverse group of authors to proclaim a universal and unified message of hope through the common divine thread that is woven into the words these faithful souls have left us as a testimony to the character that is Christmas.

Topping’s book is truly inspired in how it brings out a central theme — a sacred call for Catholics everywhere — of the wonder of the season that lingers in the stories and traditions we have celebrated down through the ages. Topping has carefully chosen, arranged, and edited a deeply meaningful assemblage of stories, essays, and poems from past to present times, as he gently prods his readers to unlock our fondest memories of Christmases past while challenging us to examine the spirit of Christ that inhabits the history of our holiday traditions. In doing so, he has given us a new tradition, a keepsake of beautiful writings to be shared in that sacred space we enter together during the seasons of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany.

There are two sections to the book. Part I includes a collection of stories from the likes of Leo Tolstoy, G. K. Chesterton, Charles Dickens, and Oscar Wilde, along with other authors many may not have heard before. The beauty and brilliance in Topping’s choice and placement of these stories lies in their ability to take us to a place that is both familiar and new. There is an ebb and flow to the unfolding of these stories that gently breaks down the barriers of our modern sensibilities and draws us back into the innocence and inner longing, the anticipation and exhilaration, that the coming of Christ has placed within our hearts.

We are invited into the wonder of Christmas we experienced as children and shown the power of the season to break open the hardest of hearts with a message of purity and love. We see ourselves in the beloved characters, and recognize our human frailty and the Savior’s transforming touch that turns broken sinners into hearty saints. Though the stories are old, they remind us that the traditions of Christmas are not forgotten relics to be discarded, but cherished remembrances that connect us to one another as family and Church.

Part II is an arrangement of essays and poems that helps to define the sacred truths underlying the stories in Part I. Over and over, these wonderful words reveal the theology that lies at the heart of the Incarnation and the seasons of the Church that celebrate it. We hear from Pope Benedict XVI, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, G. K. Chesterton, St. Augustine, Cardinal Newman, and many other thoughtful and inspired authors. They are all warrior-poets, sharing the mysteries of our faith in prose and verse so that our hearts may once again be caught up in the wonder, the majesty, and the sheer joy that is Christmas.

Whether it is a sacred Christmas sermon, a thoughtful essay, or a simple poem, the writings in this section each add a profound nuance to the truth behind what living within our sacred Christmas traditions can mean for our lives, our relationships, and our Church.

Topping has truly captured the essence of what so many have forgotten or misplaced, and through this collection given us a renewed hope that the reason for the season can live again in the glorious words that the coming of Christ into our world has inspired. Whether these writings are read in the order they are presented or chosen as the Spirit moves, Christmas Around the Fire will certainly become a yearly tradition for Catholics of all ages, one that binds our hearts to one another and to the Babe of Bethlehem, the Savior and King who has rescued us from our sorrow and sin.

Mark C. McCann is an author and ministry consultant in Connecticut.

Meet the Gentle Jesus – Liguori Publications

Meet the Gentle Jesus: First Communion Preparation Program. Liguori, MO: Liguori Publications, 2020.

Reviewed by Mark C. McCann.

One of the most joyful catechetical tasks for the Church is preparing children to receive Holy Communion for the first time. The Eucharist is the heart of who we are as Catholics, and the Meet the Gentle Jesus First Communion preparation program offers a complete soup-to-nuts process for communicating a thorough understanding of the centrality of what it means to participate in the Mass each Sunday and carry the Gospel to the world through all we say and do.

The key to the Meet the Gentle Jesus program is how it ties together all the elements of our Eucharistic faith, bringing the children, their families, and the entire parish into the experience. It imparts the Church’s teaching on First Communion while highlighting the faith of all who are joined together in the sacrament we celebrate each time we gather together for Mass. This comprehensive, practical guide provides a clear, well-designed blueprint that maps out the glorious journey of salvation we experience in the Eucharist.

The scope and sequence of the program cover essential scriptural foundations, worship rituals, liturgical practices, and Church teachings in order to show how the Eucharist is our communal meal of salvation and the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ that takes away our sins. Every aspect of the program is intimately knitted together to show the meaning behind the Mass as it draws the children into the process of understanding what it means to receive the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ in the bread and wine of Communion.

The 8 in-depth sessions take the participants on a joyful journey through the Liturgy, from the opening rites to the final sending forth, demonstrating the biblical roots and catechetical basis for our rituals in a way that is easy for children to understand and integrate into their lives. Each lesson builds on what has come before, using props and prayers to help the participants become more and more a part of the celebration of the Eucharist. The entire process builds anticipation for the day when the children will receive Jesus for the first time, beginning a lifelong journey of faith that will lead them ever forward into the Kingdom of God.

Each Scripture story presented is connected to a part of the Liturgy and reinforced by practicing the prayers and rituals that take place in the Liturgy. As the catechist shares his or her faith, asks thought-provoking questions, and explains the meaning behind the celebration of the Eucharist, the children come to see that the Mass is not only a re-presentation of the salvation won for us by Christ at the cross, but our own willing offering as a body of believers to be broken and poured out before the throne of heaven. The true power of the program lies in how the process itself becomes a prayerful experience of becoming, as the children walk the wondrous path to the day of their First Communion.

The Leader’s Guide leaves nothing to chance, spelling out the foundational aspects of the program and addressing every concern in a clear and concise way. The background information gives the reasons for the methodology and outlines clear-cut goals for carrying out the process. The guide also offers a number of options for dealing with different logistical concerns and working with children with specific needs. The appendix provides a wealth of additional information to round out the program, including sample email templates, a glossary of terms, reproducible art, supplemental materials, and outside resources for further study.

The Catechist Guide offers complete step-by-step instructions for teaching the lessons that allow even the most inexperienced adult helpers to feel comfortable exploring their own understanding and experience of the Eucharist while going through process with the children. Woven into the lessons are ways to include the parents/guardians at the beginning and end of the teaching time to pray together with their children and to help them become more actively involved with the entire process.

The family materials help to continue the learning at home. These simple, thoughtful exercises help the parents/guardians encourage their children to further integrate the lessons into their lives by reflecting on the learning and expressing these new ideas through fun artistic projects. In this way, the parents/guardians are called to examine their own connection to the Eucharist and to strengthen their faith and the faith of their entire family.

All in all, the Meeting the Gentle Jesus First Communion preparation program gathers together catechetical understanding, experiential learning, and relational living into a powerful sacramental process that brings each person it touches to a level much deeper than simple Sunday school studies. It calls forth the participants, immerses them in a journey of wonder and discovery, and challenges all involved to become broken bread and poured out wine to a world in need of the power of the Eucharist.

The Meeting the Gentle Jesus program is so incredibly well-thought out and comprehensive, while at the same time being gloriously down to earth, wonderfully relational, and theologically solid. More than a program, it is a joyful sacramental journey of discovery for all who participate in the process. It has all you will need to lead the children in your care to that wonderful day when they will experience Jesus in the Eucharist for the first time!

As a former DRE, I have used and created sacramental preparation programs and worked to draw families and the parish into the experience of the journey that is the celebration of the Eucharist. This program is by far the best I have seen. Nothing is left out of this comprehensive faith-filled process of catechetical instruction and experiential learning. The lessons integrate Scripture, Church teaching, relational ministry, and liturgical experience into one wonderful journey of spiritual growth and discovery.

Mark C. McCann is an author and ministry consultant in Connecticut.

The Healing Imperative – Mike Aquilina

Aquilina, Mike. The Healing Imperative: The Early Church and the Invention of Medicine as We Know It. Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Publishing, 2017. 168 pages.

Reviewed by Joseph Tuttle.

In The Healing Imperative, Mike Aquilina documents the origins of medicine, hospitals, and other medical services to the early Church and even to Christ Himself. Aquilina begins by discussing the state of medicine in the Ancient World. The main point of this discussion is to show that only the rich and those of worldly value received any medical care, and that this was the world Christianity had to contend with.

Continuing, Aquilina goes through certain instances in the Old Testament that deal with medical care and disease as early examples. In the Old Testament, many of the diseases are a divine punishment due to people’s sins, the most common being leprosy. It is the Levitical priests who had the task of inspecting people to determine whether they were considered clean or not. The book of Sirach tells us, “. . . that it’s good to use physicians and the medicine they prescribe, because God gave the physicians their skill and created the ingredients from which they make their medicines . . . That doesn’t mean we rely only on the physicians’ skill.” (28) Another aspect of the Old Testament is the Hebrews’ hospitality toward others. Indeed, the hospitality of the early Christians is one of the main reasons they can be accredited with the foundation of medicine.

Turning to the New Testament, Aquilina points out that Jesus is often seen in the Gospels as healing many people. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells His disciples to “heal the sick” and proclaim “the Kingdom of God.” (See Luke 10:8–9) “This is the healing imperative. It’s as if physical healing is a necessary step pf pre-evangelization. Or perhaps Jesus intends that the Kingdom should manifest itself first through deeds of healing, and then simply be confirmed by the disciples’ words of proclamation.” (38) Jesus came not only to heal the sick from physical ailments but from spiritual ones as well. From this and much more evidence that the author provides, he concludes that,”Jesus expects his followers to continue his healing ministry.” (40) Needless to say, in the early centuries of the Church, the title for Christ as the “Divine Physician” became quite popular because He was the healer not only of the body but also of the soul.

The author goes on to discuss the early centuries AD, where many plagues decimated the Roman Empire. The Romans blamed the natural disasters and plagues of their times on the Christians because they did not worship the pagan deities. Thus, there began a great persecution of the Christians. During this time, the pagans would leave their sick relatives, whereas the Christians went about helping people, even at the cost of getting sick and dying themselves. “The Christian response was instinctive. But it was also organized. The Christian Church had already built up a system of institutional charity like nothing the pagan world had ever seen . . . the Church put its social network into action to serve Christians and pagans alike.” (72) During this time, the Christians made many converts just by their heroic example of taking care of others.

Eventually, Emperor Constantine arrived on the scene and legalized Christianity. In doing this, he allowed them to construct Churches and other buildings to take care of the sick and poor. “In other words, it wouldn’t be long before Christians came up with the idea of the hospital.” (104) Of course the services of the hospital were given free of charge to those who needed them.

When St. Anthony of Egypt went into the desert to be a hermit, he ended up founding an order of monks as well. One of his followers, named Pachomius, founded his own community in 324. Shortly after this, he “established another house . . . in order to give comfort to all the sick brothers” (115). Other monks and orders followed suit and were soon famed for their care of the sick. Eventually, there were many of these “infirmaries” all over the known world, particularly in Asia Minor.

The author dedicates an entire chapter to St. Basil the Great. Growing up, Basil was educated in the classics, rhetoric, and especially medicine. Basil was baptized, ordained a priest, and consecrated a bishop. He battled the Arians but also had to deal with many natural disasters and famine. Because of all of this, he founded what was known as Basil’s Place, a building which “included a soup kitchen, poorhouses, a trade school, a hostel for needy travelers, personal care for the elderly, a hospice for the dying, and a hospital.” (136)

In conclusion, the author details how Christians developed hospitals and how the hospitals operated. In short, “The Christian hospital made classical Greek medicine-scientific medicine-available to a broad population for the first time.” (159) This book serves not only as a good historical record of how Christianity helped to develop hospitals and medicine, but also calls us to remember the healing mission of body and soul, that Christ has handed on to us to continue.

Joseph Tuttle is a freelance writer and author, who has work forthcoming and previously published with Clarifying CatholicismVoyage Comics and Publishing, and OnePeterFive. He is the author of the booklet An Hour With Fulton Sheen to be published later this year with Liguori Publications.

A Deacon Prays – Greg Kandra

Kandra, Greg. A Deacon Prays: Prayers and Devotions for Liturgy and Life. Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 2021. 146 pages.

Reviewed by Christopher Siuzdak.

Since the first permanent deacon was ordained in the United States in 1969, the number of permanent deacons in dioceses throughout the country has grown to 18,075 at present (The Official Catholic Directory, 2020). “To live their ministry to the fullest,” teaches the National Directory for the Formation, Ministry, and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States, “‘deacons must know Christ intimately so that He may shoulder the burdens of their ministry.’” This unique book of short and simple yet sincere and sublime prayers composed by a deacon for fellow deacons will nourish their spiritual life and assist them in maintaining equanimity through the triumphs and travails of pastoral ministry.

The first section, entitled “Prayers for Daily Life,” centers on patience, persistence, and resilience amid the regular features of life. A prayer before assisting at Mass, a prayer of thanksgiving after Mass, a prayer for the pope, one’s bishop, and one’s pastor, and a prayer to close the day are included, among others, in this first cluster. The second section, entitled “Prayers for Ministry,” contains preparatory prayers for particular ministries such as a wake, a wedding, a parish meeting, or drafting a homily. The third grouping, entitled “Diaconal Prayers,” contains prayers focused on communion within the Order of Deacons, such as a prayer for newly ordained deacons and a prayer for a recently deceased deacon. This section would have benefitted from the inclusion of a prayer on the anniversary of ordination and a prayer during a transition to retirement from active public ministry.

The fourth section, entitled “Seasonal Prayers,” contains a panoply of prayers for a variety of liturgical and astronomical seasons. The fifth section, entitled “Prayers of Petition,” contains supplications for, among others, those who are hungry, those who have left the Church, and those enduring a pandemic or other disaster. The sixth section, entitled “Devotional Prayers,” contains Stations of the Cross and the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary tailored for deacons. A final portion of lined pages, which bears the heading “Prayer Intentions and Notes,” allows the user to articulate and jot down some personal intentions, pen some prayers that arise organically in the heart, or journal some spiritual movements to be revisited later.

In sum, this compact book of original prayers will assist deacons in maintaining their zest and zeal amid manifold duties and demands. As the author poignantly writes, “There are so many moments in a deacon’s life when the best way for him to use his hands, and to use them to serve, is simply to fold them in prayer” (2). Genuine prayer is an encounter with the Lord that does not leave the supplicant or a given situation unchanged. No matter how short or simple, no prayer is ever wasted. This compilation of prayers emanating from the heart and mind of a literarily talented deacon is particularly recommended as a gift for permanent or transitional deacons.

Christopher Siuzdak is a canonist in the Tribunal of the Diocese of Portland.

Priestly Fatherhood – Jacques Philippe

Philippe, Jacques. Priestly Fatherhood: Treasure in Earthly Vessels. New York: Scepter Publications, 2021. 162 pages.

Reviewed by Fr. David Vincent Meconi, SJ.

Fr. Philippe is a highly sought after and much beloved retreat director, author, and master of the interior life. Fr. Philippe is a member of the Community of the Beatitudes, a relatively new religious congregation founded in 1973 in France, a Community firmly rooted in Eucharistic worship and Marian devotion, all in the context of the power of the Holy Spirit, being founded at the height of the Charismatic Movement in France. This most recent work of Fr. Philippe reflects all of these essential roots of his congregation and of the Christian life in general.

More particularly, however, this work is oriented for priests and seminarians who are looking for prayerful meditations on the nature and function of spiritual fatherhood. As the title suggests, such a role is a heavenly gift but delicately carried by us sinful men. Divided into 15 brief chapters, there are two main sections to these meditations: Part I (ch. 1–9) on “Fatherhood, A Difficult but Essential Reality: Precautions on Language,” and Part II (ch. 10–15) on “A Profound Transformation of Heart.”

Part I thus calls for a priestly Pentecost, one in which we clerics can reclaim our needed role in the world as spiritual fathers, men using their knowledge, strength, and knowledge not for our own broken poverties but to reflect the love and mercy of God the only one true Father. One of the first needs left unfulfilled in a culture devoid of fatherhood is the inability to know of one’s forgiveness. “We need to receive the absolution of someone bigger than ourselves. We need the words of Another, words of authority, the words of the Heavenly Father, in order to be truly set free from faults and reconciled with ourselves” (p. 14).

Here Philippe has the reader imagine the Parable of the Prodigal without the father’s presence: Who would welcome, who would counsel, who would forgive? From here we must face the perils which arise in a fatherless culture and the obvious need for true fatherhood today, especially poignant reflections. Here the recent scandals and the sins and doubts in each priest’s soul can be surrendered to the Crucified Lord and allow that suffering to become the means by which Jesus rearranges our soul and brings them into greater conformity with perfect charity.

Part II accordingly calls for this much-needed transformation, beginning not with fatherhood, but with filiality. None of us will be fruitful fathers until we first become humble sons. “We must be like Jesus in his relationship with the Father, receiving everything from him: his identity as a son, his mission, and the necessary grace to accomplish this mission. We must enter into this filial trust and abandonment, this total receptivity to God — receiving one’s self and receiving everything from the Father. It’s a way of being that should leave its mark on all aspects of our existence, but that is expressed in a special way in prayer, and is deepened continually” (p. 64).

And, whereas every family has a mother, Philippe next offers a beautiful call for a greater devotion to Mary in the life of every Christian man, but especially in the life of the priest whose celibacy creates a special place to take Mary into his heart (cf. Jn 19:27). These pages end with helpful meditations on the Beatitudes, appropriately so. Here much wisdom can be gleaned not only for our own prayer but for homilies on these foundational words of the Messiah.

Jacques Philippe (b. 1947) is spending his life now traveling and providing truly Catholic counsel around the globe. His latest book will serve mightily as a sobering exhortation for all priests and those younger men in training to wake up and see the world’s deep, deep need for their adsum, their “yes.” Reading Philippe, these same men will also come to see not only how God has chosen to need them, not only how much the world needs us, but how each of us needs our priesthood as well, for the sanctification of the world and of our own immortal souls.

This is why understanding each of us as a broken, earthen vessel is the beginning of our indispensable surrender and incessant reliance on the Father to make us who he needs us to be. With much excitement and insight, the seminarians at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary here in St. Louis are currently reading Priestly Fatherhood: Treasure in Earthen Vessels, and it is highly recommended for all men in training, deacons and priests, as it is truly an invitation by a seasoned veteran of the spiritual life to grow in our awareness of the gifts we have been given and the gift we must more and more become for this broken world.

Fr. David Vincent Meconi, S.J. is Professor of Theology and Catholic Studies at Saint Louis University and the Editor of Homiletic and Pastoral Review.

Continental Achievement – Kevin Starr

Starr, Kevin. Continental Achievement: Roman Catholics in the United States, Revolution and Early Republic. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2020. 327 pages.

Reviewed by Robert Rooney.

Kevin Starr was a noted scholar whose multi-volume work Americans and the California Dream constituted the most wide-ranging history of his home state. In later years he devoted himself to an even more challenging project — a history of the Catholic Church in America, beginning with the years of discovery and settlement (Continental Ambitions) and moving on to the era of the revolution and the new republic. The second volume, Continental Achievement, was never completed, but the ten chapters that are presented here under that title are a coherent whole just as informative and enjoyable as any of his previous writings.

The first five chapters consider the revolutionary war effort, the political as well as the military. In addition to describing the campaigns leading up to the winter at Valley Forge, he deals in some detail with the intrigues that almost led to the replacement of Washington as commander-in-chief, intrigues that involved several high-ranking officers. And he sketches out the diplomatic overtures that brought France, and then Spain, in on the side of the colonists. Much of the credit for that work was due to America’s shrewdest ambassador, Benjamin Franklin, who cultivated connections with prominent members of the nobility and the French hierarchy.

The contributions of Catholic colonists to the War effort are also brought out, including the daring efforts of naval commander John Barry; Stephen Moylan’s assistance to Washington as aide-de-camp; and John Fitzgerald’s service as secretary to Washington. The role played by Father John Carroll in the failed diplomatic mission to Canada is also worth mentioning because of the respect and friendship that developed between Carroll and Franklin as an outcome of their joint effort. Then there were the foreign-born Catholics, many of them military men at loose ends after service in European conflicts. The experience and leadership of Casimir Pulaski, Thaddeus Kosciuszko, and Lafayette were invaluable to the American cause. Finally, the French army and the French navy, sent by a Catholic king, provided aid without which the colonists would surely have failed.

This last point is of particular interest. Starr observes that the presence of these primarily Catholic forces served as ammunition in a propaganda campaign by the loyalist (pro-British) faction. Alarms were raised about the domination of the colonies by powers which would “overturn the Protestant religion, and extinguish every spark, both of civil and religious liberty in the world.” And there was anti-Catholic bias to be exploited, especially in the New England colonies. Even a simple measure, such as sending a priest to the Catholic Indians of Maine and thus gaining their support, was resisted by the Massachusetts leaders until Congress forced them to act.

In chapters 6–10 Starr examines the gradual growth of the Catholic community in the American republic. Perhaps 30,000 of the 3 million or so colonists were Catholics; maybe 25 priests were available to minister to them either in chapels (like the one on the Carroll estate), churches (St. Joseph’s in Philadelphia), or in their own homes when a priest was on mission. Both numbers were small and would have remained so, with all the risks that would have entailed, had it not been for the energy and tenacity of John Carroll. Just as the republic would not have flourished without the leadership of George Washington, so the Church would not have flourished without the leadership of John Carroll. He is the central character in the second part of Starr’s narrative.

Carroll was well placed for his work. He was the son of an aristocratic Maryland family, the beneficiary of an excellent education both in colonial America and in France, and occupant of a chaplaincy in England before the suppression of the Jesuit order precipitated his return to his homeland in 1774. His major disability was shared by all the priests in America: lack of clear-cut authority under which they could conduct their priestly work. The main enemy was “drift.” Carroll determined to overcome the lethargy of his fellow priests and organize the Catholic people into an orderly ecclesiastical community. He started as prefect apostolic and campaigned for the establishment of an American diocese with an American bishop. In this he was aided by his old acquaintance Benjamin Franklin, who advised Vatican officials that Carroll was the best man for the job. Roman authorities agreed. The bishopric arrived just as the republic took shape under its new constitution.

Carroll needed all the help he could get. He had already stared down several insubordinate priests, including one who denounced him to his face in front of a congregation at St. Peter’s in New York City. He had also encountered problems with lay trustees who wanted to appoint their own pastors. In the ensuing years, even vested with new authority, he would face schism in Philadelphia, Charleston, and New Orleans (which came under his jurisdiction with the Louisiana Purchase).

But help was at hand with the arrival in the early 1790s of French priests fleeing persecution from the revolutionaries in their homeland. Each of these emigres had his own story to tell of escape from France. John Dubois, later to become a bishop in the United States, made it with the assistance of Lafayette and forged documents provided by an old classmate, Maximilien Robespierre. Starr describes the labors these men, mostly Sulpicians, undertook in parish work, in various schools, and even on the frontier in mission work. Their zeal and their discipline were a great boon to the Church at a critical time. It is noteworthy that several of them went on to serve as the bishops of the new dioceses formed out of Carroll’s diocese — Dubois in New York, John Cheverus in Boston, William Dubourg in New Orleans, and Benedict Flaget in Bardstown (Kentucky). Just as French troops contributed to the war effort, French priests contributed to the missionary effort.

French priests also helped guide the development of the first women’s religious order founded in the United States. The order was the inspiration and work of a New York born convert, Elizabeth Ann Seton. Her determination, through a decade or so of ups and downs, saw the order take shape with, among others, Dubourg, Dubois, Pierre Babade, John Baptist David, Cheverus, and Carroll.

When he was consecrated the first bishop in the new republic, Carroll was also charged with building the first cathedral. Plans were made early in Carroll’s tenure. Benjamin Latrobe, “America’s architect,” provided the design for the cathedral, remarkable for its classic Roman style. The choice was Carroll’s, and it survived through all the changes that were made over the next few years. Although Carroll did not live to see the cathedral completed, it counts as his final great achievement.

Starr’s book, which he styles as a “selective and narrative” account, is also a work of synthesis and interpretation. He acknowledges at length his debt to the pioneering histories of John Gilmary Shea, Martin Griffin, and Peter Guilday as well as the excellent biographies of major Catholic figures by Annabelle Melville. His bibliography is more than a mere listing of sources, but in fact a grand tour of the many works available to both scholars and laymen. The only question is whether anyone will take up the task begun by Starr and carry it on through the next century of the Catholic story in the United States.

As it stands, Continental Achievement is a great achievement itself, both in scholarship thanks to Professor Starr, and in publishing thanks to Ignatius Press.

Robert Rooney, Ph.D., taught college chemistry and worked as a forensic examiner in the Department of Justice. He is retired and lives in St. Augustine, FL.

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