Do I have to go to Mass?

{mosimage}Do I Have to Go? by Matthew Pinto and Chris Stefanick (Ascension Press, 156 pages, $12.99).

Many Catholics have asked themselves the question at least once — Do I have to go? — but rarely has the question received such a clear answer as the one provided in this book by authors Matthew Pinto and Chris Stefanick.

Do I Have to Go? explores “the Mass, the Eucharist, and your spiritual life” in easy to read question/answer format. Pinto and Stefanick eloquently cover almost every question imaginable regarding the Mass and the Eucharist.

Fr. Stan tells teens '2' love

{mosimage}U Got 2 Love by Fr. Stan Fortuna, C.F.R. (Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, 254 pages, $13.95.)

In the latest instalment of the U Got 2 series from renowned rapping priest Fr. Stan Fortuna, Catholics are not only urged, but called “2” love.

This follow-up to U Got 2 Believe and U Got 2 Pray dedicates itself to the dominant force in our faith and provides Catholics with a desperately needed and refreshing approach to a world stuck chasing impoverished and superficial love.

The evolution of Robin Hood

{mosimage}Hodd by Adam Thorpe (Random House UK, 320 pages, $34).

The Robin Hood most of us grew up with was a perfect hero for bookish kids. He was cheerful, generous and just. He surrounded himself with merry men, had a loyal, clever, cute girlfriend and together they robbed from the rich and gave to the poor.

If we thought about it later, we might have regarded the Robin Hood of childhood books, movies and cartoons as a gentleman who had taken sides in the class struggle.

The 'Oprahfication' of forgiveness

{mosimage}Forgiveness: One Step at a Time by Joseph F. Sica (Novalis, softcover, 142 pages, $15.95).

Alas, by the end of chapter one, I was trying hard not to be cynical about this book. This goes beyond my own ongoing struggles with forgiveness. I had read Sr. Helen Prejean’s endorsement on the back cover, in which she says this book will change lives. But the book starts with a clichéd story about a woman named Betsy whose husband has left her for another woman. Betsy, naturally enough, wants revenge and plenty of it: “I want to get even!” she screams at the author, a priest and her spiritual mentor. “I want him to hurt like I hurt!” The scenario and the tired dialogue in particular sounded made up.

Many of Catholic artist’s works draw inspiration from the Bible

TORONTO - Chris Fung was born and raised Catholic, but it was through art that he discovered his faith.

That art is about to take centre stage at Fung’s upcoming show, Our Best Is Now: How. The exhibit, which runs from Aug. 16-28, will feature more than 100 pieces from Catholic artist Fung, his sister Janine and cousin Nigel.

Catholic and artist weren’t always titles Fung held or coveted, though. At one point, he didn’t plan on being either.

In his teens, Fung broke away from his faith as “the grass was greener anywhere else.” But when a friend committed suicide, Fung began his journey back to his Catholic roots, whether he knew it or not. To pass the time, he began drawing, though he had no experience with art outside high school art classes. Over time, it became more and more important to him, and the faith seemed to find its way into his art. Now, 12 years later, for the first time his work will be on display at a downtown Toronto art gallery.

Harry Potter goes out in style

One of the most successful movie franchises of all time goes out in style with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (Warner Bros.).

Though this eighth installment in the series that began with 2001's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone may bewilder newcomers — if there are any of the uninitiated left, they will not find themselves mollycoddled by patient exposition — director David Yates provides a gratifying wrap-up to a decade of blockbuster adaptations.

Based, like its immediate predecessor, on the last volume of J.K. Rowling's run of phenomenal best-sellers, Yates' fantasy is too intense for the youngest viewers. But scenes of combat, although frequent, are mostly bloodless, while the dialogue is marked by only one mildly improper turn of phrase, making this climatic adventure acceptable for most other age groups.

Vatican newspaper says Harry Potter film champions values

VATICAN CITY — The last battle of the almost-grownup Harry Potter may be too scary for young viewers, but it champions the values of friendship and sacrifice, the Vatican newspaper said.

"The atmosphere of the last few episodes, which had become increasingly dark and ominous, reaches its pinnacle," said one of two reviews of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 printed July 12 in the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano.

The darkness "may disturb younger audiences," said reviewer Gaetano Vallini.

"Death, which was a rare occurrence (in the previous Harry Potter films) is the protagonist here," which is another reason the film may not be appropriate for everyone, he said.

"As for the content, evil is never presented as fascinating or attractive in the saga, but the values of friendship and of sacrifice are highlighted. In a unique and long story of formation, through painful passages of dealing with death and loss, the hero and his companions mature from the lightheartedness of infancy to the complex reality of adulthood," he said.

A marriage guide for a ‘wedding crazy’ world

TORONTO — In Catholic Marriage: An Intimate Community of Life and Love, Dr. Patricia Murphy presents a booklet to help engaged couples preparing for the sacrament of Marriage.

“Sometimes it seems that the world has gone wedding crazy. Turn on the TV any evening and there is a good chance you will find a reality show dedicated to some aspect of planning the perfect wedding,” writes Murphy, an assistant professor of moral theology at Toronto’s St. Augustine’s Seminary.

The book invites engaged couples to look “beyond ‘Bridezilla’ ” and the myth of the “perfect wedding.” Instead, couples can look forward to their preparation for marriage by discussing important issues such as their future family and building a strong foundation for a lifetime commitment rooted in love and faith.

Murphy talks about marriage as a Christian vocation and life-long “commitment to love.” She also introduces couples to the beauty of the Catholic Church’s teachings on family and marriage as an “intimate community of life and love.”

Pope asks artists to fill the world with beauty

VATICAN CITY - Greeting 60 artists who were honoring him on the 60th anniversary of his priestly ordination, Pope Benedict XVI asked them to give witness to the beauty of truth and love.

Meeting the artists July 4 at their exhibit in the atrium of the Vatican audience hall, Pope Benedict said the church and artists must intensify their dialogue and collaboration to make the world "more human and more beautiful."

The Pontifical Council for Culture organized the homage by the 60 artists -- the vast majority of whom were from Italy because of time constraints and the cost of shipping art, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, council president, told Vatican Radio.

Pope Benedict celebrated the anniversary of his ordination June 29.

Magazine aims to renew Judeo-Christian underpinning of Canadian culture

OTTAWA - An Ottawa-based think tank has launched Canadian Observer, a culturally conservative Canadian quarterly its editor hopes will engage Catholic readers.

“The culture has turned against Christians generally,” said Richard Bastien, a Catholic and retired economist who is a senior research fellow at the Canadian Centre for Policy Studies. Bastien also represents the Catholic Civil Rights League in the National Capital Region. 

The centre’s president, Joseph Ben-Ami, is the magazine’s publisher.

“We are constantly being challenged by various aspects of the culture and we must respond to that challenge by showing abandoning certain beliefs and practices will lead to chaos,” said Bastien.

“What we are defending through this magazine is not just particular policies or ideas, it’s a certain understanding of civilization — Judeo-Christian civilization.”

Rediscovering Augustine’s Confessions

Garry Wills has written a short book that teaches us how to read a longer book. If we follow Wills’ instructions we will discover new riches in St. Augustine’s seminal classic, The Confessions.

This book is the third in a new series called “Lives of Great Religious Books.” The series is meant to make classic religious texts accessible to the general public.

Wills is the right choice to make Augustine’s Confessions come alive for contemporary readers. Wills has studied the bishop of Hippo’s writings for a long time, both as an academic historian and a Christian believer. His ready familiarity, one might even say his friendship, with the person of Augustine shines through, making the Confessions come to life. Along the way, Wills provides helpful insights into thorny theological problems and breaks open elements of Augustine’s basic teaching on God, human beings and the spiritual life.

Reading the Confessions is hard work, partly because we live in a very different kind of culture and world. With the passing of 1,600 years, we read, remember and reflect differently.