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1. Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith
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2. The Heavenly Man: The Remarkable
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3. Traveling Mercies : Some Thoughts
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4. Pope John Paul II: In My Own Words
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5. Augustine : A New Biography
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6. Leaving the Saints : How I Lost
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7. Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977
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8. The Spiral Staircase : My Climb
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9. The Hidden Pope: The Untold Story
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10. Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way
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11. Father Joe: The Man Who Saved
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12. The Rise of Benedict XVI : The
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13. Severe Mercy, A
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14. Autobiography of a Yogi
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15. The Seven Storey Mountain
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16. The Hiding Place
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17. 90 Minutes In Heaven: A True Story
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18. Surprised by Truth: 11 Converts
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19. We Have a Pope! Benedict XVI
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20. Pope Benedict XVI: A Biography

1. Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith
by AnneLamott
list price: $24.95
our price: $16.47
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1573222992
Catlog: Book (2005-03-03)
Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover
Sales Rank: 106
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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Few people can write about faith, parenting, and relationships as can the talented, irreverent Anne Lamott. With characteristic black humor, ("Everyone has been having a hard time with life this year; not with all of it, just the waking hours") she updates us on the ongoing mayhem of her life since Traveling Mercies, and continues to unfold her spiritual journey.

Plan B finds Lamott wrestling with mid-life hormones and weight gain while parenting Sam, now a teenager with his own set of raging hormones. Her observations cover everything from starting a Sunday school to grief over the death of her beloved dog, Sadie; lamenting the war to bitterness over her relationship with her now-departed mother.

As she tugs and pokes out the knots in a slender gold chain necklace, it becomes a metaphor for letting go and learning to forgive. "…any willingness to let go inevitably comes from pain; and the desire to change changes you, and jiggles the spirit, gets to it somehow, to the deepest, hardest, most ruined parts." It’s her willingness to show us the knotted-up, "ruined parts" of her life that make this collection of sometimes uneven essays so compelling.

"Everything feels crazy," writes Lamott, adding, "But on small patches of earth all over, I can see just as much messy mercy and grace as ever…."Lamott’s essays will serve as reminders to readers of the patches of messy mercy and grace in a chaotic world.--Cindy Crosby ... Read more

Reviews (78)

2-0 out of 5 stars Don't bother
Honest to Pete - Lamott blows it with this book.I quit reading it when I was half way through as I wondered why I was bothering - why continue to be assaulted like this? Other books by Lamott have been invigorating and fun - this one bashes our President repeatedly (Ok for a chapter - but in almost every chapter?), flaunts the use of vulgarity (just because she's free to do so, doesn't mean she should), and champions rebellion. Lamott is a smart sassy woman - and I love her and I have enjoyed reading about her jaunty walk with Jesus.But this time around I simply wanted to yell at her " Oh, Anne, CUT IT OUT!"

5-0 out of 5 stars Laughed Until I Cried
Annie Lamott is one of the few writers today who write about faith in an honest, straight-forward, humorous way. She doesn't try to portray herself as a model goody two shoes. Her acknowledgment of her own shortcomings, whether in parenting an adolescent, struggling to act on faith, or maintain a decent diet, will keep you smiling and nodding your head in agreement. This book sparkles with honesty and wit. It is a must read!!

2-0 out of 5 stars "It's all about. . . . MEEEEE"
I think you can make fun of George Bush. And I think you can inject a little humor in your own Theological beliefs. I mean look at what we put on television and call it a 'craft,' then host a show with people who only have one name telling us how great one particular show was and how the actors never gave up their 'integrity,' and then tell me God doesn't have a sense of humor. "Friends" ran on network television for what . . . 60 years?

It's just if you have a point, make it. Don't leave the reader confused as to what you were trying to say.

I find this to be mean spirited writing. Ms. Lamott seems uncertain as to what she is going to say and I am then left with uncertainty as to what she said. Or why. Writing about Christ and his teenage years is something I would expect from George Carlin or Moore. I get the feeling that Ms. Lamott wanted to touch on everything that might pull in a few extra readers. Like a director of a poor script, action, violence, skimpy tops on the female stars, "cool" humor between the African American and Caucasian heroes, more violence, more skimpy tops, fast cars. Let's do a little of everything.

Some points Ms. Lamott makes are genuine. They are unfortunately few and far between. 2 stars. Larry Scantlebury

4-0 out of 5 stars Ranting?I think not!
After reading most of the negative reviews of this book, I just have to laugh.Most come from those "upset" with Ms. Lamott's criticism of Mr. Bush and/or her interpretation of religious dogma.

Get over yourself people.First, there is nothing wrong with one critizing your government and or president!Ever since our government was formed, people have bashed the government.Those who challenged government tenets during the 18th century, for example, were not told to cease the criticism or face jail time.Our fore fathers saw debate about issues that effect all of us as paramount to a successful democracy.(It would be nice if all those who do not understand this basic fact, read up on it and become more informed before choosing to voice their opinions on this issue).

Second, there is nothing wrong with one person's interpretation of religious dogma.I found Ms. Lamott's writing to be poignant and funny and her descriptions of Jesus as being a rebellious teenager real and refreshing.What would Jesus do?He would not chastize Ms. Lamott for her humor but probably have a good laugh along with her!

Third, Ms. Lamott is someone who has had alot of pain in her life and is working it out.She is far from perfect.I know many people who exhibit some of her qualities but with alot less reflection on their parts.She yells at her kid, she swears, she has a drinking problem, ... does that make her less of a human being?What is the old saying about judging not?

Join Ms. Lamott for one's person faith journey and leave your judgements at home.You'll be pleasantly surprised!

1-0 out of 5 stars Ugghh
A dreadful, awful, and utterly terrible book.I enjoyed Anne Lamott's previous work but this one did nothing but anger me. Yuck. Read at your own risk. ... Read more

2. The Heavenly Man: The Remarkable True Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun
by Paul Hattaway
list price: $13.99
our price: $10.49
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Asin: 082546207X
Catlog: Book (2003-02-01)
Publisher: Monarch
Sales Rank: 1483
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (13)

5-0 out of 5 stars This will challenge your socks off
After reading this book, I'm convinced that most professing Christians in America have no clue what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. This book is about Yun who was nicknamed "The Heavenly Man". Yun was a church leader, planter and missionary in China. He faced much persecution because he refused to compromise. He could have avoided the persecution, separation from his family and imprisonment by just being quiet about his faith. But he choose to obey, and he suffered greatly. I was challenged and convicted of my fear of man. This book has been one of the most life changing books I have ever read. Buy It!

I wish I could give this book six or seven stars. There
are a few truly rare books out there that can genuinely
change your life for the better: this is definitely one
of those books.
You will be amazed to read the fascinating and heartrending
testimony of bro.Yun, a leader in the Chinese underground
church, and how his "faith of abandonment to GOD" leads
him into astounding testings and overcoming power to
testify of the faithfulness and supernatural power of
Christ in daily life: a life that seeks nothing but the
glory of God and the salvation of others as a true servant
in the Kingdom of Christ and His Church.
Just to read the triumphs and tragedies of chapters 11 and
12 alone is more than worth the price of this book. It's a
modern-day classic that will, perhaps, challenge your faith
and your life as no other book you may ever read.
I know now beyond any shadow of doubt that most Christians
in the Western and developed world are virtually spiritual
pygmies compared to our brethren suffering under persecution
and rising to the task of giving testimony to The Gospel with
their very lives and their all for Christ, and Christ alone.
~ This is what genuine, - from the heart CHRISTianity is
all about. The book is a rare treasure. don't miss it, OR
the Message.

5-0 out of 5 stars A MUST READ!!!
The reviews speak for themselves! This book is a must for all believers!! It is encouraging and convicting. Brother Yun is a vessel willing to be used.. you will be encouraged to do the same!

5-0 out of 5 stars God using people, People Used by God!!!
Reading this book will change your life forever. If you want to strenghen you faith in God or find out about Chinese Church Persecution this is the book for you. After you read the book you won't feel God just wants you to go on with life, but that he wants to use you in ways you've never thought possible.To devote your whole life to him and want to give everything that you have to him, So that HE CAN USE YOU!!!This book will Bless you.

God Bless

5-0 out of 5 stars The best Christian book I have ever read
This book is what true apostolic Christianity is like. It is a guide book for anyone who is desirous of authentic New Testament faith walked out in today's modern world. It will radically challenge your paradigm of what Christianity really is about. ... Read more

3. Traveling Mercies : Some Thoughts on Faith
by Anne Lamott
list price: $13.00
our price: $9.75
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Asin: 0385496095
Catlog: Book (2000-02-15)
Publisher: Anchor
Sales Rank: 1493
Average Customer Review: 4.31 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Anne Lamott claims the two best prayers she knows are: "Help me, help me, help me" and "Thank you, thank you, thank you." She has a friend whose morning prayer each day is "Whatever," and whose evening prayer is "Oh, well." Anne thinks of Jesus as "Casper the friendly savior" and describes God as "one crafty mother."

Despite--or because of--her irreverence, faith is a natural subject for Anne Lamott. Since Operating Instructions and Bird by Bird, her fans have been waiting for her to write the book that explained how she came to the big-hearted, grateful, generous faith that she so often alluded to in her two earlier nonfiction books. The people in Anne Lamott's real life are like beloved characters in a favorite series for her readers--her friend Pammy, her son, Sam, and the many funny and wise folks who attend her church are all familiar. And Traveling Mercies is a welcome return to those lives, as well as an introduction to new companions Lamott treats with the same candor, insight, and tenderness.

Lamott's faith isn't about easy answers, which is part of what endears her to believers as well as nonbelievers. Against all odds, she came to believe in God and then, even more miraculously, in herself. As she puts it, "My coming to faith did not start with a leap but rather a series of staggers." At once tough, personal, affectionate, wise, and very funny, Traveling Mercies tells in exuberant detail how Anne Lamott learned to shine the light of faith on the darkest part of ordinary life, exposing surprising pockets of meaning and hope.

... Read more

Reviews (240)

5-0 out of 5 stars Only for those with a wry sense of humor
I can't fault this book, only praise it. For who else has written in such a unique way about a faith journey? Lamott makes it real (for someone of her age [middle-aged] and from a definitely Californian point of view.) But, her observations and the way she writes about them are universal. And funny.

If you can't laugh at yourself, your foibles, and even at God, don't read this--you'll start feeling self-righteous and will be quickly entering a "how dare she?" review. You will, of course, have totally missed the point.

Everyone can learn something about the way LIFE has a sneaky way of surfacing painful and joyous memories and feelings. These emotions are triggered by life's details, which Lamott expertly captures. She finds the most unassuming triggers to release a flood of feelings about various topics. The stories she tells are God-given, precious moments. Perhaps we don't "see" these moments and reflect on them enough in our lives. Is that why Lamott touches us? Thankfully, she remind us that they are there.

Read and savor this book, if you are open to what makes someone an imperfect person--and a Christian.

5-0 out of 5 stars Never written a review or letter to author before....
Have been an avid reader for 30 years, but never before felt compelled to write a review or letter to an author before...This book, perhaps more than any of the thousands of others I have read, struck a chord in my soul. On the recommendation of a friend I had read "Operating Instructions" about three years ago. While thumbing through a Book of the Month Club type catalog I ran across the photo of a white woman in dreadlocks and was struck with admiration for the woman who would present such a public image. I was pleasantly surprised to read that her name was Anne LaMott. I ordered the book "Traveling Mercies" and was delighted and completely engrossed by it. Ms. LaMott puts words to emotion I cannot personally express when she speaks of her "Christian-ish" life-orientation, her likening of her personal experience of coming to the Lord as to that of a stray cat trying to enter her life, and the pain and sublime joy of rearing her Sam. Like Annie,(oddly enough the name my own mother, a story in and of itself, was called as a girl) I came to a personal relationship with God through voyeurism into a congregation of Black believers, and like her, was taught life lessons I didn't know I needed through my interaction in fellowship with them. I thank God for the talent with words he has bestowed upon Anne, ask his blessings upon her and her loved ones, and recommend this book to anyone who finds him/herself surprised at the move of the Holy Spirit in his/her life.

5-0 out of 5 stars Hooked
This is the book that got me hooked on Anne Lamott. Most poignant and precious are the insights about life as a recovering alcoholic. Raw facts about motherhood were astounding, too. Her word choice at times caused my gut to spasm, but I survived and went on to read all of the book she had previously written. To my delight and the benefit of mankind, Lamott's newest book, Blue Shoe, avoids profanity.

4-0 out of 5 stars my kind of christian
Until I read Anne Lamott I associated the word "Christian" with holier-than-thou, priggish, etc. Now I see clearly that that's just a stereotype. It IS possible for a Christian to be a liberal with a wicked sense of humor.

Lamott isn't afraid to present herself in a less than flattering light whether it's secretly hating her mom or yelling out of frustration at her young son. We all do these things, but most of us prefer to show the world the "good" side of ourselves. Lamott is wonderful when it comes to making the everyday petty irritations of life funny, so that you empathize with her rather than judging.

Lamott writes about children, her friends, relatives and church. She writes about the competitiveness that can develop among parents of young children, and she writes about the path she took to becoming sober. Unlike some reviewers, I don't think it's going to be detrimental to her later relationship with her son when she makes him go to church. There could be a lot worse things she could force him to do.

In one essay, she writes about feeling unattractive after standing with a group of teenage girls waiting for a bus back to her hotel. Then she realizes that no one in the group is probably satisfied with her body, and this is something I've started to tell myself when I find myself in that kind of situation, too.

This atheist gives this book two thumbs up.

5-0 out of 5 stars Outside my experience
This book should be an eye-opener for anyone who is prone to believing in "cookie cutter christians"...

Read with an open heart. God will bless... ... Read more

4. Pope John Paul II: In My Own Words
by Pope John Paul II
list price: $4.99
our price: $4.99
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Asin: 0517220849
Catlog: Book (2002-08-06)
Publisher: Gramercy
Sales Rank: 12342
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Book Description

Spiritual father of millions, globally influential leader: Pope John Paul II's words have brought inspiration, solace, and courage to those who have listened. The quotes and prayers collected here are both for the faithful and for those who have been touched by and want to know more about this remarkable man. His words on love, family, truth, freedom, human relationships, the power of God, and the importance of hope and prayer explore what it means to be alive and what we are doing here on Earth, and offer answers to some of life's hardest questions. ... Read more

5. Augustine : A New Biography
by James J. O'Donnell
list price: $26.95
our price: $17.79
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Asin: 0060535377
Catlog: Book (2005-04-01)
Publisher: Ecco
Sales Rank: 1926
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Book Description

Augustine, sinner and saint, the celebrated theologian who served as bishop of ... Hippo from 396 C.E. until his death in ... 430 C.E., is widely regarded as one of the most influential thinkers in the western world. Augustine: A New Biography tells the story of Augustine from the vantage point of Hippo, where he spent almost forty years as priest and bishop. During Augustine's post-Confessions years he became prominent as a churchman, politician, and writer, and James J. O'Donnell looks back at the events in the Confessions from this period in Augustine's life.

Much of Augustine's writing consists of sermons and letters rich in vivid primary material about the events of his time. Prosperous men converting to Christianity to get ahead, priests covering up their sexual and financial peccadilloes, generals playing coldly calculated games of Roman barbarian geopolitics -- these are the figures who stand out in Augustine's world and who populate O'Donnell's intriguing portrait set against a background of the battle over the future of Christianity. This book reveals much of what Augustine didn't confess.

... Read more

6. Leaving the Saints : How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith
list price: $24.95
our price: $16.47
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Asin: 0609609912
Catlog: Book (2005-03-01)
Publisher: Crown
Sales Rank: 74568
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7. Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977
by Cardinal Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
list price: $12.95
our price: $9.71
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0898707021
Catlog: Book (1998-11-01)
Publisher: Ignatius Press
Sales Rank: 731576
Average Customer Review: 4.25 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (4)

2-0 out of 5 stars An Overview of Ratzinger's Life -- Not His Thought
Joseph Ratzinger is one of the most significant Catholic theologians of the modern era. However, from his memoirs one wouldn't fully understand why. He writes lightly about his life in pre-war Germany and harrowingly of what he and his family endured during the war itself. As he traces his development as a priest and theologian we only receive tantalizing hints as to how and why his theological thought developed as it did.

It's a nice read, and a quick one, but one would do better to read the two volumes of interviews that Peter Seewald conducted with Ratzinger to get an understanding of his mind in a less formal setting than in his published theology.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Pleasant and Instructive Book
Cardinal Ratzinger's memoirs are brief and pleasant enough to read easily in one sitting. They are full of interesting biographical background that conjures a picture of family and professional life full of simple joys and of earnest intellectual pursuit of the truth. It is a refreshing and inspiring picture given the prevalence of cynicism and nihilism in our modern Western societies. His vignettes once again demonstrate that simplicity of life is the best route to lasting joy.

But in addition to the personal, we also have insight into the theological and cultural currents in the Church from the end of the Second World War into the late seventies. Especially interesting is Ratzinger's view of the Second Vatican Council from within and how destructive forces have exploited the Council in ways unimaginable to the Council Fathers. The other related facet is the frank portrayal of the ongoing conflict within the Church-- a conflict between those who accept the revelation of the living God given in both Scripture and Tradition always necessarily together (and never apart), and those who wish to remake the Church into an essentially agnostic society whose beliefs fluctuate with the latest academic fads. This book makes a perfect introduction to Cardinal Ratzinger's theological works.

5-0 out of 5 stars Ratzinger: A Gentle Glimpse
In "Milestones" Ratzinger, the Cardinal, allows us a little glimpse at the soul of Joseph, the man. Yes, there truly is a human individual behind the persona which catches the headlines; and not always in the most favorable of lights. This brief, interesting, easily read 150+ pages shows us a man who loves and is loved by a family with encounters, some normal and others not so due to the times in which lived. We are permitted to see a man, priest, scholar making decisions based sometimes upon very ordinary and personal considerations.

"Milestones" in a quite simple way ties together some great Catholic, theological thought represented by the individuals who walked across the stage of the Cardinal's life; Rahner, Kung, de Lubac, Congar, von Balthasar, Danielou, Bouyer, et alii. Individuals some of whom I have met only in their works were his contemporaries. I find it interesting that this present papacy reflects the theology of not only John Paul II himself but of that of the likes of de Lubac, Congar, von Balthasar, etc.; theological currents with an appreciation for Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition, and the Fathers of the Church. And in its midst is a man comfortably familiar with it all, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.

The book includes a selection of illustrations which give it a very warm and inviting setting. We see the Cardinal not only in his official capacities but also in some very personal moments with family and friends.

"Milestones" is a simple but important introduction to a man who, one suspects, is far more than just Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. At its end it leaves one wanting more.

Without hesitation, I give "Milestones" a five star recommendation.

5-0 out of 5 stars Meet Cardinal Ratzinger
This book was wonderful to read and have a sense of the author's personal experience from childhood, living under the Nazi's and Communists, becoming a Priest, Bishop, and Cardinal. The focus is not so much theology but that comes into focus at various times as the author describes his involvement with pre-Vatican II events , the Council itself and the aftermath. It is very insightful for anyone wishing to have a overall picture of the process of the Vatican council and the theological processes that were there at war with each other. Great way to get a picture of the mind of Cardinal Ratzinger. ... Read more

8. The Spiral Staircase : My Climb Out of Darkness (Armstrong, Karen)
list price: $14.00
our price: $10.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0385721277
Catlog: Book (2005-02-22)
Publisher: Anchor
Sales Rank: 2175
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Karen Armstrong speaks to the troubling years following her decision to leave the life of a Roman Catholic nun and join the secular world in 1969. What makes this memoir especially fascinating is that Armstrong already wrote about this era once---only it was a disastrous book. It was too soon for her to understand how these dark, struggling years influenced her spiritual development, and she was too immature to protect herself from being be bullied by the publishing world. As a result, she agreed to portray herself only in as "positive and lively a light as possible"---a mandate that gave her permission to deny the truth of her pain and falsify her inner experience. The inspiration for this new approach comes from T. S. Eliot's Ash Wednesday, a series of six poems that speak to the process of spiritual recovery. Eliot metaphorically climbs a spiral staircase in these poems---turning again and again to what he does not want to see as he slowly makes progress toward the light. In revisiting her spiral climb out of her dark night of the soul, Armstrong gives readers a stunningly poignant account about the nature of spiritual growth. Upon leaving the convent, Armstrong grapples with the grief of her abandoned path and the uncertainty of her place in the world. On top of this angst, Armstrong spent years suffering from undiagnosed temporal lobe epilepsy, causing her to have frequent blackout lapses in memory and disturbing hallucinations---crippling symptoms that her psychiatrist adamantly attributed to Armstrong's denial of her femininity and sexuality. The details of this narrative may be specific to Armstrong's life, but the meanin! g she makes of her spiral ascent makes this a universally relevant story. All readers can glean inspiration from her insights into the nature of surrender and the possibilities of finding solace in the absence of hope. Armstrong shows us why spiritual wisdom is often a seasoned gift---no matter how much we strive for understanding, we can't force profound insights to occur simply because our publisher is waiting for them. With her elegant, humble and brave voice, she inspires readers to willingly turn our attention toward our false identities and vigilantly defended beliefs in order to better see the truth and vulnerability of our existence. Herein lies the staircase we can climb to enlightenment. --Gail Hudson ... Read more

Reviews (50)

3-0 out of 5 stars Sprial Staircase
Suberb book!Should be REQUIRED reading for every person who is seeking a more spiritual life.

3-0 out of 5 stars A bit tedious
I really enjoyed the early chapters of this book.The author's experiences as a young nun and her subsequent disillusionment with convent life make for fascinating reading.The years of struggling with an at-the-time undiagnosed illness also is of interest.Apart from the above, however, her story is one ofquite an ordinary life - perhaps even more inhibited and uneventful than most. Her story bogs down in the descriptions of her academic life and her living situations. Yes, she struggled with her faith - but who hasn't? She spends a great deal of time discovering things about life that would seem fairly obvious to others.At times her story was rather slow-moving, self-absorbed and even tedious.Did it inspire me?Only a little.Would I go on to read any other of this author's books? I doubt it. I could barely finish this one.

5-0 out of 5 stars Stunning story of a spiritual quest
Karen Armstrong is one of the best general interest writers on religion today, and this wonderful autobiography relates how she got there. Armstrong was a Catholic nun in the 60's, during a time of great upheaval in the church. After a 7 year struggle to subdue her intelligent, inquisitive spirit, described in "Through the Narrow Gate," she left the convent, and the struggle really began. Armstrong describes herself as caught in between, in a sort of no-man's land, having lost the vision of God she pursued for so long, but ill at ease in the secular world. She also suffers from deep depression, loss of memory, and hallucinations, which years of psychiatric treatment fail to cure. It is a measure of her misery during this period that a diagnosis of epilepsy is a liberating turning point for her.

Armstrong's long and tortuous path towards a life as an author includes a failed doctoral thesis, being fired from a teaching job, and a failed TV project on the Crusades. But "Through the Narrow Gate" was a surprising success, and "The History of God" established her as a popular (meaning non-scholarly, but serious) writer on Christianity, Judiasm and Islam.

As honest as Armstrong's account of her struggle is, it's not all here. She dismisses her apparently limited experience with men in a terse paragraph, viewing any such involvement as a loss of freedom. And her view of Christianity is, perhaps understandably, quite negative, her view of Islam perhaps overly positive, as she downplays the fanatical, "jihad" aspects that have marred Islam in modern times.

Armstrong's story is an important one, spanning four turbulent decades in the history of modern religion. Read "Through the Narrow Gate" first, then "Staircase." They're well-worth your time.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Happy Discovery
I came across this title in a women's magazine book review section.Something about the synopsis intrigued me, and I bought a copy.I was so impressed by Ms Armstrong's writing style, use of language, and her compelling honesty in describing her experiences that I read the book in less than a week.She has a luminous clarity of mind that drew me into the nightmarish world of the convent and on to her self-searching quest for identity and scholarship.Hers is a story of survival and transcendence.I look forward to reading her books on Islam and Buddha, among others.She also has an essay in the April 2005 issue of Utne magazine, warning that "misbegotten U.S. foreign policy is pushing Islamic fundamentalists closer and closer to the use of weapons of mass destruction."She's a brilliant woman, a gifted writer, and I highly recommend this memoir.

5-0 out of 5 stars For more about temporal lobe epilepsy and religiosity...
This fascinating autobiography describes Karen Armstrong's diagnosis with temporal lobe epilepsy, a little-known but common brain disorder often associated with intense religious feelings and prodigious creativity. To learn more about this remarkable disorder and its appearance in the painter Vincent van Gogh and the writers Fyodor Dostoevsky and Lewis Carroll, go to Eve LaPlante's 1993 book, Seized, available in paperback. ... Read more

9. The Hidden Pope: The Untold Story of a Lifelong Friendship That Is Changing the Relationship Between Catholics and Jews: The Personal Journey of John Paul II and Jerzy Kluger
by Darcy O'Brien
list price: $25.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0875964788
Catlog: Book (1998-04-01)
Publisher: Rodale Press
Sales Rank: 344887
Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars
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John Paul II has made greater strides toward understanding and atoning for Rome's complicity in anti-Semitism than any other pope in history. The Hidden Pope shows how and why this rapprochement is taking place by telling the story of John Paul's lifelong friendship with Jerzy Kluger, a Polish Jew. The text is a fascinating and detailed depiction of John Paul's personal life, butthe book's real significance lies in its frank demonstration of the way Karol Wojtyla brings his personal experience to bear on the eternal truths of Catholic theology. ... Read more

Reviews (10)

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent for Jewish readers
This book gives an eye opening view of the current Pope. It shows how his upbringing in Poland led him to have his feelings of friendship with the Jewish people. He is presented as a true "tzadik". The book also briefly relates on how the works of Pope John XXIII and Cardinals Willebrands, O'Connor and Spellman have brought about a better understanding of Judaism in the Church. If their messages could only filter down to the populace...

5-0 out of 5 stars A good read!
I found this book very informative on the Pope, who has always been a hero of mine. It was very indepth and historical. Although it was not negative about the Pope it did seem to contain some incorrect statments on the views of catholics and the teachings of the Church. I felt it was assumed that catholics are, in general, negative towards Jews. I have always been a believing catholic and have never thought of Jews as "Christ Killers" or anything like that. I have never found anything in Catholic teaching that would support those views, most of these from writings from before John Paul II. Usually I read that we are all personally guilty of the crucifiction by our own sins. Over all it was a good and worthwhile reading.

5-0 out of 5 stars Incredible
This is a fabulous book. I am neither Catholic nor Jewish, but I was fascinated by the depth of the man we all call Pope. I had no idea of his personal journey, and the breadth of his goodness. Too many times, we don't look beyond the title and the robes. This is truly a saintly man.

5-0 out of 5 stars Another O'Brien masterpiece
Having read many other books by this author, I am constantly amazed at not only the depth of knowledge O'Brien brings to each of his works, but also by the depth of the author himself, who obviously lives the research of each subject. Such dedication to research is highly visible in his latest, and sadly, his last offering.

5-0 out of 5 stars excellant historic account of the pope and his boyhood
Wonderfully written. O'Brien shows great talent in going from his account of the Hillside Strangler Case, "Two of a Kind" to a revealing historical account of the Pope. ... Read more

10. Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way
by Pope John Paul II
list price: $22.95
our price: $16.06
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Asin: 0446577812
Catlog: Book (2004-09-28)
Publisher: Warner Books
Sales Rank: 7990
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Book Description

Following the success of the international bestseller Crossing the Threshold of Hope, Pope John Paul II provides the world with a glimpse into his past in RISE, LET US BE ON OUR WAY.Chronicling the years he spent as a bishop and later archbishop in Krakow,Poland through his election as the first Polish Pope in 1978, he recounts everything from communist efforts to suppress the church in Poland to his efforts to adopt a new and more open style of pastoral ministry. With recollections on his life as well as his thoughts on the issues facing the world now, Pope John Paul II offers words of wisdom in this book that will appeal to people of any faith looking to strengthen their spirituality. ... Read more

11. Father Joe: The Man Who Saved My Soul
by Tony Hendra
list price: $24.95
our price: $16.47
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Asin: 1400061849
Catlog: Book (2004-05-18)
Publisher: Random House
Average Customer Review: 4.06 out of 5 stars
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How I met Father Joe. I was fourteen and having an affair with a married woman. These are the opening lines to the first chapter of this outstanding memoir by former National Lampoon Editor Tony Hendra. How could we resist diving into this deliciously satisfying story about a lifelong mentorship with Dom Joseph Warrilow, a.k.a. Father Joe? After the devout Catholic husband catches the illicit couple in the kitchen, the husband does not attack Hendra. Instead he decides the young boy needs salvation. Amazingly, the husband leads Hendra to the one man who could save his soul: Father Joe. This is a tribute to a spiritual mentor, written in an easygoing, guy-talk style. It is no small feat to be brilliantly funny, ruthlessly honest, and spiritually profound at the same time, but Hendra has the winning combo. For more than 40 years Hendra would return to this mesmerizing old soul to tell him everything---from the details of his first sexual encounter, through questioning the social value of satire, to his crisis in faith after losing two children through miscarriages. But it's not just the North Star wisdom of Father Joe that captivates readers; it is the chance to follow Hendra as he gradually matures into a humble and spiritually solid man who can still crack a wicked good joke. Such a gift. Thank you, Tony Hendra.--Gail Hudson ... Read more

Reviews (77)

5-0 out of 5 stars It's not "Tuesdays with Joe"
"Father Joe" is an unexpected stunner; not a "Me and My Mentor" book at all. It's a brush with greatness that wouldn't brush off. A real-life parable. An atheist's prayer.

Don't be scared off by the "Father" in the title. It doesn't mean you have to know (or care) about Catholicism or any other religion to "get" the book. Its lessons are hardly church-specific. There's even a paradoxical quote from the title guy on this point: "God loves atheists as much as believers. P-p-probably more."

Also don't be scared off by the idea of "lessons." This book preaches nothing. It discovers things -- resonant truths -- and the reader can't help but discover those truths along with the author.

If you don't laugh, cry, and learn something from "Father Joe," you're already dead.

Caveat: Have Google close at hand when you read. The author's language is clear but some of his analogies are a bit arcane. (Hendra's scholarship appears to predate his Cambridge education. His 14-year-old self, as recounted in the book, knows more than most adults I can think of.) It's hard not to be embarrassed bringing a standard American education to this party, because we are generally taught so little about literature and history.

Update June 8 -- based on feedback here, I started a Yahoo discussion group for "Father Joe" at

3-0 out of 5 stars Good read... but...
Father Joe is a very entertaining and wonderful story about a man who really makes a difference in people's lives. On that level it's engaging and involving, although I agree a bit with some of the other complaints I've seen that Hendra goes out of his way to insult Thatcher and Reagan, and doesn't tie those details in too well to the rest of the story.

My chief issue, though, is that nowhere do I get the impression that Hendra ever got the real message this priest should have had to offer. I don't know if it's because Father Joe didn't tell it well or because Hendra didn't hear it well. Hendra seems to be searching for a spiritual experience for it's own sake, and on that level, it's a pretty selfish quest, which migh explain why it is so disappointing. But that's just not what Christianity is about. It's about a unique individual who is both God and man and who's still alive, even though he was killed.

At one point in the book Hendra tells Father Joe that he only senses God's presence when he's with Father Joe. He should keep looking!

5-0 out of 5 stars Spiritual Uplifting
Don't get me wrong, though it is an uplifting book in many ways, you also see or should I say 'Feel' the heartbreak along the way. This is a Powerful read. There have only been a few books that have touched me so deeply-'Father Joe' is one of them, as well as 'Nightmares Echo','Running With Scissors'and 'A Million Little Pieces'

1-0 out of 5 stars Very Disappointed
This is a sad book about a very selfish person that wasted his life while inflicting much pain on others. I would have found the read more palatable if Hendra actually experienced a metanoia, but it remains clear he continues to view himself as the center of the universe. The lessons and love unconditionally offered by Fr. Joseph were ignored at best and at worst persecuted.

A couple of other points: (a) I find it impossible to believe the "recollections" are accurate as this author is prone to extreme fabrication, and (b) I found the "name dropping" to be tedious and off the mark. Silly me, I thought the book might actually be about the title - "The Man Who Saved My Soul". This one goes in the trash bin. I wish I could get my money back.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Most Powerful Book I have read in a Long Time
Father Joe is the story of author Tony Hendra's faith journey. It is an inspiring, heartfelt story of the four decade relationship between the satirist and a surprisingly wise Benedictine monk named Father Joseph Warrillow.

Hendra, one of the original editors of National Lampoon, captures the beautiful essence of a truly God-inspired man. The portrait that emerges is of one a cleric who is a credit to Church, a cleric who is a credit to his Christ. Father Joe is truly a saint. Hendra, in a startling departure from his normal style, portrays Father Joe's actions as non-judgmental, caring, and engaged.

This is the most powerful book I have read in a long time. If I have one criticism, it is Hendra's prodigious talent occasionally clouds this great story. I would occasionally find myself re-reading a particularly clever or unique descriptive phrase. However, you should properly view those words as the musings of a less talented, envious and jealous writer.

Father Joe is a tribute to one of the most charismatic, selfless, spiritual mentors of our time. At times it is funny; at times it will bring tears to your eyes. Tony Hendra experienced a miracle. I am grateful he shared the story with me. Read the book. You will be grateful he shared it with you. ... Read more

12. The Rise of Benedict XVI : The Inside Story of How the Pope was Elected and Where He Will Take the CatholicChurch
list price: $19.95
our price: $13.57
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Asin: 0385513208
Catlog: Book (2005-06-07)
Publisher: Doubleday
Sales Rank: 6935
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13. Severe Mercy, A
by Sheldon Vanauken
list price: $9.95
our price: $9.95
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Asin: 0060688246
Catlog: Book (1987-07-29)
Publisher: HarperSanFrancisco
Sales Rank: 7853
Average Customer Review: 4.72 out of 5 stars
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A Severe Mercy, by Sheldon Vanauken, is a heart-rending lovestory described by its author as "the spiritual autobiography of a love rather than of the lovers." Vanauken chronicles the birth of a powerful pagan love borne out of the relationship he shares with his wife, Davy, and describes the growth of their relationship and the dreams that they share. As a symbol of their love, they name their dream schooner the Grey Goose, "for the grey goose, if its mate is killed flies on alone and never takes another."

While studying at Oxford, Sheldon and Davy develop a friendship with C.S. Lewis, under whose influence and with much intellectual scrutiny they accept the Christian doctrine. As their devotion to God intensifies, Sheldon realizes that he is no longer Davy's primary love--God is. Within this discovery begins a brewing jealousy.

Shortly after, Davy acquires a fatal illness. After her death Sheldon embarks on an intense experience of grief, "to find the meaning of it, taste the whole of it ... to learn from sorrow whatever it had to teach." Through painstaking reveries, he comes to discover the meaning of "a mercy as severe as death, a severity as merciful as love." He learns that her death "had these results: It brought me as nothing else could do to know and end my jealously of God. It saved her faith from assault. ...And it saved our love from perishing."

Replete with 18 letters from C.S. Lewis, A Severe Mercy addresses some of the universal questions that surround faith--the existence of God and the reasons behind tragedy. --Jacque Holthusen ... Read more

Reviews (47)

5-0 out of 5 stars love is stronger than death...
After several readings of this book over the past few years, I can conclude without any hesitation that it is the most moving and unforgettable memoir I've ever read. It is relevant to note that all 29 of the other ... reviewers (at the time of my own writing) rate it a solid 5 stars... it really deserves a sixth. Not only for it's amazing true content, but for the beautiful way in which the author lays it all out. This book will literally captivate your imagination, sweep you away, and tug you towards a deeper understanding of the depths of "inloveness" (a Vanauken term) possible in God-ordained marriage.

Sheldon and Jean Vanauken were living the dream of togetherness that most people only.... well, DREAM about... until they came face to face with the fact that perhaps "perpetual springtime is not allowed." Those words were from their personal friend, the Oxford don C.S. Lewis and addressed to Sheldon as he tried to make sense of his overwhelming grief.

This is the story of a profound love between two people... a love that has its genesis, consummation, and terminus in heavenly places. If your eyes are dry all the way through this book... well, never mind... they won't be.

5-0 out of 5 stars A masterful story of love, beauty and spiritual insight
A Severe Mercy is a masterfully crafted autobiography and the story of an intensely deep love relationship, a profound introspective on their path to finding God, and the utimate bereavement the author experiences as his thirty-something wife dies of a terminal illness.

Along the way, their paths cross with C.S. Lewis; personal correspondence with him peppers the book, as does a collection of superb poems written by Vanauken. It explores complex theological, philosophical and aesthetic issues with deep insight and profoundly sharp perspective. I can't recommend it highly enough, it's truly one if the best books I've ever read - a work of art which crosses many dimensions.

Practically speaking, A Severe Mercy explores a number of crucial life issues with breathtaking clarity. First, the second chapter, "The Shining Barrier" distills more insight into the true workings of a wonderful marriage relationship than a dozen garden-variety relationship books from the self-help section of a bookstore. Anyone who wants to understand why their romance has cooled off after five or ten or twenty years of marriage (including myself) could use this chapter alone as a manual for re-kindling the fire.

Secondly, it explores the nature of a difficult spiritual journey in a most articulate way - the emotional, philosophical, theological and personal implications of the claims of Jesus Christ. This book is not in any way a Bible-thumping promo for Christianity; rather it examines the claims of Christ and their implications from logical, historical, aesthetic and personal viewpoints -- in a way that no thinking person can easily dismiss.

I gave this book to friends of mine, a highly educated married professional couple, before they went on a camping trip. They were struggling mightily to reconcile Christianity with their modern worldview and the book was instrumental in helping them accomplish a breakthrough.

Third, it delves into the difficult interior world of a person who is bereft of the love of his life and who must feel the sorrow and loss and yet go on.

A Severe Mercy plumbs the depths of all of these issues via beautiful prose, expertly crafted perspective, and provocative poetry. Highly recommended.

1-0 out of 5 stars all kinds of creepy
"A Severe Mercy" is a monotonous tale of a sick relationship which was, sadly, never fully healed even after the author's conversion and his wife's death.

The author is an overly self-conscious, controlling, self-absorbed snob (who can stomach Americans affecting British spelling?) whose characterization of his "beloved" remains disturbingly two-dimensional. If only she'd left her own story (well, one Van didn't burn), there might have been something interesting to it.

People who love this book, in my experience, tend to love it for all the wrong reasons. They are, for example, swept away by the ideal of pagan love and miss the explicit point (which even the author, in theory at least, gets) that such love must either convert and grow or fester. Others are emotionally immature, somewhat naive and inexperienced in love, and miss all the glaring problems in the author's relationship and attitudes toward it (both at its beginning and later, as he looks back). Many of my friends who liked this book as teenagers found it repulsive when they read it as adults. (And the theologically inclined found a few theological errors to boot.)

The book does have some redeeming features, like a handful of letters from C.S. Lewis to the author, but overall, it isn't worthwhile. There are too many good Christian books to be wasting time on this one.

5-0 out of 5 stars Sentimental, yet Truthful
A story about love, the shining barrier, between a pre-WWII American couple that leads to a life of deep living and true struggle with what life and relationship bring to each other. CS Lewis, God, and intellectualism all mix in a very well thought out and true to life way that make this a most timely and peculiarly important book. Three big events: the love of a couple, their conversion to Christ, and death all mix with how God must be faced in our lives. Touching, sentimental, yet truthful to the greater truths of what it really means to be a follower of Christ.

1-0 out of 5 stars spiritual exhibitionism
I wrote a review of this book a year ago, but it has been deleted. My opinion is unchanged. It is shallow, sentimental, and exhibitionist--a pathetic example of what passes for profundity in our time. It also attributes remarks to C S Lewis that no one who has read his books (or knew him)would regard as accurate. I earnestly hope it will soon go out of print and vanish into the obscurity it so richly deserves. ... Read more

14. Autobiography of a Yogi
by Paramahansa Yogananda
list price: $6.00
our price: $6.00
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Asin: 0876120796
Catlog: Book (1979-06-01)
Publisher: Self-Realization Fellowship Publishers
Sales Rank: 7941
Average Customer Review: 4.43 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (167)

A spiritual classic would be to grossly understate its potential effects; this book of truth and divine wisdom in this age makes it a true-godsend from one united with the Lord. Reading it a few months ago, I couldn't help but realize how all the people in our world could enlarge their realm of happiness with the tinge of divine sweetness by grasping this book's eternal essence and practicing its doctrines to lead one to soul freedom. Meditation on the Lord is our eternal birthright and duty, without it, that "something" else will never appear. Please, I urge anyone to read this book and practice the science of Kriya Yoga. Give it a try, for a day, a week, or month; however longer you persevere the effects of harmony will increase. I speak from my practical experience, to those that scoff at the possibility of the human soul and vitalism, I ask then, what do we then live for? A hundred hours of sensual satisfaction can not dare compare to the gentle aura of soul bliss one can experience during attempts at God-communion. When we once realize the eternal soul as Paramahansaji states, that something else has been realized.

Set aside your beliefs and pre-suggested notions of life for one moment, spend a few dollars for eternal knowledge that will unlock the door to the realm of infinite bliss, and you will see the practicality of the book will in itself lead you to seeking more. In that pursuit, you will find yourself!

As a long time student of comparative religion the discovering of this spiritual classic "Autobiography of a Yogi" set my thinking and life experience in a very new and unexpected direction. Until I became familiar with the great avatar "Paramahansa Yogananda" my superficial philosophical adventure seemed fulfilling enough. Now I am seeing the deeper aspects of the spiritual life and many new understandings and revelations are being opened to my consciousness.

I also read the original edition of this book, which I find somewhat incomplete, as Yognanda himself began seriously revising this book with each new edition. So the reader will get the most complete and most accurate teachings of this great Yogi from the latest editions published by Self-Realization Fellowship publishers, via Amazon books.

I highly recommend this edition to all truth-seekers and students of comparative religion as a major key to unlocking our past conditioning and broadening many narrow views that we become attached to in our earlier development. Here is a balanced and insightful approach to world religion and spirituality that gives true ecumenical recognition to all the worlds major saints and prophets. This spiritual classic will contribute much to bringing harmony, peace and mutual respect to this world of so many varied belief systems.

The author, with his unique blend of wit, wisdom, insight and intuition has shown us the primary elements and truths that are the foundation of all religions. He does this without criticism, judgement, or error. His is the same eternal message that was given the world by other great saviors such as Krishna, Buddha and Jesus.

I have no doubt that millions of lives have already been changed by this sacred literary revelation................

This is surely the work of a God-Realized bieng, a wonderful experience awaits the sincere reader. Don't make the mistake of only reading it once!!!

LIST OF SUBJECTS: Author's early life... Meeting your Master... The Master-Disciple relationship... The Science of KRIYA YOGA... Meditation and prayer... Lives of many modern Eastern and Western Saints.. Law of they work... Principle of Raja Yoga... How great masters teach their disciples... the inner meaning of Christ and Krishna... The Astral world... Reincarnation and Karma... How to find your true Path... Travels in India... The Spiritual heritage of India...

the Importance of Yogananda's founding of the Self-Realization Fellowship as his only authorized channel for His writings and Kriya Yoga............ Footnotes on yoga and religious history.. Mans purpose and goal in life.......... AND MUCH MORE-------------

ALSO RECOMMENDED: Man's Eternal Quest... Divine Romance... Journey to Self-Realization... The Science of Religion... God Talks With Arjuna(Bhagavad Gita)... Where There is Light...

1-0 out of 5 stars A WORK OF FICTION
The panegyrics stinks.

Individualistic biases and notions of the famed author-guru built and sustained VERY BIASED and very romantic notions that later cramped and hampered a realistic outlook on the nation India, Indians, and *having sex* - which is not specially advocated in the book - and far, far less among monks and nuns that publish it. Said a lay members wife once about Yogananda, "He has destroyed my marriage."

The work carries with it some negative effects.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Revelation for Sincere Seekers in the worlds Religions
A Monastic Yogi was invited to represent Hinduism by the American Unitarian Association in Boston in 1920.

In so doing this great mystic managed to enlighten Christians and other religionists by showing the unifying principles of the great religions.
This served to bring many Christians from the erroneous dark Roman age concepts of divisiveness of exclusivity, of dogmatism and hell-fearing guilt, to the refreshing wisdom of harmonizing pluralism and the higher levels of spiritual understanding.

But the really special feature of Paramahansa Yogananda's message was that like Krishna, Buddha, & Jesus, He is a living example of that life.
A life that show to have all the light and glory of divine inspiration and presence.

He fully represented that wisdom and the life and the truth, and taught it with an unparalleled clarity.
"Wide is the gate that leads to destruction and the majority will go that way, narrow is the way that leads to life and few there will be that find it.?" JC .

Paramahansa Yogananda brought us that life giving way. Not the politically correct way of the churches - but the way the Jesus [one of the world's many Christs/Avataras] taught us.

After the passing of such a great prophet/Avatara, there will always be varying opinions as to what He actually did or represented and taught. This is especially true in the Christian tradition which not has about 2400+ cults and sects. Human nature requires that this naturally happens.

It is unfortunate that even though it takes years of study and practice to understand such a life, many fast reading intellectuals will assume they understand it from a quick glance. This is how the untrained ego misleads us. Do you want a quick assessment or an accurate report?

His wonderful teachings included various ways of transforming our identity with the limited ego into the limitless soul consciousness. Which results in the enhancement of all ones life abilities and attitudes for those who practice the methods of Yoga with regularity and understanding.

This fact in general is why Yoga is in the early stages literally sweeping the world.
Bringing with it very healthy and wonderful transformations of the Character, health, & personality of many millions. I have also personally experienced these blessings in my own life.

While reading Yogananda's writing, one is struck by the fact that He always made it clear that devotees/disciples were not serving Him, but that they were clearly Gods Disciples.

The cooperation & submission is the key to transformation, love cannot be known without surrender of ones sense of separateness and egocentric pride.

The attitude of this book shows that by the normal teacher student cooperation one can gain the greatest amount of personal growth and self-realization/Salvation. Especially if the teacher is there to show one the way. It that teacher has reached God-Consciousness, His passing will not end his personal guidance. Many testify to the ongoing help of Yogananda.

More recently, some of the stories in this book have been published by others in Yogananda's tradition as well as many others not in His tradition, and even though they are different stories, they are still very consistent with what we know about the great master.

The book has been edited and changed by the author and his trained/appointed editors in chiefs to enhance the presentations of His final teachings. The latest editions are consitent with the masters teachings.

No one ever claimed here to demonstrate infallability, a status that this world does not have the elements to support. This is one of the common errors Yogananda did not get caught up in.

The Fellowship the yogi started, has avoided becoming a cult by the open and compassionate attitudes begun by Yogananda that avoid forcing rules on followers.

Yogananda brought out the best of Krishna's and Christ's teachings to create a more compassionate and harmonious world, to show us how to reach that true state of Christ consciousness where the truths of enlightened pluralism/ecumenicism will flourish for the benefit of humanity. This is the harbinger of the world's future peace.

Be sure to read Yogananda's most recently published book, "The Second Coming of Christ; Raising the Christ Consciousness Within You." Then you will gain a clearer picture of what spiritual freedom is!

1-0 out of 5 stars GURUS AND MASTERS HAILED
A hindu monk was sent to the West back in 1920 to spread kriya yoga teachings. In so doing he infiltrated Christianity by using Hindu concepts to explain away the claims of Christianity, and let people think he stood for perfect harmony between Hinduism as taught by Krishna, and Christianity as taught by Jesus. That has probably served to take many Christians in. Some parts of these teachings entered his autobiography too.

His teachings also include demands to "kill the ego" - which is a necessary, integral part of your personality - and the demand may be used against duped followers - it serves guru dominion far and wide. Moreover, the insensible claim could work harm to the personality development.

The attitude of the book shows "devoted servility" - submission - as a means for spiritual freedom - and major effects of giving away one's natural human rights in such a vein may turn unwholesome or disastrous. The author tells many stories to drive home guru submission messages.

More recently SOME of the stories of this book have been published by others in Yogananda's tradition, and suffice to say they are different, and by far less fanciful in those other versions - and that many interesting stories of the guru's autobiography bear some resemblance of tales from Arabian Nights too. However, Yogananda, who was sent to address scientists and great minds, according to the book, has by and large omitted given proper documention of some of his most remote claims. They involve converting the body into light and resurrections. Lots of evidence for many of the claims is lacking.

The book has been edited many times after the guru's death, and some changes don't seem to have been done by the author. Odd, very queer misconceptions have entered at least one peculiar footnote about maya.

The fellowship the yogi started, has been called a cult with more than one disappointing sides to it - A few years ago one third of its monastic members quit.

Here I have focused on showing important sides of the book in wider contexts. Much and deep submission is found and may be generated on top of the book as well. It is done in part by swollen, irksome claims - for example of many baffling "Hindu Christs". There are such mentions in the book too. It may be good to beware of Hindu infiltration that gives wrong premises to base one's life on. ... Read more

15. The Seven Storey Mountain
by Thomas Merton
list price: $16.00
our price: $10.88
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Asin: 0156010860
Catlog: Book (1999-10-01)
Publisher: Harcourt
Sales Rank: 3668
Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

A modern-day Confessions of Saint Augustine, The Seven Storey Mountain is one of the most influential religious works of the twentieth century. This edition contains an introduction by Merton's editor, Robert Giroux, and a note to the reader by biographer William H. Shannon. It tells of the growing restlessness of a brilliant and passionate young man whose search for peace and faith leads him, at the age of twenty-six, to take vows in one of the most demanding Catholic orders-the Trappist monks. At the Abbey of Gethsemani, "the four walls of my new freedom," Thomas Merton struggles to withdraw from the world, but only after he has fully immersed himself in it.The Seven Storey Mountain has been a favorite of readers ranging from Graham Greene to Claire Booth Luce, Eldridge Cleaver, and Frank McCourt. And, in the half-century since its original publication, this timeless spiritual tome has been published in over twenty languages and has touched millions of lives. ... Read more

Reviews (61)

5-0 out of 5 stars Modern Contemplative Speaks
This mystic speaks with the sincerity of a saint and the pen of a poet. Every page - and there are many of them - is delight to read, and feels, somehow, like they are the memories of the reader, not just Merton's.

It's important to remember, however, that Merton disowned this book later in his live. He said it was not "disciplined enough" or something like that. I would only object to his rigid stances of Catholicism in relation to other Christians. I too believe in "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church". However, it is this believe that compells me to approach the multitude of Protestant churches with compassion and not condemnation, which unfortunately Merton sometimes does. Perhaps this is why he felt he had to disown it.

Either way, it is a beautiful book, a spirtual book, and a wonderful conversion story of the rare type of person who actually and legitatmely managed to find peace in this life.

4-0 out of 5 stars I love you, Merty!
It has been a couple of years since I read this autobiography. From the perspective of an always aspiring writer and poet, I applaud this piece of literature for capturing the interest of even the most adamant unbeliever or un-anchored agnostic simply for the raw and accessible story which it conveys. From the stand-point of a spiritual seeker, a self-censoring #4 on the Enneagram (read "Merton: An Enneagram Profile", by Suzanne Zuercher), and a religious tolerant (which Merton certainly became in his later life), I connected with it instantly on a very intimate level.

I can honestly credit Merton for inspiring me to investigate Christianity much more deeply without the usual repugnance and negative bias I had approached it with before, and has since become one of my favorite writers, artists, thinkers, and Christians... period!

Merton was a very "human" being. His struggles with pride, ego, Biblical understanding, lust, vanity, etc. may help the spiritually inclined reader to accept his or her own flaws in a more forgiving light. He reminds us that nobody is perfect.

I highly recommend this book to both the fan of compelling autobiography, and to the aspiring contemplative.

5-0 out of 5 stars food for the soul
Most reviewers have touched on my own reflections. The book is not meant to be a scientific journal (re: one reviewer wrote Merton should have studied Newton's laws of motion). The story is one man's own spiritual journey---take it or leave it---but don't dismiss it because it doesn't cover the disciplines you find most fulfilling and awarding. Science is grand---but it does little to account for the life and light in the soul; that is why Merton turns to the poets and contemplatives in his yearning for truth or for some kind of answer to the longing in the deepest parts of him. Anyone satisfied with believing only what they can touch,see, feel may not enjoy this book. It is the transcendents Merton is concerned with when he realizes time and again materialism and atheism leave him empty and spiritually bankrupt.

Take Merton's book for what it is. A man's spiritual journey. If you want a man's scientific journey or a man's journey from religious dogma to secular dogma---read something else.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great autobiography of this important Monastic figure
Just about anyone interested in purchasing this book is more than likely somewhat familiar with some of Merton's other works. He was perhaps the 20th century's greatest Christian contemplative mind we had the privilege of reading. This is due to the fact that so many people have expressed over the years that Thomas Merton is the reason they were drawn to the Christian faith. Even people of other religions respect this man's skilled and wise approach to otherwise dogmatic dialogues. One of the reason's this autobiography is so wonderful, is that most of us can relate to it's contents. This is not a person who just achieved some sort of "holy lifestyle" without going through some tribulations in his earlier years.

What draws one to Thomas Merton is his simplistic writing. In this book we find out what causes produced the effect of wanting to join the Abbey of Gethsemani down in Kentucky for him. From his years growing up in France, then on to England. Back to new York. And then, he found his home. That home was the Abbey of Gethsemani. Merton is able to bring people closer to Jesus, because he makes the story alive. Relevant to this very life in a modern era, not just a society that we are all too disconnected from by now (the society during the times of Jesus). This book is so applicable to 2004, not withstanding the fact that there are a great many of his years not documented in this work stemming from it's publication to his Death in Thailand.

Recalling a sad time soon after his acceptance of Christianity, Merton quotes God's caution to the Israelites, "For the Land which thou goest to possess is not like the land of Egypt," and remarks that he had "made the terrible mistake of entering the Christian life as if it were merely the natural life invested with a kind of supernatural mode by grace." He slowly and nervously was to learn God was dreadfully more than some mere underwriter of value. In this book Merton shows a hungriness, a drive to understand the meaning of life. The secret to living a completely holy life, immersed in servitude to our Creator. This hungriness we can all relate to, it is the drive to understand truth.

5-0 out of 5 stars Very open, shareful. Makes you want Merton for a friend.
Merton knew how to plow through his past life so that the grace of God, the spirit of Christ would become so apparent in all that happened to him and through him in this autobiography.

No sentimentalism. No archaic language. His descriptions of the Eucharist and the other sacraments are clean and fresh and deep and vivid, touching the reader with a strange, immediate conviction. His words pulsate with faith. He makes you say, "well, maybe I don't know..."

I think Merton brings the worldly closer to the church and the churchy closer to the world. People don't know where to place him. You cannot stick a label on him.

This book is great for just anyone. Those who are cradle Catholics will benefit greatly from this man who came into the church, this man who was so biased against anything Catholic, and yet who came in no contact with any "crisis" that suddenly made him say, "LORD! LORD!". No. That is, no crisis of the "world". It was spiritual. The account of "something" that happened to him while laying in his bed is simple and vivid.

He makes you realize that what is spiritual has to do with what is human. ... Read more

16. The Hiding Place
list price: $6.99
our price: $6.29
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Asin: 0553256696
Catlog: Book (1984-11-01)
Publisher: Bantam
Sales Rank: 3678
Average Customer Review: 4.58 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

The Hiding Place proves that the light of God's love can penetrate even the darkest recesses of despair, places like the Nazi extermination camp at Ravensbruck. After protecting Dutch Jews in a secret room in their home, Corrie ten Boom, her sister and father were discovered, arrested, and imprisoned. Only Corrie survived, but her faith in God remained strong-so strong that, after the war, she could forgive a former camp guard in a face-to-face meeting. More than just a spellbinding adventure, The Hiding Place is a life-changing story. ... Read more

Reviews (130)

5-0 out of 5 stars A story of forgiveness
Corrie Ten Boom said it best in the beginning of the book when she points out that every person, place, and thing you encounter in your life is God preparing you for the plans He has for you. I believe God meant for millions be to touched by Corrie's life story. The over all message in this book is forgiveness, and how it is possible, under impossible circumstances. Not only does the Lord desire us to forgive, but He made it possible to do so by providing the love to do it. Corrie and her family lived sacrificial lives, but more importantly they were obedient to God, whom they knew loved them very much. Time and time again, Corrie's life was saved by her obedience and tenacious way of looking to the Lord for guidance and help. These people KNEW and lived God's love and it infected others around them. This story was just as much about Betsie, Corrie's sister, as it was Corrie. Betsie was a resilient woman who loved the Lord so much that she even thanked Him for fleas! Corrie's entire family had a respectful fear of the Lord that is lacking in today's world. This story helps us to realize how very comfortable we are in this material world of ours. Previous to reading this book, I read "Survival in Auschwitz" by Primo Levi, who was an Italian Jewish survivor of Auschwitz (hence the name). It was nice to read both books in order to get a view from both the Christian and Jewish perspective. This great evil during WWII was not just against one race, it was the enemy of the human race. While some humans were inprisoned and/or killed, others were alive yet dead inside as they gave into hate and bitterness. Corrie and her family saw this great evil and clinged to the hope that if these people were capable of so much hate, then they were equally capable of so much love. They compassionately prayed for the ones they suffered along with, as well as for the ones causing the suffering. "The Hiding Place" is a wonderful book in which we can learn to forgive those that have hurt us, and love others the way God loves us. Get it! Read it! Tell a friend!

5-0 out of 5 stars A woman of faith
I admire people who really take a stand for what they believe in, no matter what the cost, and Corrie Ten Boom is one of those amazing people. The story of her family, pre-concentration camp, is inspiring, because they really are willing to give up everything so that God's children are not harmed. This is truly one of the best books I've ever read...I copied a lot of phrases out of the book and into my personal journal so they could touch me later like they touched me then. There's a lot of love in this woman, mixed with comapssion, honesty, and happiness that made me reconsider my own standards in the midst of the peacetime life I live, and makes me ask the question: Would I truly risk my life for another's? Everyone should read this.

5-0 out of 5 stars A beautiful,moving,emotive book.
I have read a number of autobiographys,and expect to read more still.
I think i shall be hard-pressed to find another one as beautiful as Corrie's.

5-0 out of 5 stars THE best book you'll read this summer
First written in 1971, The Hiding Place has, through both critical acclaim and word of mouth of the masses, achieved both certifiable classic status and a revered place in the hearts of its readers. And, I might add, for good reason. Although written in 1st person novel form from the perspective of the selflessly valiant Cornelia ten Boom, it is, of course, the true story of one family's almost unfathomable degree of limitless giving and unwavering altruism that saved many of lives during the nihilistic hate-filled Nazi regime in Holland, where the Gestapo as well as Dutch collaborators were pervasively ubiquitous and inexorably replete with hate and ineluctably devoid of both reason and love.

While reading, I felt a veritable melange of emotions running the gamut from sadness, anger, despair, and hope. Thanks to the wonderful writing, you feel like you're reading a novel -- although one that is all too harrowing and real. As Betsie quotes the Bible and says, "Give thanks in all circumstances," she subsequently says "Thanks for the fleas" -- a moment that demonstrated that God DOES work in mysterious ways. Without giving away anything that happens, I strongly exhort you to read The Hiding Place -- a book that stays with you long after you have turned the last page.

"No pit is so deep that He is not deeper still."
- Betsie ten Boom

5-0 out of 5 stars A veritable laugh riot
I was walking my dog and reading The Hiding Place and I thought why I am being sad. I should be glad and happy because the story is happy if you think about it you know. So I started laughing at the awesome stuff that Corrie does and says when she's helping the Jews. In summation, it's better to laugh than to cry. At least, that is, to Joseph O'Brien. ... Read more

17. 90 Minutes In Heaven: A True Story of Death & Life
by Don Piper, Cecil Murphey
list price: $12.99
our price: $9.74
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Asin: 0800759494
Catlog: Book (2004-09-01)
Publisher: Revell
Sales Rank: 8136
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18. Surprised by Truth: 11 Converts Give the Biblical and Historical Reasons for Becoming Catholic
by Patrick Madrid, Basilica Pr
list price: $14.99
our price: $12.74
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Asin: 0964261081
Catlog: Book (1994-09-01)
Publisher: Basilica Press
Sales Rank: 81795
Average Customer Review: 4.34 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Powerful testimonies of Evangelicals who became Catholic These eleven personal conversion accounts are unlike any you've ever read. They're packed with biblical, theological, and historical proofs for Catholicism. Each year thousands of atheists, Evangelicals, Mormons, Fundamentalists, and Pentecostals are being surprised by Catholic truth and these converts tell you why.In his foreword Scott Hahn described his reaction to "Surprised by Truth":

"While reading each of these incredible journeys I laughed, cried, grunted affirmations, and basically relived my own journey into the Catholic Church. I heard echoes of my own struggles in their words. I relived the anguish I experienced on that lonely and sometimes frightening path of conversion, and I relived the deep, abiding joy of coming home. But enough, Read these stories. They're prayerful, heavy-on-doctrine, evangelical, scriptural witnesses of people who discovered that what they had once thought was the most 'unbiblical' church is really the Church of the Bible." ... Read more

Reviews (68)

2-0 out of 5 stars Surprised by What?
The Churches are filling up with former Roman Catholics as the sheep leave for green pastures - the Bible-oriented "Protestant" churches. How are we to stop this rupture in membership asks the Roman Church? Realizing that personal testimony has been the vehicle through which many became Christians in the first place, we have in this book the carefully written testimonies of eleven converts to Roman Catholicism - all supposedly from evangelical denominations.

In the endeavor to convince the reader to either convert or to stay in "the Church Christ founded", Catholic apologists must convince people that the Bible is not sufficient but must be supplemented by other teachings and the interpretation by the Magisterium must be superimposed upon it. Thus, you have a litany of Roman Church apologetics defenses dispersed in with these testimonies in defense of the "one true faith".

A common denominator to these testimonies is the constant repetition of the same tired out arguments for Roman supremacy with the main focus being a denial of the sufficiency of Scripture, the "fractured" nature of Protestantism in light of the alleged unity of Rome, and the alleged unanimous consent of the early church fathers regarding the teachings of Roman Church's tradition.

Much of the Scriptural support from these eleven converts is either out of context or based upon very bad exegetics of key passages of Scriptures. For instance, all believed that the Church as established by Christ, was build upon apostolic succession from St. Peter. However, any good church historian would reveal that none of the early church fathers subscribed to apostolic succession based upon St. Peter. Available at is the book "The Matthew 16 Controversy - Peter and the Rock" by Webster that should convince anyone who really wants to know the historical facts regarding apostolic succession. I would recommend this book before buying into that religious-political theory as provided by the Roman Church.

At the center of focus for these converts is the participation in the Eucharist deemed necessary for salvation. All of them believing that the bread and wine becomes the actual body and blood of Christ and all of them believing that the Roman Mass has the support of all the early church fathers in that doctrinal viewpoint. The fact is that the early fathers did not support much that is modern Roman Catholicism. St Augustine, for instance, did not buy into transubstantiation at all; neither did many of the other church fathers.

Roman Catholic apologists tend to use history in very selective ways to support their distinctive doctrinal views, attempting to take advantage of the fact that many non-Catholics simply do not know history well enough provide counter evidence. Former Roman Catholic William Webster has written several highly documented books on Church history that clearly brings into doubt many of the historical claims for Roman Church doctrines. I recommend strongly that one purchase a copy of "The Church of Rome at the Bar of History" (also available through to be able to really see that much in modern Protestantism was not invented in the 16th century as these converts content. We can easily see that early church history presents not just the Roman Church view, but most of the views we find today; "There is the literal view of transubstantiation which could be that expressed by Chrysostom; the Lutheran view of consubstantiation, which could be taught by Irenaeus or Justin Martyr; the spiritual view of Calvin, which is closely aligned with St. Augustine; and the strictly symbolic view of Zwingli, which is similar to that expressed by Eusebius" (see Webster, page 122). To the symbolic view, Webster adds Theodoret, Serapion, Jerome, Athanasius, Ambrosiaster, Macarius of Egypt, and Eustathius of Antioch. According to some apologists, "Church history is fascinating and has value, but it is a house of cards for anyone trying to construct infallible dogmas or biblical doctrines." Webster goes on to state that "even Pope Gelasius I (c. 496 A.D.) denied transubstantiation." And Pope Adrian IV rejected papal infallibility. All of the converts to Roman Catholicism make an issue of the alleged disunity of Protestantism with the claim that God has promised to keep His church together. But the truth of the gospel is the real cornerstone and foundation to the whole issue of unity. A close look at Roman Catholicism will reveal much disunity in their ranks as most Roman Catholics are really "Cafeteria Catholics" - carefully selecting what they will accept or reject from the Roman Church hierarchy. Unity, I believe, will be achievable eventually as we see in the book of Revelation, a church headed by the anti-Christ with all opposition brutally crushed. These eleven converts try hard to point out that the Roman Church is a church united and has always been united in its doctrinal beliefs but hopefully someday they will truly be "surprised by the Truth".

5-0 out of 5 stars This book convinced me to convert to Catholicism!
These well-written conversion stories answer the questions: Which church was founded by Jesus Christ? Who has the authority to interpret Scripture? The answer is clear: the one and only Catholic church. The converts come from diverse backgrounds: some were Presbyterian ministers, one was Jewish. This book is so interesting and powerful, I finished it in one day. Then I decided to convert to Catholicism. Surprised by Truth is a powerful tool for evangelizing Jews, Protestants, and fallen-away Catholics.

5-0 out of 5 stars Surprised by Truth
This book is an easy read that I couldn't put down until I finished.The eleven converts that tell their stories are easy to relate to and interesting. This book started me on a path of Catholic Apologetics that I am still on today. I have bought several and I cannot keep them in hand since once I lend them out they end up in the hands of friends and relatives of those who borrowed the book. I found the book enlightening and now I can say why I choose to be a Catholic.

3-0 out of 5 stars soup kitchen
Entering the Catholic Church in my early teens, I remember our youth group volunteering at the soup kitchen, collecting baby supplies for the local crisis pregnancy center, and raking leaves for the elderly. I never waived my hands in the air at a church service, attended a conference or listed to an audio tract-nothing wrong with that, I guess. When I got to college, some students informed me that I needed to find Jesus in my life. One student even accused me of praying to dead saints, and worshiping statues. Super! I hear that she is now home schooling. Those kids should be great.

Well, thanks to this book, if some co-ed accuses me of leaving Jesus nailed to the cross, I can now answer them at their own high level, and I guess that there is something earthly appealing about that. Honestly, though, I learned a lot about the Catholic faith from books like this-things that I probably should have known. But, in the larger picture, I think that I was way ahead in my faith journey back when I was a silly kid in youth group, then at any period during my time spent studying apologetics.

This book is EXCELLENT! I'm so thankful there's a book out there that explains everything that I've known and felt, but could not put into words to defend. So many good 'bible christian Protestants' think that their way is the true way, but how can one honestly believe this when so many Protestant religions totally disagree on scripture passages?How can one think it acceptable to interpret the bible however they want to??! Gee, what an awesome thing if it were actually true that we could do anything we wanted on earth, commit any sin we like, and that when we die, we'll just automatically go to heaven! It's sad that so many people are deceived by this (by the devil, no doubt...the Master of Deception!) Boy, are they in for a surprise on Judgement Day! If one would just be open and pray for GUIDANCE, one would most definitely come Home to the One, True Church...the church Jesus HIMSELF started...The Catholic Church...not some church started by a human in the 1500s!!!! ... Read more

19. We Have a Pope! Benedict XVI
by Matthew Bunson, Joseph Ratzinger, Benedict XVI
list price: $14.95
our price: $10.17
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Asin: 1592761801
Catlog: Book (2005-05-19)
Publisher: Our Sunday Visitor
Sales Rank: 9360
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Who is Pope Benedict XVI?

"After the great John Paul II, the cardinals elected me, a simple, humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord."

With those gentle words, Pope Benedict XVI greeted the faithful of Rome and the world as the Church’s 265th pope.

In selecting Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to lead the Church, the cardinals chose a man they had known well for many years, but one who remains relatively unknown to most of the world’s Catholics.

Now, noted Catholic author and historian Mathew E. Bunson, D.Min., provides a detailed portrait of Benedict XVI, introducing Catholics to a man of powerful intellect and confident faith who now must lead the Church as it confronts some of the most challenging issues facing modern men and women. Bunson examines

• What made him the man he is today • What you are not being told about him by the secular media• What lies ahead for Catholics worldwide

Twenty-six years ago, when Karol Wojtyla was chosen to be the successor to Peter, some of the most difficult challenges to the Church's mission came from the East. Twenty-six years later, the most difficult challenges to the Church's mission come from the West. There is a man now very well prepared who understands Western society and the history of the world. — Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago

Pope Benedict XVI, like many people including myself, is very uncomfortable with some of the trends that came after the Second Vatican Council, which ended up in destroying large segments of religious life, undermining vocations, undermining Catholic theology and moral teaching. When people say that he’s a conservative, they’re saying that he wants to restore those vital parts of the Catholic Christian life. I’m one hundred percent in agreement with him. — Father Benedict J. Groeschel, C.F.R.

[Pope Benedict’s] acceptance of the humanly crushing burden of the See of Peter tells us something important about the man: Like John Paul II, this is a Christian radical who long ago handed his life over to the will of God, manifest through the call of the Church. — George Weigel ... Read more

Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars Reliable Guide
Bunson has written an orthodox and thus reliable guide to the great events of April 2005. He also provides analysis of the challenges facing the Church and the likely course of the new papacy, with appropriate humility. In contrast to the wildly inaccuarate prognostications of the secular media and liberal Catholics, Bunson is able to put his finger on what was really going on in the conclave: a move to challenge the relativism that threatens the truth. The best part of the book is Bunson's detailed biographical information on our new Pope. The book even includes a list of books by former Cardinal Ratzinger that are available in English. Read Bunson's book first and then begin the intellectual and faith adventure of reading the treasures that have come from the pen of our new Pope.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Benedict XVI Primer
Bunson's book went to press in early May during the first weeks of Benedict's new pontificate and serves the general reader as a "Benedict Primer".There is information on the last days of Pope John Paul II, the unforgettable funeral Mass, the conclave, and the many accomplishments of the priest/theologian/cardinal who became Benedict XVI.Bunson also includes an eighty-year timeline that shows the intersection of various cultural milestones with events in Benedict's life.

Included are lengthy excerpts from key speeches and homilies and coverage of the high points of then-Cardinal Ratzinger's tenure as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the arm of the Church responsible for protecting truths that come to us ultimately from Christ and the Apostles.

Kudos to Mr. Bunson; having such a well-written book on our new Pope available so soon is a major feat.It likely will serve as a reference for future writers wanting a description of the historic events that surrounded Easter 2005.

5-0 out of 5 stars Get to Know Pope Benedict XVI
Great primer on who the new pope really an excellent overview of what has transpired in the last month at the Vatican.The book begins with an overview of what led up to the election of Benedict, his first addresses and an overview of his life. I found the issues facing the papacy both in the section entitled "The Vacant See" and at the end of the book where the author Matt Bunson details how the Pope is likely to handle these issues fascinating.

The book also includes a list of popes dating back to St. Peter, as well as a very helpful glossary. ... Read more

20. Pope Benedict XVI: A Biography of Joseph Ratzinger
by John L., Jr Allen, John L. Allen Jr.
list price: $19.95
our price: $13.57
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Asin: 0826417868
Catlog: Book (2005-05-16)
Publisher: Continuum International Publishing Group
Sales Rank: 19991
Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

This book is the only existing biography of Pope Benedict XVI, born Joseph Aloysius Ratzinger on April 16, 1927, in southern Bavaria. Comprehensive in scope and intimate in content, it provides a vivid blow-by-blow of the controversies that have wracked the Catholic Church during the past twenty years: Liberation theology, birth control, women's ordination, inclusive language, "radical feminism," homosexuality, religious pluralism, human rights in the church, and the roles of bishops and theologians.

One man has stood at the dead center of all these controversial issues: Joseph Ratzinger. A teenage American POW as the Third Reich crumbled and a progressive wunderkind at the Second Vatican Council, Ratzinger, for twenty years, has been head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (until 1908 known as the Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition, or Holy Office). The book goes a long way toward explaining the central enigma surrounding Ratzinger: How did this erstwhile liberal end up as the chief architect of the third great wave of repression in Catholic theology in the twentieth century?

Based on extensive interviews with Ratzinger's students and colleagues, as well as research in archives in both Bavaria and the United States, Allen's account shows that Ratzinger's deep suspicion of "the world," his preoccupation with human sinfulness, and his demand for rock-solid loyalty to the church run deep. They reach into his childhood "in the shadow of the Nazis" and reflect his formative theological influences: Augustine, Bonaventure, and Martin Luther rather than the world-affirming Thomas Aquinas. In his words, Ratzinger affirms that "What the church needs today as always are not adulators to extol the status quo, but men whose humility and obedience are not less than their passion for the truth; . . .men who love the church more than the ease and the unruffled course of their personal destiny."-Joseph Ratzinger (1962) ... Read more

Reviews (12)

2-0 out of 5 stars Still may be worth a skim
Having read and been impressed by the excellence of John L. Allen's two recent books about the Catholic Church, "Conclave" (2002) and "All the Pope's Men" (2004), I had no hesitation in hurrying out and securing a copy of "Cardinal Ratzinger" as soon as I heard of the subject's elevation to the papacy. Ouch! Fascinated as I was by the apparent wealth of information and documentation in these pages, I needed an asbestos bookmark to survive the heat of Allen's judgment of the man.

I am therefore most indebted to other reviewers on this page who report news I apparently missed, that Allen has backed away from this book and its lack of "sober analysis." It's good to see that the insightful, balanced, Allen of his later works is the true man, and my respect for him rises still further for his honesty in admitting that things got a little out of control the first time around.

Still, I would argue that this book is still worth a read because not all of Ratzinger's critics have made the same journey. "Cardinal Ratzinger" not only transmits Allen's own strong feelings at the time, but the judgments of many others throughout the length of Joseph Ratzinger's long career. Allen may have changed his mind, but he's just one (albeit prominent) man; the criticisms leveled here -- to say nothing of the invectives hurled by others -- aren't going away. Allen's new bio will no doubt be a far better book. But if you want to experience at least some of the strong feelings Benedict XVI and his pre-elevation legacy have generated, this may still be a worthwhile place to start.

Just bring your awareness of how the author's opinions have matured, and a good pair of oven mitts.

3-0 out of 5 stars Don't read this book; wait for Allen's revised biography
This book is quite unfair, as Allen himself has acknowledged. As his journalism has matured, Allen has intended to write a significantly reworked biography. He now has the chance, and it is in the works from Doubleday. Please wait for it! John Allen is now definitely the best Eenglish language journalist covering the Catholic Church, but this has been the case for only the last three or four years in my opinion. I would strongly recommend his recent work (e.g. All the Pope's Men), but this particular book is not worth a read. All that follows is a section from Allen's column of April 26, 2005:

"Six years ago, I wrote a biography of the man who is now pope titled Cardinal Ratzinger: The Vatican's Enforcer of the Faith. In the intervening period, I have learned a few things about the universal Catholic church and how things look from different perspectives. If I were to write the book again today, I'm sure it would be more balanced, better informed, and less prone to veer off into judgment ahead of sober analysis.

This, I want to stress, is not a Johnny-come-lately conclusion motivated by the fact that the subject of the book has now become the pope. In a lecture delivered at the Catholic University of America as part of the Common Ground series, on June 25, 2004, I said the following about the book:

"My 'conversion' to dialogue originated in a sort of 'bottoming out.' It came with the publication of my biography of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, issued by Continuum in 2000 and titled The Vatican's Enforcer of the Faith. The first major review appeared in Commonweal, authored by another of my distinguished predecessors in this lecture series, Fr. Joseph Komonchak. It was not, let me be candid, a positive review. Fr. Komonchak pointed out a number of shortcomings and a few errors, but the line that truly stung came when he accused me of "Manichean journalism." He meant that I was locked in a dualistic mentality in which Ratzinger was consistently wrong and his critics consistently right. I was initially crushed, then furious. I re-read the book with Fr. Komonchak's criticism in mind, however, and reached the sobering conclusion that he was correct. The book - which I modestly believe is not without its merits - is nevertheless too often written in a "good guys and bad guys" style that vilifies the cardinal. It took Fr. Komonchak pointing this out, publicly and bluntly, for me to ask myself, 'Is this the kind of journalist I want to be'? My answer was no, and I hope that in the years since I have come to appreciate more of those shades of gray that Fr. Komonchak rightly insists are always part of the story.
After Ratzinger's election as Benedict XVI was announced, I had hoped to have the opportunity to write a new preface for the book contextualizing some of the views it expresses. Unfortunately, the publisher in the United States, for reasons that I suppose are fairly obvious, had already begun reprinting the book without consulting me. Hence it is probably already appearing in bookstores, without any new material from me.

I can't do anything about that, although the British publishers were kind enough to ask me to write a new preface, which I have already done, so at least the damage will be limited in the U.K.

What is under my control, however, is a new book for Doubleday (a Random House imprint), which I hope will be a more balanced and mature account of both Ratzinger's views and the politics that made him pope. It has been in the works for some time and I hope it will be worthy of the enormity of the story, and the trust of those who elect to read it."

1-0 out of 5 stars Allen Himself Now Sees Flaws
To his credit, John Allen has acknowledged the flaws in his biography of Cardinal Ratzinger.In a 2004 lecture at Catholic University, and again in his "Word from Rome" column on 4/26/05 (shortly after Ratzinger's election as Pope Benedict XVI), Mr. Allen noted that he was greatly affected by a negative review of the book by Fr. Joseph Komonchak in Commonweal magazine.Fr. Komonchak's review made Mr. Allen realize that he "was locked in a dualistic mentality in which Ratzinger was consistently wrong and his critics consistently right....The book - which I modestly believe is not without its merits - is nevertheless too often written in a 'good guys and bad guys' style that vilifies the cardinal."

Mr. Allen is currently working on a new book on Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict, which he says he hopes "will be a more balanced and mature account of both Ratzinger's views and the politics that made him pope."As I've become a great fan of Mr. Allen's journalistic work in recent years, I'm confident that his new book will live up to those hopes, and far exceed this one in quality and balance.

1-0 out of 5 stars Simply a smear book
I was not familiar with the author when I grabbed this book, or I might have been tipped off.He writes for the National Catholic Reporter, commonly known as the National Catholic "Distorer" because of its extremely liberal slant.Mr. Allen is clearly no fan of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (at the time it was written), and is no doubt dismayed that he is now Pope Benedict XVI.I will admit to not finishing this book.It was so distasteful and disrespectful that I could not read past the first 120 pages, although I really tried to finish it.I don't like to write negative book reviews, but if an author is so willing to write a negative book like this, he deserves a bad review.If Pope Benedict XVI were a dissident who was trying to distort the teachings of the Church, I could understand someone's writing a book to point out his errors.But there are no theological errors Allen can point to here...he can only pontificate his liberal views as though he had authority or even credibility.Not recommended.

2-0 out of 5 stars The white smoke proved Allen wrong.
The white smoke proved Allen wrong.

Among many of the suppositions the author made in this book one was that Cardinal Ratzinger because of this theology would never become a Pope. He was wrong.
The author as a liberal Catholic is quite tainted in his beliefs and cannot be trusted as an impartial biographer. However I would not go so far as to call the book an attack as Allen may be of the Catholic left but certainly not of the Catholic far left. No matter if one is Catholic or not one can ffollow the logic that if you change some of the major underpinnings of a thing, be it a religion or any other institution, that thing ceases to be what it was. Whether to are a Catholic, an anti-Catholic or somewhere in the middle it is hard to deny, if you have a modicum of knowledge about the faith one knows that at least in its dogma, it its major tenants, it has been consistent in its two thousand years of existence. The subtitle of this book "The Vatican's Enforcer of the Faith" is telling therefore because what seems as some to be an enforcer may merely be someone with enough backbone to insure the continuity of the faith.
Useful is the background and history of the man which is done somewhat meticulously. I have no way of knowing this but I do believe there are certain aspects of Ratzinger's history that deserve further examination.
Although I recommend this book with reservations I do not see it as something that will give non-Catholics better insight into the Catholic Church.
This book is somewhat unfair and biased but I believe one can gain insight into the new Pope through this book if one reads between the lines. Rather than trust the author's selection of Ratzinger's writings and his analysis of them I suggest the fair minded personal to read Ratzinger's writings in their complete form and draw their own conclusions. I recommend this book if it is only read in addition to Cardinal Ratzinger's own books. ... Read more

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