July-August 2014

The True Believer: Faith, Reason, and the Truth in the Light of the Analogy of Being: A Catholic Perspective on the World’s Great Religions, Philosophies and Ideologies.  By José Alfonso Salazar Solis, M.S.A. Holy Apostles Press (www.holyapostlespress.org; 877-771-1819). 315 pages. $24.95.

Every once in a while one comes across a writer who has figured out, through creative Catholic orthodoxy, how to present our faith afresh, so that new ways can be found to witness to its veracity. One such writer is Fr. José Salazar, a member of the Missionaries of the Holy Apostles, a priestly order founded to promote late vocations. Fr. Salazar’s theological studies and passionate interest in apologetics yield insights that are complemented by the assistance of collaborators Dr. Roger Duncan, professor of philosophy at Holy Apostles College and Seminary, and Dr. John Stefanczyk, philosopher-scholar and former student of Duncan’s and Salazar’s.

In The True Believer Fr. Salazar employs the analogy of being as the key concept for his original critique of false philosophies and religions. Central to the metaphysics of St. Thomas Aquinas, the analogy of being means that creation is an analogy to the Being of God. That God’s Being and the being of created entities are analogous is opposite to any thinking in which God and creation are totally one — e.g., pantheism. It is also opposite to any form of thinking in which God and creation are so different that God in His transcendence cannot be immanent within us.

For those Catholics — probably the majority — who have never heard of the phrase the analogy of being, the above can be understood more simply: We know that God is totally beyond us, transcendent; but we also know that God is close to us, that without His presence we could not move and have our own being.

What is original about The True Believer is that Fr. Salazar takes this concept of the analogy of being and shows how all other philosophical and theological belief systems go wrong because they either overemphasize the immanence of God, as do Hinduism and some New Age philosophies that claim we are divine, or they overemphasize His transcendence, as does Islam. We don’t find in Islam the balance of natural-law ethics characteristic of Catholic thought.

Deism, the belief that God created the universe but then divorced Himself from it, comes from an overemphasis on the transcendence of God, and leaves out the specific ways in which the Son of God, Christ our Savior, comes to be with us in love — for example, in the sacraments. Catholics “presuppose the analogy of being,” writes Fr. Salazar, and therefore “they recognize that God and the world can intersect.”

Protestantism, as Fr. Salazar analyzes it, also contains many errors that stem from false concepts of being. The fideistic idea that we can only know God through faith and never through reason results from the denial that reason is an essential part of man, who is made in the image of God. We are akin enough to God that our intellects can prove God’s existence and attributes.

Those who have the joy of teaching at Catholic institutions have probably found — as I have — that students often come to us replete with misinformation, especially about other world religions. The True Believer is ideal for correcting erroneous suppositions. It contains chapters about existential atheism, deism, biblical revelation, the sacraments, free will, the immortality of the soul, and the transforming union in Christ. Each chapter contains quotations from the great Catholic thinkers of all times, engaging graphics, and charts that make this book ideal for use by professors and catechists. The True Believer would also be helpful as background for RCIA teachers and for ecumenical dialogue.

- Ronda Chervin



Bakhita: From Slave to Saint.  By Roberto Italo Zanini. Ignatius Press. 210 pages. $16.95.

South Sudan became an independent nation in 2011, marking the end of a 50-year-long civil war that claimed over two million lives. This newfound independence meant a new beginning for the destitute South, especially its Christian population. Salva Mayardit Kiir, first president of the newborn nation and a Catholic, told his people to forgive past injuries and move forward; even Omar al-Bashir, president of Sudan and former enemy of the South, expressed hope for their future.

For many people today, that hope is embodied by St. Josephine Bakhita (1869-1947), patroness of the Sudan. This “universal saint” often said that she “desired to go to heaven because then she would be able to rouse the Lord to help the Africans,” and South Sudan’s independence was undoubtedly due in part to her intercession. Roberto Italo Zanini’s Bakhita: From Slave to Saint provides both a fine commentary on Bakhita’s miracles and her impact on the world as well as an excellent historical account of her eventful life.

Bakhita was born in the state of Darfur, Sudan. At age seven she was kidnapped by slave traders and for the next six years was sold and resold throughout the country. This would scar Bakhita, physically and mentally, for the rest of her life, and Zanini’s book does not spare the reader many grisly details. And yet, as Bakhita herself would say later to the little children always gathered about her, she never lost hope. In 1882 she was bought for the last time by the Italian consul in Khartoum and legally freed. For a few years Bakhita moved between Africa and Italy until she made the decision to remain in Italy and become a Catholic.

Despite being reared in an animist culture, Bakhita always felt that some great divine power must exist; she “experienced a great desire to see him and know him and honor him.” When first introduced to the Catholic faith, she was immediately aware of its truth and leaped at the chance of being a catechumen, come what may. On January 9, 1890, Bakhita was baptized into the Church, taking the name Josephine. Only three years later she entered the novitiate of the Canossian Sisters, and two years after that was clothed in their religious habit and became Sister Josephine Bakhita.

The tranquil life of the convent didn’t end the “exciting” years of Bakhita’s life — they were really only the beginning. Her most enduring legacy began behind the walls of the convent at Schio and continues to this day: It is largely credited to her intercession that the nearly impossible prospects for peace in the Sudan came about. Bakhita was also a worker of many other miracles after her death, including one especially impressive healing of a Brazilian woman’s leg, a case well documented in Zanini’s book. No less impressive were Bakhita’s everyday virtues and deeds, which Zanini discusses perhaps more than any other subject. She exercised humility and gentleness even toward those who treated her as a freak due to her skin color. Zanini transmits Bakhita’s wisdom and sanctity through her own sayings, such as this addressed to one who expressed fear of the Last Judgment: “Do now what you would wish to do at that moment: judgment is what we do now.”

Bakhita: From Slave to Saint certainly is well researched. Zanini provides relevant historical and political backgrounds, and includes short biographies of influential people connected with Bakhita’s life, such as Bl. Josemaria Escrivá de Balaguer, founder of Opus Dei; St. Margaret of Canossa, founder of Bakhita’s order; Pope St. Pius X, who personally met Bakhita; and St. Daniel Comboni; to name a few. That said, perhaps the best book about St. Josephine Bakhita’s life alone would be her autobiography, Tale of Wonder, to which Zanini himself often refers.

- Thomas Herring





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