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Carl Olson's Pick of the Week

I've chosen a book that I recommend for at least three good reasons. First, it addresses a topic of great importance to everyone. Second, it is written by a fabulous scholar who has spent most of his life studying, teaching, and writing about the topic and related subjects. Third, it is a "101" text, the sort of introductory work that is perfect for the "ordinary" lay Catholic, but also ideal for catechists, priests, teachers, and bishops. Oh, and let's not forget politicians, newspaper editors, and television pundits.

The book is
Marriage: The Rock on Which The Family is Built (2nd Edition, 2009) by William E. May. I first read it—in its first edition—fourteen years ago for a class on family and marriage in my Masters in Theological Studies program. It was the first book I'd read by Dr. May (not the last, thankfully!), and I was impressed by his clarity of style (no words wasted!) and his masterful handling of complex theological truths and philosophical ideas (no words mangled!). Dr. May, who is now retired, taught for many years at the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington, D.C., and he served at one time on the Vatican's International Theological Commission. In other words, he's a smart guy! He has dedicated his great skills as a scholar and educator to explaining and defending the divinely ordained institution of marriage. Or, as he states at the start of the book's first chapter, "I shall show that marriage, the rock upon which the family is built, is a person-affirming, love-enabling, life-giving, and sanctifying reality." And he does.

The first edition had five chapters with an appendix; the second edition has been expanded to seven chapters plus appendix. The opening chapter expounds on the sentence quoted above; the second chapter is about the complimentarity of male and female, and what it means. Chapter three is titled, "Pope Paul VI: A True Prophet", and is about Humanae Vitae; the fourth chapter discusses the serious moral problems with the "laboratory generation of human life". Chapter five explains why the family is "the domestic church" and chapter six is on Blessed John Paul II's theology of the body. The final chapter is on Pope Benedict XVI's teaching on marriage and family life. The appendix is an overview of John Paul II's "Letter to Families".

Marriage is, as you well know, increasingly and directly under attack in many ways. For anyone who wishes to understand and appreciate more deeply the truth about the person-affirming, love-enabling, life-giving, and sanctifying reality of marriage, this book is a perfect place to start. And it is available in three formats: in paperback, as an electronic book download, and as a downloadable audio file.

Carl E. Olson is the web editor of IgnatiusInsight.com and the moderator of the Insight Scoop weblog. Carl is the author of the best-selling book
Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"? (2003), available as an e-book, and is the co-author, with Sandra Miesel, of The Da Vinci Hoax: Exposing the Errors in The Da Vinci Code. Carl is the former editor of Envoy magazine and has written dozens of reviews and articles for periodicals including Catholic Parent, Crisis, Envoy, First Things, National Catholic Register, Our Sunday Visitor, Saint Austin Review, and The Catholic Answer.

See this article on Ignatius Press Website

Book Information by Dr May

The 2nd edition of Marriage: The Rock on Which the Family Is Built (Ignatius Press, 2009; the first ed. was published in 1995) begins with an Introduction to the Second Edition, which summarizes and updates relevant socio-economic studies that had been included in the introductory part of Chapter One of the 1st ed. It includes completely new chapters, one (Chapter six) on Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body, the other (Chapter Seven) the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI on marriage and family. Chapter One, on marrriage as person-affirming, love-enabling, life-giving, and saving reality, has been revised in order to develop arguments given in the 1st edition and to integrate material from the "theology of the body." Chapter Two, on marriage and the complementarity of man and woman, has been revised to show its compatibility with major ideas of the "theology of the body," and Chapter Three, on Humanae Vitae has been deepened and developed by integrating the thought of John Paul II. Chapter Four, on Church teaching and the laboratory reproduction of human beings, has not been revised, but Chapter Five on the family as domestic church is organized more theologically and shows how this idea is rooted in the teaching of Vatican Council II. The new edition is thus substantially larger than the first, brings up to date the socio-economic and theological studies relevant to marriage and family, and offers readers an overview of John Paul II's famous "theology of the body" and our present Holy Father's teaching on marriage and family.

November 2009

Copyright ©; William E. May 2012

Version: 30th May 2012

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