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Veritatis Splendor

"Keep your eyes fixed upon Jesus, who inspires and perfects our faith" --Hebrews 12:2

Pope Benedict XVI before our Lord

And only where God is seen does life truly begin. Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is. We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution.
Each of us is the result of a thought of God.
Each of us is willed,
each of us is loved,
each of us is necessary.
There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him.
~Pope Benedict XVI, Homily April 24th, 2005

Monday, January 14, 2008

Destination: Heaven

What really IS heaven, and even though we say we want to go there, why don't we really want to? Here, DeStefano makes an attempt to tackle this most fundamental question - why do we keep saying "rest in peace" to be consoling when we don't really think we want to be "resting" or at "peace" for eternity? What's really boring - heaven, or our understanding (or lack thereof) of heaven?

When I first saw this book, A Travel Guide to Heaven" by Anthony DeStefano, I thought that this would be merely happy "fluff" reading with maybe even some questionable theology thrown in for kicks. Well, it is definitely happy reading, but I wouldn't call it "fluff", and while there is some imaginative speculation (ok, a lot), it is really in the realm of good, solid, "mere Christianity" - with respect for our Jewish and Muslim brethern as well. I highly recommend this book to everyone, absolutely everyone! You too!

Whenever we are on a long journey, it always helps to get a reminder about the destination that we are heading for - and that it really is worth the time of our life. This book makes perfect "cheer up" reading for all of us struggling on the way to heaven, while not overlooking the fact that heaven is not for just "anyone" no matter what, while not making the mistake of making life itself and our choices (sins or sacrifices) pointless wastes of time. Life itself is a life or death matter - but the rewards of heaven are not something to be made into vague platitudes and things that we "think" we want while really simply desperately trying to ignore for the time being so we can "eat, drink and be merry". The reward of heaven is that we will be able to eat, drink and be merry like never before in the presence of our loving God and creator forever!

DeStefano is a humorous and gentle author that is able to be both witty and simple, much like G.K. Chesterton or C.S. Lewis in a way. In fact, the whole thing reminded me a lot of Lewis' "The Great Divorce" in it's style and handling of this most delicate topic, where our gift of free will and God's tremendous omnipotent goodness can cause us much confusion. Indeed, I suppose I do quibble a bit with a few statements the author makes, especially concerning his conviction that "nothing good will ever be lost, nothing good can be lost to us in heaven" - I am a student both of Chesteron's "doctrine of conditional joy" (that we don't really love anything, or have any joy about it, unless there is a risk of losing it), and of Aquinas' teaching on how, somehow, the justice of hell will also bring us joy, even thought it is an eternal "loss" for heaven of something that was fundamentally created good. But then again... the author might be more right than I realize.

Give this book to ANYONE you know who needs some serious reason to hope for joy.

Now I guess I'm going to have to go get DeStefano's other book, "Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To". I suspect that, while that one also sounds at first like a "fluff" book, it's probably not!

Catholic readers - note that DeStefano seems to be a solid Catholic (he is CEO of Priests for Life after all!), and claims in the endnotes to have an imprimatur for the book from the bishop of Rockville Center, however this imprimatur is not printed in the front of the book itself. Not sure what's going on with that, however, I still confidently recommend the book. It might especially be a great book to give to teenagers or young adults, as it deals a lot with the questions that they have about heaven (and how "boring" the traditional images of heaven make it out to be!).


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