Our Sunday Visitor’s 2011 Catholic Almanac, which was sent to me as part of the Catholic Company reviewer program, is a treasure trove of valuable information for Catholics and those otherwise interested in Catholicism.
Like other reference books, this is not a volume intended to be read cover-to-cover the way one might read a novel or book of spirituality or theology. Rather, it deserves a place on a book shelf in easy reach of teachers, students, researchers and writers and others.
As expected from a book that calls itself an almanac, the first part of the book focuses on news and events from the past year – the travels of Pope Benedict during the year, new Vatican documents and announcements, and discussion and update of current events issues (such as abortion, the sexual abuse crisis and the health care debate).
Part II of the book is a discussion of the teachings of the Church. While of the documents excerpted and discussed in this section can be found online, the summaries and outlines of the major documents containing the doctrine of the Church to be handy (and understandable) for those seeking some basic knowledge and for those trying to remember where to find certain things. The same is true for other parts of this section of the book – while one can find the information elsewhere e.g., holy days of obligation, information about sacraments – the book provides disparate information in a single source that is well indexed and organized.
The other parts of the book are primarily of interest to those doing research on particular questions. They include, for example, sections on Dates and Events in Catholic History, the parts of the Roman Curia, significant US court decisions on church-state relations and information about religious orders and Catholic institutions.
This is not a book you are going to curl up with in front of a fire on a cold winter night. It is, however, one that is useful to have in one’s library and, I suspect, one that will be well thumbed through by the end of 2011.
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