This book is a true joy to read! Christopher’s poetry is deeply moving and dynamic. Yet the lines resemble swift brush strokes on an impressionist painting, they are actually full of profound meanings and symbols that aim directly at readers’ imagination and spiritual perception.
With his poetic thought, Christopher brings himself close to the tradition of William Blake’s visionary poetry. This book is a true joy to read.
(Source: Amazon UK).
Angelo Stagnaro has taken on a hugely ambitious task in his 450+ page book titled A Modern Sinner’s Guide for the Third Millennium. Yet, the breadth of undertaking makes sense when you see that it is a modern understanding and reworking of Venerable Louis of Granada’s original ‘A Sinner’s Guide.’
Venerable Louis de Granada was an influential and beloved Dominican preacher and writer of the 16th century. His Sinner’s Guide is a classic Catholic spiritual work; written for the common man, yet a major influence on some of our greatest saints like Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint John of the Cross and Saint Charles Borromeo.
Stagnaro has indeed followed in formidable footsteps and does so admirably. Most important for the reader, the length of the book should cause no anxiety. It is not a cover-to-cover read, but a true guidebook, a valuable directory of sin – what sin is, what kinds of sins there are, how they are manifested in our times and how we can work to avoid them. And despite the guilt-inducing subject matter, A Modern Sinner’s Guide for the Third Millennium is quite an engaging and even enjoyable read as Stagnaro writes with compassion, humility – “my expertise in writing this book is that I have been, and still am, a spectacular sinner,” he says – and refreshing flashes of humor. The book is timely. In an age that has forgotten that sin is an objective thing – as Stagnaro says, “atheists and other secularists deride the term” – nonetheless, “living without values is a sure ticket to self-destruction.”
The Modern Sinner’s Guide outlines the seven deadly sins and then explores the sins pertaining to each of the Ten Commandments, but with some interesting modern developments. For example, under the deadly sin of anger, Stagnaro talks about the nature of anger and hatred, with subsections on gossip and Schadenfreude. To describe the latter, Stagnaro makes use of current cultural references (as he does throughout), in this case, the popular animated series The Simpsons:
In one Simpsons episode, Lisa, angry at her brother, Bart, managed to feel a modicum of pity for his lowly state. She said, “It’s amazing how I can feel sorry for you and hate you at the same time . . . the Germans probably have a word for it.” The Germans, being master wordsmiths, actually do have a word for it: Haßliebe (pronounced: hassliebe). This may not be as well-known to Americans, but another German word is much more popular in English. Once learning of it, one becomes instantly ashamed and worried that they themselves might be guilty of it: Schadenfreude. This is the shameful joy we experience when we delight at the misfortunes of others. When we think about the emotional and spiritual damage we do to ourselves when we enjoy another’s hardship, it is clear that this is completely unacceptable. One of the worst aspects of Schadenfreude is that the emotions it engenders in the soul can turn to even worse sins such as envy and anger. After all, bad feelings become bad thoughts and bad thoughts become bad actions.
The section based on the Fifth Commandment (You shall not kill) is in itself a stand-alone primer on the sins of the culture of death. The discussions are interesting and sometimes unexpectedly thorough. For example, in the section on suicide, after the sin itself is described, we have an explanation of instances of indirect suicide, which can be “heroic self-sacrifice:” Stagnaro points to Saints Damien of Molokai, Maximillian Kolbe and Edith Stein. But he also points out when indirect suicide can be “other than altruistic,” like purposefully refusing to leave a burning building or provoking an armed soldier or police officer into using lethal force (suicide by cop).
What really stands out in this part of the book is the section on abortion as Stagnaro names and refutes (often with many outside sources) 119 top pro-abortion myths. There is so much good, logical information here that I can imagine it could be used to both educate and arm Catholics on how to advocate for the lives of the unborn. Here is one myth, #37, the refutation of which gets hardly enough notice: “Pro-abortionists are law-abiding, compassionate, peace-loving, nonviolent people . . . unlike Christians.” Stagnaro refutes this, in the passage that follows, writing specifically about abortion providers and whether this myth describes them:
Putting aside the 43 million children killed as a result of the legalization of abortion, which can hardly be considered compassionate, peace-loving and nonviolent, the number of abortion providers who are violent felons is staggering, in particular considering how few there are. The Abortion Crime Report, published by California Right to Life offers a list of newspaper articles about abortionists who have been convicted of murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, torture, kidnapping, rape, theft, medical fraud, stalking, death threats, bombing, reporting falsely reporting bomb threats (and falsely blaming pro-lifers), sex crimes, conspiracy, drug crimes, property crimes, medical crimes and stalking among dozens of other crimes. The report of pro-abortion violence lists 2297 incidents of pro-abortion violence and illegal activities. The source for much of the information came from the Medical Board of California, which is responsible for licensing and bringing disciplinary action against state physicians. To this number, we should add the 347 women killed by legal abortions since 1973.
In another contemporary twist, Stagnaro identifies the new seven deadly sins, which include environmental pollution, eugenics, drug trafficking and consumption. There are thought-provoking discussions on some of our modern age’s most contentious and problematic issues.
A brief review cannot comment on the majority of a work such as this, but one more section I will highlight as tremendously useful is The Art and Science of a Good Confession. Because after all the talk of what sins exist and how they can destroy, the great truth of our faith is that we can be completely forgiven – if we make a good confession. Preparing for a good confession is an essential tool for spiritual growth and health, and the exercises provided here, along with the encouragement to trust in God’s forgiveness, is a sign that God’s mercy is an essential part of the message of The Modern Sinner’s Guide for the Third Millennium.
– Maria McFadden Maffucci, Editor, Human Life Review.
A deeper journey. I have found Christopher’s poetry so moving, it takes one on a deeper journey. His ability to dig deep into our human condition is unnerving. I feel his poetry physically, his description of wanting or anxiety clenches my stomach, causes my heart to yearn. He is a talent that deserves your time.
Highly recommend. Touching and beautiful volume of poetry. The poems are personal and easily speak to one’s heart and experiences. Really enjoyed the volume (read it over two days) and already looking forward to Christopher’s next one.
A wonderful collection with a rich variety of subject matter. The poems on love lost and/or betrayed come straight from the heart, while the humorous verses show a mastery of subtle wordplay. Villiers is a poet with a soul, a conscience, and a distinctive poetic voice. Highly recommend.
Ours is an age of impending darkness. The modern eye is not sound. We trumpet about freedom, but do not perceive our hidden slavery. We are comfortable but depressed; we are addicted to technology, but forget being. We think it is possible to be fully human without loving God; we think that loving God is compatible with ignoring, or even rejecting, His commandments. The sources of this darkness are legion, but a primary factor is our neglect of sin. While it is possible that previous generations were overly concerned with sin (although I doubt this is the case given their actions), that is not our problem. We have gone astray precisely because we do not think it is possible to go astray.
We alternate between incompatible claims, which undercut the possibility of sin. Often, we claim that goodness and evil cannot be true or false. Each person should be free to define for him or herself what is good and true, what lifestyle is most human and fulfilling. There is no correct answer to ethical questions. Yet, simultaneously, we claim that certain interpersonal actions can be objectively good or evil, but there are also zones of ‘freedom’ from truth and goodness (e.g., the bedroom, the economy, etc.). If those do not work for you, you can claim that freedom is illusory, thus sin is neurosis, genetics or social pressure.
Although we are influenced by each of these to a certain degree and they are incompatible with each other, all are incorrect. Every action is either good or evil. There is no neutrality in this world and Our Lord does not have good things to say about those who pretend there is (Rv 3:16). It does not matter if the action occurs in the bedroom, at the store, or in our innermost thoughts. It is either good or evil; it is subject to praise or blame. Sin is not neurosis, social pressure or genetically determined actions. Sin is a freely chosen bad action; an action contrary to love of God and neighbor. By every action, we either draw closer to the fullness of life or reject it.
To many of us this feels oppressive; the truth feels oppressive. Yet, to ignore it is to choose blindness and fiction, to choose a new and hidden type of slavery. Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin (Jn 8:34). Since freedom is created for goodness and truth, every sin decreases our freedom. It enslaves us to the passing things of this world and to our errant desires. If continued, sin can create a vice which enslaves us in a more total way. A vice changes the way we think and feel about certain things. By doing so, it keeps us from coming to know the truth and achieving freedom. We are no longer children of the world and of God, but children of a fantasy in which Satan rules supreme. We know not the way things are, but only our own delusions. Imagine an army denying land mines exist, while crossing a field full of them, then screaming the denial all the more shrilly when they are injured. As this army is, so are we. We are often our own worst enemies.
In an age such as ours, this book is a clarion call for the truth. “Sin exists. It is a matter of life and death that we recognize this salient fact.” It is destroying our lives, our communities and our humanity. Like a worm eating an apple, it corrupts everything from the inside out. Like a cancer, it spreads. The worst thing we can do is ignore it.
A Modern Sinner’s Guide for the Third Millennium by Angelo Stagnaro takes its inspiration from an important and extremely potent spiritual work by Venerable Louis of Granada (1505-1588), also titled The Sinner’s Guide. Louis’s book is the sinner’s guide to salvation, to holiness, to fullness of life with God. It aims to guide those who are sinners to a life of holiness. The current work is a good complement for our times. We need not a sinner’s guide to happiness and fulfillment, but a guide to sin: its definition, types, causes, and remedies. One cannot be healed by a doctor until the disease is admitted and this book can serve as a diagnostic manual. It discusses not only the Ten Commandments, but also the seven deadly sins, a new seven deadly sins, sins against the Holy Spirit, ultimate sins, the unforgiveable sin, and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Given this subject matter, one might be inclined to think the book grim. However, the book is far from it. The whole point is to alert us to the types of sins so that we can work against them, both through remedies and, more importantly, through confession.
Stagnaro, a Third Order Franciscan and prolific writer, is just the person to guide others through the types of sin, their remedies, and the sacrament of confession. By his own admission, he is an expert in sinning, but also (and more importantly) repentance. He is like the man sitting by the road calling out, “Jesus Christ, Son of David, have mercy on me” (Lk 18:38), and inviting others to do so as well. This is fitting, since only Christ’s light can cast out the darkness of our sins. Only His forgiveness in confession can scrape the scales from our eyes and renew our hearts. Then we shall see anew, see the world as it truly is, and be fully alive.
John Meinert, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Theology, Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady University.
The 500-page 7″ x 10″ reference work on hamartiology titled The Modern Sinner’s Guide for the Third Millennium by award-winning NCR editorialist Angelo Stagnaro, with Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur from the Archdiocese of New York. Based on the original sinner’s guide by Ven. Louis Granada. The Modern Sinner’s Guide will be available in paperback and ebook editions from Amazon, directly from ourselves at Hope & Life Press, and major booksellers. It will also be available at the Vatican libraries including the Gregoriana, the Angelorum, and the Pontifical College of North America.
Hope and Life Press is thrilled to announce the forthcoming release during the Christmas season of the first edition of the book Forty Italian Rustic Dishes: A Christmas Cookbook for Catholics by National Catholic Register award-winning editorialist and Holy See liaison Angelo Stagnaro, OSF. This is the second volume in Stagnaro’s series of Cookbooks for Catholics and the first in our new line. The book, which will be available in both paperback and ebook editions, has been granted the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur by the Diocese of Brooklyn.
Well, I’ll be darned! If It’s a Wonderful Life, The Screwtape Letters, and McGyver had a love child, this would be it. Mr. Toad’s wild ride on steroids, with Aquinas, Sue Grafton, Tom Clancy, and Barbara Cartland in the front seat; strapped in, hands up, screaming for nearly 500 pages. It grabs you by the throat (in that good way), shakes you 6-ways-to-Sunday (in that fun way), and spits you out, sweating and dazed (in that “Let’s do it again” way) at the end. You will laugh (OUT LOUD in a few places), you will cringe (in more than a few), you will find yourself squinting in that “that’s really intriguing” kinda way, as you stay up waaay longer than you intended, just to read ‘one more page,’ that melts into a hundred and fifty more before you finally drag yourself away.
Best of all, it will make you think about the big things (and the little ones) that make this life…the “why are we here,” and “there but for the grace of God go I” down that softly sloping, somnambulant path to hell. If it gets made into a movie (which it really must), the theme song should be Casting Crowns’ “It’s a Slow Fade”…(youtube it).
Capps is a master storyteller and a consummate wordsmith (it’s in his DNA), with a decidedly dark edge that keeps you watching and reading through slit fingers. This genre generally isn’t my ‘thing,’ but this book is an exception. Like Screwtape, it can make you more aware of the unseen, all-important battle raging all around us…if you allow it to, and ponder what it really says. I await, on pins and needles, its sequel.
Unveiling a world of meaning! Readers of sci-fi admire the authors who create worlds within the covers of their books. Mr. Capps has done something more, something that offers his readers a glimpse into the classical Christian vision of reality. He invites us into a story that is startling and different. The reader who perseveres finds a narrative that is action-packed and strange, and which discloses a profoundly meaningful world — ours. Our human life.
We meet the Able family at a point in their life together. There is love, commitment frayed by their history, difficult circumstances and obstacles. A strange turn of events leads to a bizarre adventure they are immersed in without fully understanding. It tests commitment, loyalty, love and faith.
They respond differently, bewildered. The reader often shares the bewilderment. Sometimes they trust each other; sometimes they turn away. Running through the story like a golden thread is the ancient wisdom that the law of God is not merely a set of precepts mandated from on high, arbitrary as a set of traffic laws, but rather something like the laws of medicine, telling us how we are made and what we ought to do about it for our own good — a fundamental truth that our society has forgotten.
And the world they stumble through is OUR world, “charged with the glory of God,” in which there are more things in heaven and on earth than are dreamed of by our philosophies. Stumbling through it they make mistakes and commit sins, and look back with regret at things they should have done better, and try to repair things, often in a misguided way. One reads with empathy…how would I have done?
It is a parable about life. It is also a fine, wild story. As a Priest, I find myself hoping that it finds many readers especially among young parents setting out on the journey of family life.
What you see is…what you don’t get! In more weird ways than one, this book will stick with me forever because of the way the author weaves character, possibility and impossibility. And if any reading can touch (or smack) my conscience, I particularly hold it dear. This one does it. I did get lost a couple of times because I didn’t comprehend sci-fi or whatever, but ugh! I took my good time reading this because I didn’t want it to end.
Five Stars!! Loved it. Waiting for the next book.
This is one of those novels I will always remember and that made me the richer for having read it. Thank you, Tim Capps, you touched my soul.