Gregory the Great: Moral Reflections on the Book of Job: Volume 3 (Books 11-16)

Cistercian Press continues their unearthing of a spiritual classic with the publication in 2016 of Volume 3 of Gregory the Great’s “Moral Reflections on the Book of Job.”

The translator is Brother Brian Kerns, who has lived primarily at the Abbey at Gethsemani in Kentucky, and at the Abbey of the Genesee in New York. This work is obviously a labor of love.

Along with Gregory’s other famous works, “Pastoral Care” and the Dialogues (which recount the lives and miracles of Italian saints of the patristic period), the Moralia has retained interest down through the ages. The method of exposition is obviously much different than styles used today, but for the serious reader it is a goldmine of reflections on life, primarily from a moral perspective.

Essentially Gregory takes each line of the book of Job and reads it in the context of other biblical texts, often citing them, and explains what the verse means, using contemporary applications. The reader used to strict literalness will have to adjust to Gregory’s creative use of the Scripture that mirrored the rabbinic as well as Christian expository style of this period.

Volume 3 is similar to Volumes 1 and 2, which I reviewed on May 9, 2016. Besides of course being of interest to patristic scholars and exegetes of the book of Job, it has utility for the reader who practices lectio divina, the holistic and prayerful reading of Sacred Scripture.

This book brings maximum profits when read slowly and patiently. Gregory offers timeless insights into life, but in a dense, theological style that requires repeated readings. Of the six parts of the Moralia, part / volume 3 is closest to the oral version transcribed by notaries during conferences he gave to monks and clerics in Constantinople. The Introduction to Part 3, like that to the previous parts, is extremely helpful for preparing oneself for the text, because Gregory changes his style throughout the book. He did not have the opportunity to revise this part to the degree he did the other parts. Gregory is more focused in this part for both practical (time and space/codex considerations) and interpretive reasons (when tackling a mammoth text like Job, as St. Gregory himself pointed out, one naturally varies one’s approach both for literary reasons and in order to avoid monotony), and does not elaborate or digress as much.

Thus the reader needs to read the Introduction first in order to historically situtate this part and thereby adjust to Gregory’s stylistic changes and purposes.

Perhaps a section from Pope Benedict’s 2010 apostolic exhortation, Verbum Domini, best summarizes how to properly view and assimilate St. Gregory’s writings, not only in this part, but in the two previous ones as well.

Pope Benedict observes that we should pay particular attention to the biblical interpretations of those who lead saintly lives. If their compass is directed by the Holy Spirit, it is likely to be reflected in their atunement to the Spirit during their encounter with the inspired texts.

Gregory’s holiness and human greatness is beyond question. One of only two popes to be designated “the Great” (along with Leo, d. 461), like Leo he held the Church and Rome together amid the barbarian invasians. Thus Gregory was a man of both ecclesiastical and secular historical importance, not unlike St. John Paul II.

He was able io integrate both mysticism and pastoral sensitivity in his writings alongside his keen interpretive understanding of Scripture. Thus he brings a well-rounded perspective grounded in a saintly life. He is a doctor of the Church, and thus his writings can be thoroughly trusted.

In his encounter with the book of Job, St. Gregory wrestles with a timeless literary classic. He is able to draw out philosophical and theological applications alongside the moral ones which were his primary focus. Thus he bears studying, rather than just surveying.

The late Jesuit scriptural scholar Cardinal Carlo Martini, former archbishop of Milan, the world’s largest Catholic diocese, was a great admirer of Gregory (and in some ways an imitator in that he was able to integrate pastoral insights with intellectual inquiries, and communicate them in an accessible manner), and frequently references him in his talks and writings.

Thus this book is a work worthy of intense scrutiny and contemplation, during which we will also develop our interpretive method, similarly as one does when reading the works of Cardinal Martini, which likewise mostly originated in oral talks. Through spiritual and literary osmosis, we assimilate the interpretive tendencies of great commentators and enrich our exegetical and expository capacity. In plain English, if we read St. Gregory carefully and contemplatively, we will develop positive reading and interpretation habits, and hopefully bear much fruit in our lives and ministry.

Since the Moralia has not been fully translated into English since 1848, and that translation is outdated, we are greatly indebted to the author and publisher for the opportunity to encounter this classic work. It stands as one of the outstanding biblical expositions of all time.

Like the first two volumes, this translation of Part 3 of the Moralia is priced at $39.95, which is about the going rate for academic books of limited circulation and press runs.

Because I have published three books on Job, and written numerous articles on it, I am aware of the interpretive challenges a commentator faces. I also studied Latin extensively, and received the Phillips Classical Prize in it while attending the University of Michigan. Thus I am particularly qualified to give this book a high recommendation, both for its readable and accurate translation and because it brings together a noetworthy saint and a timeless biblical book, both of which originated during a troubled time like ours. As with volumes 1 and 2, a must read not only for fans of St. Gregory, but for admirers of the book of Job as well.

The book is available from The Liturgical Press, whose website is Their phone number is 1-800-858-5450. I also suggest that you be on the lookout for their annual clearance sale, which occurs in the spring, during which one can get bargains not only on remaindered titles but on books in which the publisher has overstock. .

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Men Without Work: The White Elephant in the Room

In September, 2016, Templeton Press published an interesting book entitled Men Without Work: America’s Invisible Crisis by Nicholas Eberstadt, a long time fellow of the American Enterprise institute.. I had a particular interest in the book for numerous reasons. I have worked with leading researchers on men’s issues for over two decades, and am well aware that this is one of the country’s most serious, overlooked, and sensitive (i.e. politically correct) problems. On a more personal level, I spent a significant amount of time with a young man who fits closely the parameters described in this work. This individual voiced many of the grievances of these millenial men without work, and many are legitimate.

Many of his comments went beyond the scope of this book, and speak to the reverse discrimination that many young men are experiencing. The recent election is an example of the way women’s issues are focused on almost to the complete exclusion of men’s issues. Further, while the behavior of Donald Trump received intense scrutiny and criticism, and deservedly so, the serious character issues of Hillary Clinton were reported as being issues to voters without being objectively analyzed in a thorough fashion. They talked about her credibility gap, but not in detail. They did not deal with issues of competency and bias, such as her almost exclusive focus on injustices against women. They also failed to address the power structure in the Democratic party which tolerated a candidate over whom potential criminal charges hung, and whose track record of achievement is far from sterling.

Thus this book in my opinion, however competent and important, is just the tip of the iceberg. However, one of the strong points of the book is its accessibility. Many books based on research are laborious and cumbersome, and overly technical. This book is not an easy read, but neither is it beyond the reach of the informed layperson.

There is a dispassionate quality to the book in that it seeks to explore the statistics carefully and then arrive at objective conclusions that are free of ideology. The book’s agenda is to report on a problem, rather than to polemically lay blame.

Frankly, I found that I needed extensive time to digest its conclusions, because they were somewhat different than I had expected. In many cases I felt that the book did not address cultural biases towards women sufficiently, but that is a subjective assessment.

The author’s previous book was entitled “A Nation of Takers”, so it is obvious that he disapproves of the welfare state mentality and finds it to be a root of the problem faced by the men and society.

This book is highly recommended because it pinpoints some very disturbing developments in society that have serious socio-economic ramifications. After the author makes his case, two other commentators offer a response to the author’s conclusions, and then the author offers his own rebuttal. It is interesting to get perspectives, and it helps you formulate your own perspective.

The strength of the book is its thorough and dispassionate research expressed in accessible language, and the reasonable conclusions that are drawn. The author does not assign blame to any one group, but makes a good case that the sociological trends identified are serious, and that continued neglect of these by policy makers and the populace as a whole will lead to even more negative consequences.

I found this book both enjoyable and informative, and hope that many persons will both read and respond to this book. More information is available from



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New Popular Commentary on the Gospel of John

Our Sunday Visitor has recently published a massive (672 pages) but manageable popular commentary on the Gospel of John by eminent biblical spirituality writer George Martin. This work complements his commentaries on the other Gospels and is written in a similar style and format. It is entitled “Bringing the Gospel of John to Life: Insight and Inspiration.”

These commentaries are not academic, but they do bridge scholarship to the laity in an accessible manner. I can think of no other popular level commentary series on the Gospels that integrates erudition with pastoral sensitivity in so deft a manner.

These commentaries essentially digest scholarly thinking on the Gospels into language, concepts, and applications relevant to a broad range of readers. These commentaries are suitable for beginners, but also for serious students of the Bible. Scholars may also find them interesting.

George Martin has an uncommon ability to translate biblical scholarship into accessible language. As both popular writers and scholars can attest, this is no easy task. Very few writers can bridge scholarship to the non-specialist without watering down the message or compromising the source material.  Since the publication of his first book, “Reading Scripture as the Word of God” in 1975, George Martin has carved out a niche as a biblical spirituality writer respected by both scholars and lay readers.

His latest effort on the Gospel of John even reflects a maturity of thought and thus serves as a fitting conclusion to the series. What is most amazing to me as a fellow biblical spirituality writer is the way his commentaries read well, and do not get bogged down in technicalities or minutiae, nor in intensity of expression.

Martin’s commentary on the Gospel of John is an excellent resource for lectio divina, and thus merits an unequivocal recommendation. It is like taking a class on the Gospel of John in the comfort of your own home, and being able to mull over it at your chosen speed and level of intensity.

It is available from Our Sunday Visitor at OSV.COM, or by calling 1-800-348-2440.




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Replacing Misandry: A Must Read in an Election Year and Thereafter

In 2015, Dr. Paul Nathanson and Dr. Katherine K. Young published the fourth volume in their series on the presence of misandry in North American culture. Entitled “Replacing Misandry: A Revolutionary History of Men”, it continues the pattern of research excellence and biting social commentary demonstrated in the first three volumes. Considerably shorter than its predecessors, it focuses on specific “revolutionary” topics that have not received sufficient attention in the postmodern academic world: those involving the Neolithic and Agricultural, Industrial, Military, and Sexual and Reproductive Revolutions. It concludes with a brief but poignant reflection on Postmodern Man that shows how both genders have suffered much in the social upheaval.

Footnoted prodigiously, it remains accessible to the serious reader who though not an academic has a burning interest in the subject. Let’s face it, most people don’t, and one of the results is the farce that is masquerading as a Presidential election in the United States.

Throughout the debates and in the seemingly endless stream of negative ads that is bombarding the electorate, the constant theme of women’s rights and dignity are put before us. Very little is said about women’s responsibility, or lack thereof, that according to any credible measure, parallels men’s. Nor is much said about the plight of men, which indicates either that both candidates don’t really care or that they are so incompetent and unbalanced as to be ignorant about one of society’s most pressing problems.

The lack of class and maturity of both candidates was in full view in their final debate, in which they failed to shake hands either before or after their debate. In a sense, they epitomize many of the problems Nathanson and Young highlight in their work.

Mrs. Clinton is a banner carrier for ideological feminism and could hardly be more biased / unbalanced and divisive on gender issues. Mr. Trump is a macho rich businessman who is almost completely insensitive to the real needs of both genders and demonstrates so many of the shadow sides of masculinity that women’s advocates have rightly pointed out. Many of the subjects they discussed in their debates are echoed in Nathanson’s and Young’s work, though in a much more objective and intelligent manner.

I found this book to be more balanced and objective than the previous volumes because it focused intensely on particular crucial historical and sociological developments that most political and academic leaders sadly ignore.

You will probably not hear or read much about this book, or its predecessors, because society and sadly, most of the Christian denominations, are simply unwilling to listen. Overall, both Church and culture have pandered to women’s concerns for so long that they have become blinded to the plight of men. There is no excuse for leaders in both secular and religious realms to remain ignorant of the issues brought up by Nathanson and Young, but there is almost zero pressure on them to open their eyes to reality rather than to ideology. Sadly, as the current election indicates, mass society is likewise inordinately influenced by radical feminist propaganda.

Academia, which in the last half century has become cravenly beholden to feminism in a repugnant manner, apparently is resigned to being a puppet for women’s concerns to the overall exclusion of men’s. This is a major reason why this work by Nathanson and Young is so valuable. They address real world issues in an objective  manner and in timely fashion. If you want to get the real story about the gender crisis in this country, consult Nathanson’s and Young’s works, rather than the mass media. In the former, you’ll get the real story, thoroughly and responsibly researched. Most important, the lessons you will learn are not only global and communal ones, but personal and relationship ones, the kind that can bring and keep couples and families together.

Replacing Misandry is available from McGill-Queen’s University Press











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The Moralia, A Classic Newly Available

One of the great classics of Western Literature, “Moral Reflections on the Book of Job”, otherwise known as the Moralia, has not been fully translated into English since 1848, and that translation is outdated. Further, it is very difficult to find a copy, as it has not been reprinted for decades.

What a pleasant surprise, even a delight, it is to discover that Cistercian Publications is publishing a complete set of the Moralia. So far, Volumes 1 and 2 are available.

However, don’t worry about running out of reading material with regards to this set. This is a deep, intense classic, with so much food for thought that the wise person will take their time with it. After all, it was written by a wise man, one of the original doctors of the Western Church, a man in a class with Augustine, Ambrose, and Jerome, which is high praise indeed.

Most astute observers of classic spiritual literature, especially from ancient times, will tell you that if anything, St. Gregory the Great is UNDERRATED. First, the sheer body of his material extant (available) is massive. Two of his books are unquestioned classics, The Moralia and Pastoral Care, and a third, The Dialogues, borders on such, and many would classify it so.

St. Gregory is one of the most interesting figures in the history of the Church. Certainly he is one of the most respected and revered. There are two popes given the title of great, Leo I and Gregory. Personally, I believe that within two centuries, a third will be added, and it will not be St. John Paul II, who certainly will be most people’s choice. I believe that because of the length of his pontificate and his average administrative skills, and the way some of those under him , including bishops he appointed, did not implement his teachings either faithfully or competently, it may take even further time for the dust to settle and him to receive a more objective appraisal. The length and influence of his pontificate, and the sheer volume of his teachings, likely will earn him the title of great, but I believe it will occur after Paul VI is given this honor. Why? Because he held the Church together during a time of great change and crisis, and he led it to modernize in a way that was faithful to tradition and the Bible. Perhaps most important, he allowed decentralization to occur, and empowered others to use their gifts within the Church. This takes a lot of courage, because many people will misuse this trust. However, with faith in God, it is worth the risks.

These attributes of Paul VI are in many ways applicable to Gregory the Great, and thus we should not take his label, the Great lightly. The man is a giant of the Church and someone whose relevance endures untarnished. In this manner he is much like St. Augustine, whom he greatly admired.

The first two volumes of this new translation of the Moralia are priced at $39.95. Get over the sticker shock, for what you get it is a stupendous deal. First, the book is priced high because its market is limited. The Moralia and its author are profound, and profound does not sell in our culture like entertaining does. As the Introduction to Volume 1 aptly states, what is most admirable about the Moralia is the way St. Gregory engages the crucial issue of life. 1500 years later, his answers may or may not be entirely satisfying. But they make us think, go deeper, and evaluate life and ourselves more honestly.

Most people will want to start with Volume 1 because it offers such an outstanding introduction to both Gregory and the Moralia, as well as their times. The Introduction is a short book in itself. Getting through the Moralia is a slow, cumbersome process, which is why many choose to avoid it.

However, St. Gregory is a master of the spiritual life, and we would be well served  to open ourselves to his wisdom.

The translator is a Trappist Monk from Thomas Merton’s monastery. Needless to say, the translation is excellent. I won a classical prize in Latin in college, and have an appreciation of the language and its nuances, and I am very impressed by this translation. Also, I have published three books on Job, and written numerous articles on it, so I am very in tune with the profundity of the book. St. Gregory is one of the few capable of doing it justice.

A little over 12 years ago,  German biblical scholar Hermann Gunkel’s commentary on Genesis was published by Mercer. Scholars hailed this event, because for many of them Gunkel’s commentary was the all around finest to date. Likewise, you will find a more up to date commentary on Job, but certainly not one as long and profound as Cistercian Publications recent masterpiece.

My greatest tribute is that in reading it you learn how to practice lectio divina, the moastic practice of which Gregory was so fond and skilled, better than ever before. Gregory slows you down, brings you deeper, makes you think, inspires you to listen, and urges you to implement God’s message to you. I can think of few finer tributes.

I suggest starting with Volume 1’s thorough Introduction. This will set the stage for encountering Gregory’s eclectic but masterful style. View the price as an inexpensive fee for a class. Learn from a master for a song.

The book is available from The Liturgical Press, whose website is Their phone number is 1-800-858-5450. Check out their annual clearance sale as well, by requesting a catalog.

If you are interested in the history of the early Church, the book of Job, or ultimate questions on the meaning of life, and are willing to work through a challenging but very rewarding read, you have found your opportunity. Take your time with it, and be grateful that a monk took on the challenge of translating this massive work as a labor of love. We are all the better for it. Thus is the Moralia, in a readable and accurate translation, with helpful white space at the margins for notes and footnotes. It recommends itself. It was influential in the church for a millennia. ’nuff said. Check it out. It’s like purchasing a masterpiece for a pittance.

Though very knowledgeable with respect to the Bible, Gregory was no St. Jerome. Thus he had to grapple with the text in a way familiar to us. He was, however, an unsurpassed pastor, an original thinker, and a sensitive and insightful pastoral theologian who lived his vocation with dignity and style. Get to know him, and some of his attributes and wisdom will rub off, with the aid of the Holy Spirit. And find hope in these horrible times, which as the Introduction notes are in many respects reminiscent of Gregory’s.


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Monastic Practices by Charles Cummings, OSCO

Cistercian Publications, an imprint of The Liturgical Press, has recently released a revised edition of Trappist monk Charles Cumming’s Monastic Practices.  The first point to make clear is that this is almost as appropriate for laypersons as for monks. The author speaks in a conversational and personal, but thoughtful and lucid style that makes reading a book enjoyable.

The book offers a multitude of insights and practical suggestions. The first chapter is on sacred reading, or lectio divina, which is an area of my expertise. I found the chapter refreshing, insightful, and helpful for both beginners and those advanced in the practice. It set the tone of the book for me and I realized that this is a very practical yet substantive book that can really be helpful to the reader.

I found the author’s personal, conversational style very engaging, and it is obvious that he has a mastery of the subject, having lived it since 1960. Whether you have a monastic library or are looking to build one up, or you wish to give the book to someone who is seeking to deepen their spirituality, you can’t go wrong with this book.

I suggest ordering it from the liturgical press at Their phone number is 1 -800-858-5450. Until July, they have a great clearance sale going on, so I suggest you also ask for a catalog on that. A lot of great deals on super books.

Monastic Practices is a book to savor, mull over, and dialogue with. And enjoy learning about a lifestyle that has much to say to us today. Extremely highly recommended, and this is from someone, myself, who has worked with monks, stayed at monasteries, and studied monastic spirituality for decades. It’s a book by someone who has lived the life enthusiastically and knows how to impart its essence. Quite well done. The book retails for $19.95, and is worth every penny.




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Hundredfold: A guide to Parish Vocation Ministry

In the book Hundredfold: A Guide to Parish Vocation Ministry, Mrs. Rhonda Gruenwald has filled a significant need in providing a detailed account of how parishes can develop a vocation ministry. This term is only recently becoming more common in pastoral settings, and indeed many parishes do not have a defined vocation ministry.

The need for such practical guidance as Mrs. Gruenewald gives is all the more acute as our society continues its meteoric moral decline and increasingly fails to make appropriate gender distinctions, culminating in the recent scandal and in biblical parlance abomination of legalized homosexual marriages.

As the Church teaches, marriage is between a man  and a woman. The Church offers support to persons with homosexual tendencies, and rejects all forms of hateful discrimination. However, this does not  entail passivity in the face of the moral plague that homosexual marriage constitutes. The Bible is clear and consistent in its condemnation of homosexuality, and although many  biblical commentators soften this by referring to cultural conditions and mores in place at the time, the Tradition overwhelmingly supports the biblical position.

Homosexual couples are increasingly being presented in the culture as acceptable, and even the norm, and those who protest this are often viewed and treated as reactionary pariahs. What message about heterosexual love does this send to children? How are children of homosexual couples going to have a healthy image of heterosexual marriage? These are questions that have not been taken seriously enough, and unless the Church provides additional guidance at the parish level further confusion is going to result.

Mrs. Gruenewald’s book is invaluable for providing a thorough framework in which vocational formation can take place. The book is full of practical tips for almost every aspect of this ministry. At over 200 pages, the book is almost encyclopedic in its thoroughness. The compartmentalized table of contents and book layout prevents it from being overwhelming.

As I went through the book,  I thought to myself that such a work could only have been written by a woman. In general, women are far superior to men in organizing pastoral activities, and their attention and sensitivity to detail and nuance is commendable. Mrs. Gruenewald has done her homework and expressed in clear guidelines how to develop and further a parish’s vocation ministry. The book’s table of contents enables easy access to topics of interest, so that you can address your practical concerns immediately.

Hundredfold is published by Vianney Vocations and retails for $17.00. Mrs. Gruenewald’s website is, and her email address is






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