Things Worth Dying For: Thoughts on a Life Worth Living (Hardcover)
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With a balance of wisdom, candor, and scholarly rigor the beloved archbishop emeritus of Philadelphia takes on life’s central questions: why are we here, and how can we live and die meaningfully?
In Things Worth Dying For, Chaput delves richly into our yearning for God, love, honor, beauty, truth, and immortality. He reflects on our modern appetite for consumption and individualism and offers a penetrating analysis of how we got here, and how we can look to our roots and our faith to find purpose each day amid the noise of competing desires.
Chaput examines the chronic questions of the human heart; the idols and false flags we create; and the nature of a life of authentic faith. He points to our longing to live and die with meaning as the key to our search for God, our loyalty to nation and kin, our conduct in war, and our service to others.
Ultimately, with compelling grace, he shows us that the things worth dying for reveal most powerfully the things worth living for.
About the Author
Archbishop Emeritus Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap., was named archbishop of Philadelphia in 2011 by Pope Benedict XVI. As a member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, he was the second Native American to be ordained a bishop in the United States and is the first Native American archbishop. Chaput is the author of Strangers in a Strange Land, Living the Catholic Faith, and Render unto Caesar, as well as numerous articles and public talks. Retiring as archbishop emeritus in 2020, he continues his extensive writing and public speaking.
“[Things Worth Dying For] is vintage Chaput: firm but never less than gracious and kind. It is not polemic by anger, but polemic by beauty…There is wisdom, sweetly and gently expressed, on every page…From reflections on mortality rooted in the psalms, to thoughts on friendship framed by insights from the Lutheran Gilbert Meilaender and the Anglican C. S. Lewis, this book will help us all to think about the important things in life—the things worth dying for.”
“[Things Worth Dying For] is an extended reflection on where we come from, where we are now, and where we should want to go if life is to have meaning…[Chaput] diagnoses our societal, political, and ecclesial ills without scolding and prescribes strong medicine without moralizing…[and] has shown himself once again to be a faithful pastor, bringing to our memory those truths worth dying for.”
—Father Paul Scalia, National Catholic Register
“[Chaput] is introspective, genuine, and sometimes inspiring…exploring highly personal instances of emotion, frailty, endurance, and vision along with broader views on the state of the Catholic Church and the future of American society. His musings range from current trends in popular culture to the realms of theology and philosophy, and he cites a wide variety of writers and artists, including Horace, Roger Scruton, Elie Wiesel—and of course, plenty of Bible verses…Heartfelt, worthwhile thoughts from a seasoned church leader.”
“Because American culture tries to deny [death’s] truth and inevitability, [Chaput] is not afraid to remind readers of their final chapter…but this is not a depressing book…[H]is thought gathers and builds on subjects like community, intimacy, and forgiveness…Throughout, his writing affirms that things worth dying for make life worth living.”
“Things Worth Dying For…is the latest contribution to a serious Catholic consideration of our present moment, its discontents and possibilities.”
—First Things, “The 2021 Summer Reading List”
“[Chaput] draws on his memories and the works of classic writers in this erudite…reflection on…love and service of God, and he also praises family, friends, and both secular and religious communities.”
“I could not stop reading this remarkable book. The golden thread that links its chapters is the ‘ties that bind:’ the life-giving relations, spanning generations, that unite us in families, communities, and nation. Archbishop Chaput is acute in his discernment of the conditions in contemporary culture that lead to isolation and loss of meaning. But he also shows the way to the wellspring of living water that is love of God and neighbor, enabled by the grace of friendship with Jesus Christ. Chaput’s direct and challenging prose gifts his readers with both wisdom and hope.”
—Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, author of Rekindling the Christic Imagination
“Archbishop Charles Chaput brings a lifetime of prayer and immersion in the Bible, decades of pastoral experience, and an inquiring mind to this provocative exploration of the things that should shape a committed Christian life. His words inspire, challenge, and give new depth of meaning to the quotidian choices that will determine how we meet the Lord.”
—George Weigel, author of Witness to Hope and Distinguished Senior Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center
“This is a beautifully written book, filled with insight and scholarship, but it’s bracing to read because it is so clear about what ails the Catholic Church, our nation, and American Catholics. If you begin it with the end in mind of wrestling with the truth of our times, it will inspire even as it chills. If you’re a believer, a real honest-to-God believer, this book will be the most refreshing read for a difficult road ahead.”
—Hugh Hewitt, author, attorney, and national host of The Hugh Hewitt Show
"In this deeply personal and moving reflection on 'last things,' Archbishop Charles Chaput weaves together strands of wisdom acquired through a lifetime of thought, experience, and prayer. While it is a book that encourages its readers to ponder how to die well, what it inspires most deeply is the conviction to live well — not according to the selfish whims so prevalent in our troubled age, but for the sake of those purposes, people, and faith that connect us to eternity. While written by a great priest in the twilight years of a life rich in sacrifice and service, it is a book that should be urgently read by those with a lifetime ahead of them—the sooner, the better."
—Patrick J. Deneen, author of Why Liberalism Failed; and professor of political science, University of Notre Dame
“Archbishop Charles Chaput has given us a training manual for revolutionaries—not the ideology-obsessed, violent kind, but those who in ‘an act of rebellion against a loveless age,’ choose to confront the question: ‘What is worth dying for?’ These are the rebels who, as Chaput says, ‘will, with God’s, help someday redeem a late-modern West that can no longer imagine anything worth dying for.’ With that redemption will come a recovery of our personal and communal vocations, a renewed sense of what is worth living for, striving for, sacrificing for, dedicating ourselves to as persons and as peoples.”
—Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University
“Archbishop Charles Chaput does here what few accomplish. He lives up to his own guiding motto: ‘It is not our mission to make truth triumph, but to testify for it.’ He testifies to Jesus Christ, and what impedes our union with him, with passion, the wisdom of a lifetime, and literary, historic, and theological intelligence.”
—Helen M. Alvaré, author of Putting Children’s Interests First in Family Law and Policy and professor of law, George Mason University
"Archbishop Chaput draws on a lifetime of accumulated wisdom to address brutally real questions about death and the worthiness of life. He speaks to our greatest fears with honesty, gentleness, hope—and a lot of really good stories."
—John Garvey, President, Catholic University of America
“This is the book we need. Archbishop Chaput, a good and wise shepherd, writes with inspiring clarity at a time when we’ve been so overwhelmed by fear and evil. He brings us to Jesus Christ, to see and feel with the eyes and the heart of Christ himself. Things Worth Dying For is an encouragement, a challenge, and a gift—a gift to help us live our lives in the light of the love of the Trinity.”
—Kathryn Jean Lopez, senior fellow, National Review Institute
“Archbishop Chaput reflects from his own long experience in priestly service on the intimate, mutual relationship between ‘things worth dying for’ and ‘things worth living for.’ Along the way he offers a Christian vision that illuminates the connection, raising these profound issues in a way that is invitational rather than dogmatic, accessible to anyone interested in pondering with him both the meaning of death, and thus the meaning of life.”
—John C. Cavadini, McGrath-Cavadini Director, McGrath Institute for Church Life
“Archbishop Chaput has done it again: This may very well be his best book yet. And please God may there be more. Anyone who is serious about living well should read it. With Things Worth Dying For, Chaput teaches us the things worth living for.”
—Ryan T. Anderson, author of Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom and When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment and William E. Simon Senior Research Fellow in American Principles & Public Policy, Heritage Foundation
“What's ‘worth dying for?’ The Christian faith, of course. Archbishop Chaput reviews a few martyrs' stories in his latest, and most profound, book. But not many stories, for he is most keen to explore what it means to live a life well, to run (as Saint Paul wrote) one's race to the end in faith. The answer to the question about dying, Chaput explains masterfully, is to bear faithful witness to the Gospel, in season and out of season. In the course of pursuing this main point, Chaput notes the many things that are not worth dying for, or even living for. These include so much of what our culture prizes: acquiring more and more meaningless things, seeking pleasure, and somehow becoming what one wants to be by the alchemy of self-invention. This book about last things is honeycombed with penetrating insights (a mix of critical and laudatory) into the American way of living. Even more insightful—and more brutally honest—are the author’s occasional comments on the state of the Catholic Church today. But the great value of this book lies in its clear-eyed, sensitive reflections on the meaning and purpose of living as Jesus's disciples, by a man who describes himself in its early pages as one whose life is mostly in the rear-view mirror. God willing, Charles Chaput will bless us with more books. But if this be his valedictory, we should take the occasion to thank God for the mercy of sending this shepherd to His people. Never in this life will we fully grasp how great, and how sweet, this gift has been.”
—Gerard V. Bradley, author of Unquiet Americans: United States Catholics and the Common Good and professor of law, University of Notre Dame
"Archbishop Chaput has distilled all he knows, the experience and insight of a beloved pastor and spiritual father, for a Church and nation in crisis—which makes this book a treasure that will long outlast our plastic, forgetful, distracted age."
—Sohrab Ahmari, author of From Fire, By Water and The Unbroken Thread: Discovering the Wisdom of Tradition in an Age of Chaos
“At the heart of this powerful book is a paradox that lies at the core of Christianity: someone who truly cherishes the goods of human life must be prepared to suffer martyrdom for them. In making his case, Archbishop Chaput delivers well-targeted critiques of the false gods of our secular culture, which sets the scene for a moving meditation on what Scripture calls the substance of things to be hoped for. This richly rewarding reflection by a deeply spiritual man with a lively mind and a gifted pen is a volume to be read, relished, and taken to prayer.”
—Russell Shaw, author of American Church
“For more than three decades, Archbishop Charles Chaput has been a moral witness and voice of conscience. Here he reflects on essential matters—love and friendship; family and patriotism; suffering and forgiveness; the future of the Church and how Christians should live among the idols and ideologies of 21st-century America. This book gives courage and hope and helps us to see why, in the end, our lives matter beyond what we could ever imagine.”
—David Scott, author of The Love That Made Mother Teresa
“‘Late style’—that elusive skill shaped by the awareness that life is coming to a close—is typical of artists, poets, and musicians. Yet it marks the writings of certain gifted Churchmen, too, and it suffuses this volume of reflections on life, ministry, and culture. For life to be worth living, some things must be worth dying for; and as Christians we must set our lives within a hope for eternity and the fact of our own mortality. While Protestants will find things to disagree with in these pages, Archbishop Chaput's ‘late style’ leads all of us to see what is truly important in our earthly pilgrimage. This is a beautiful book.”
—Carl R. Trueman, author of The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self and professor of biblical and religious studies, Grove City College
"In these wise and deep pages, Archbishop Chaput offers a wealth of essential truths and pastoral insights about how we as mortal beings, but mortal beings with immortal souls and an eternal destiny, should benefit from reflecting on the inevitability of death. The things we’re willing to die for, as he masterfully demonstrates, are—properly understood—the very things that we should live for. This book is an antidote to much that ails us, as both individuals and communities."
—Robert Royal, author of Columbus and the Crisis of the West and A Deeper Vision: The Catholic Intellectual Tradition in the Twentieth Century and President of the Faith and Reason Institute
“Courage is the virtue we need for the pressing moral challenges of our times. Things Worth Dying For is a book filled with both courage and hope, and it reminds us powerfully that ours is not to triumph, but to testify to the goodness and glory of God. In God, and God alone, is our joy, our meaning, and our salvation; and with him, all things are possible.”
—William Mumma, CEO and board chair, Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
“Why are we here, what should we be living for, and how should we live? Reflecting a lifetime of learning and prayer, Archbishop Chaput writes with the wise and generous heart of a pastor and with a deep love for the Church and for America. I pray that his book will inspire us to evangelize with new appreciation for the precious love and beautiful plan that God has for every person.”
—Most Rev. José H. Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles