Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 27, 2000
Authors tell of joys of being Catholic
I Like Being Catholic: Treasured Traditions, Rituals and Stories, Edited by Michael Leach and Therese Borchard, Toronto, Doubleday, 2000. 159 pages.
Review by WAYNE HOLST
Special to the WCR
"I never doubted that, though there are parts of this Church that do not make sense or touch my heart, this is my Church and this is where I belong. I continue to grow... each new day as an adult. I rejoice that I am a Catholic" (Patricia Crowley, osb).
"Despite the creeps and the party poopers, the puritans and the spoil sports, the kill-joys and . . . parade ruiners, Catholicism is too much fun to leave" (Fr. Andrew Greeley).
I Like Being Catholic is a celebration of Catholic life. For those who claim Catholicism as their faith this book offers many helpful notions of meaning and belonging. For those, like this reviewer, who claim to be Catholic, but not in the uniquely Roman sense, this book offers an intriguing safari. Here are exciting testimonies filled with images and insights, a broad and varied contribution.
Here is a potpourri of impressions about what makes Catholicism unique as well as what makes it something to be shared by everyone.
Universality is a characteristic of the Catholic faith. Stated simply, people of all sorts and conditions, the world over, mutually share some very important things. There are common saints, social teachings, spiritual cultures, novels, music and drama.
Multiple forms of human predisposition are also reflected in the Catholic faith. Name the temperament and characteristic and there are Catholics who reflect it. Simple folk, and intellectuals. The talented and less gifted, affluent and destitute, well-known and unknown. Catholics are at home in all the categories and in large numbers.
Katty Coffey, editor and author from Denver, suggests good reasons to be Catholic; "The Church is a family," she says. "We have splendid heroes and heroines. We draw on a rich spirituality. We take staunch stands on justice."
Michael Leach of New York, and one of the book's editors, provides good reasons to raise your kids Catholic. These include: So they have rules to reject when they're teenagers. So they'll have some rules to reconsider when they have kids of their own. So they'll have rules to cherish for the rest of their lives. So they'll come to know that every person wears the face of Christ in a different way, even those who seem to be enemies.
Robert Ellsberg, another New York editor, contributes a list of Catholic heroes of the 20th century. He nominates, among others: Charles de Foucauld, desert hermit; Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker; Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, mystic and scientist; John XXIII, a pope for all seasons; Thomas Merton, monk; Oscar Romero, archbishop and martyr; Mother Teresa of Calcutta, foundress of the Missionaries of Charity; and Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, former archbishop of Chicago and acknowledged American Catholic leader during the 1980s and early '90s.
This is not a book for persons seeking profoundly theological or sectarian reasons for being Catholic. This book targets people and experiences in a simple, dignified manner. Its aim is not to flaunt a negative arrogance but to prompt a justifiable pride.
Some readers may take exception to certain "shirt tail" Catholics listed or contributing. Nevertheless, that is one of the real strengths of the collection. Some personalities may surprise with the form or intensity of their devotion to the Church.
Others may describe their faith using images from the world of sports or the theatre, rather than from the treasury of classic Catholic thought. Yet, all have a reason for expressing themselves as they do. They are all part of what it means to be Catholic.
For Catholics who wish to enhance their own identity and for others who seek to emulate what they see as good in the Catholic way, reading this book delivers a satisfying reward.
(Rev. Dr. Wayne Holst is a lecturer in religion and culture at the University of Calgary.)