Friday surprise – an unexpected book review

June 4, 2010 | book review, Books

I needed a lift today, and there it was — unexpected but right on time — waiting in my email inbox this morning. Glastonbury Abbey in Massachusetts has posted a very cool review of my Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Catholic Catechism, which is such a treat because it’s been two years since publication. Reviews at this late stage really are a gift.

Here’s what the reviewer had to say:

by Bruce McCabe

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to “The Catholic Catechism”
By Mary DeTurris Poust with Theological Advisor David J. Fulton, STD, JCD

A funny thing happened while I was reading this guide to the Catholic Catechism. I learned why pride could be considered a sin.

One thing the book has going for it is its accessibility. It’s more, dare I say it, accessible than the bible. Of course, we read the bible, if at all, for different reasons. We want reassurance. You don’t read this book for reassurance. It can provoke you.
It tackles hot-button issues like sin, celibacy, abortion euthanasia, the death penalty, adultery — no euphemisms like “cheating”— divorce, birth control, homosexuality, and other broader issues like equity in wages, the right to work, preserving the environment and even the need to banish greed and envy. Talk about tall orders.

You might think, as I do, that sin is something like beauty, i.e., in the eye of the beholder. The guide has no truck with that. It dismisses rationalizations referring to human weaknesses or character flaws and labels it flatly as “a turning away from God’s plan and an abuse of the freedom (God) gave us.”

lthough pride, I’ve decided, can be a good thing, I’ve also come to see it as being something of a double-edged sword. You can be proud of something that’s at least dubious and that to some might be considered objectionable. For example, maybe what you’re proud of is your willfulness or stubborn refusal to consider other possibilities.

The guide conveys a sense of knowing and explaining to you most if not all of what Catholics believe or are supposed to believe. It gives resonance to the mass and its rituals, giving them more meaning we don’t always hearken to. In a way, we’re so accustomed to them, we may overlook them or take for granted their poetry, symmetry, symbolism or metaphorical significance.

Maybe the attraction of this book is that it shows you what it takes to be a “good” or “practicing” Catholic regardless of how you see yourself. In a sense, it gives you the idea that maybe you should look at yourself in a philosophical mirror. Take a look at what you believe and why and how you got there. It takes a lot to be “good.” Maybe more than you ever thought about.

(Note: There are also “Complete Idiot’s Guides” to “Faith,” “The Bible,” “Understanding Catholicism” and “Christian Prayers & Devotions.” As the owner of “Complete Idiot’s Guides to jazz, wines and creative writing, I can attest to their readability).

Glastonbury Abbey looks like a beautiful place. Check out the review online HERE and the general site HERE. And thank you to Denny, my friend and college journalism professor, for passing on the link. Otherwise, I never would have known about it. Denny is the one who turned my head toward writing as a career, so I have him to thank. Or blame.



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