Book Review: I Like Being Catholic

In a world filled, it seems, with “recovering Catholics” telling the world of either their still-simmering rage or now well-adjusted pity for all the pathetic souls still fumbling with their beads back in the pews, it’s nice to see a book come along that’s called, quite simply, I Like Being Catholic.

Edited by Michael Leach and Therese J. Borchard, I Like Being Catholic is a collection of short essays and quotations by lots of different people, famous and obscure, who share with us the good news of which the title speak: why they enjoy, appreciate and love being Catholic, and why they would never want to be anything else.

So we have the likes of Martin Scorcese, Maureen O’Hara and William F. Buckley, along with ordinary church-goers from a parish just like yours, telling us why they attend Mass, why Confession is important, what Mary means to them, why they love their lives as consecrated religious, and how the Catholic faith in general strengthens and nourishes their lives.

Lists abound, some entertaining, and some actually rather helpful: “The Ten Best Catholic Novels You’ll Ever Read,” “The Twelve Best Catholic Movies You’ll Ever See,” and “The Best Catholic Music You’ll Ever Hear.”

Converts reveal what grabs them about Catholicism, young Catholics look to the future with hope, and older Catholics speak with an appreciation that goes beyond any sentimental nostalgia.

The volume isn’t problem-free, of course. One winces at the selection of the admittedly popular, theologically lightweight Joseph Girzone to write about Jesus. Andrew Greeley's shtick is getting really, really old, too. There aren't any figures from one of the most lively contemporary branches of Catholicism represented – the group one might call the EWTN/Steubenville/Apologetics/or former Evangelical branch of Catholicism: no Scott and Kimberly Hahn, Mother Angelica, Johnette Bankovic, Patrick Madrid, Karl Keating or Benedict Groeschel – any bookseller will tell you that these folks are by far the most popular Catholic authors writing today, and no matter what your own view of their theology may be, you have to admit that their exclusion is quite noticeable.

In addition, the vast majority of quotations come from North American Catholics, which, while perhaps appropriate for the book’s intended audience, gives an obviously narrow view of what being “Catholic” means.

And finally, as one might expect from a book with this particular title, written in this particular age, the emphasis is decidedly sociological and emotional. (Sort of like another book I've recently reviewed, The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Understanding Catholicism

Few of the quotations speak of the content of faith as important. The characterization of Catholicism that comes through is one of a community bound by certain traditions and an appreciation of Jesus and saints, not a people called by God to be redeemed through Christ.

But , then, you can’t have everything. Perhaps we can be satisfied because I Like Being Catholic offers the world a decidedly positive view of our Faith, even as it leaves it a bit uncertain as to exactly what , besides cool saints’ stories, friendly communities, candles and oil, all the fuss is actually about.

Amy Welborn is a columnist for Our Sunday Visitor and Catholic News Service and a regular contributor to the Living Faith quarterly devotional. You may purchase her books in our online store, by clicking here.

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