Admit it: You are daunted by the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Yes, it’s a Godsend; yes, it is one the most powerful tools we Catholics have at our disposal for learning what the Church teaches. Unfortunately, many Catholics take one peek between the covers and see all those paragraph numbers and footnotes and theological formulations and they recoil in fear. They shouldn’t — it’s an amazing book that every Catholic should be well acquainted with. But it is the third millennium, after all. Any message that doesn’t fit on our iPhone screens will likely go unread.
Thankfully, the good Lord meets us where we are. An example is What Catholics Really Believe. Adapted from a television production starring the always entertaining Dr. Ray Guarendi and the lovable Father Kevin Fete (R.I.P.), this lighthearted book delivers rock-solid pellets of orthodox Catholic teaching that hit you right between the eyes.
The material translates well from taped dialogue to the printed page, retaining the warmth and ease shared by the two hosts (it helps that each is assigned his own font). In just 13 chapters that fly by, the major topics of our faith are dealt with: Jesus, the Bible, Scripture and Tradition, the Eucharist (Parts I and II), baptism, morality, confession, Mary (Parts I and II), St. Peter, the papacy and purgatory. It isn’t imperative to go in that order; the reader can jump from chapter to chapter as he or she sees fit. Protestant objections to the tenets of our faith provide much of the impetus to each chapter and are dealt with decisively yet charitably.
Another nice feature is the block of “Study Questions” at the end of each chapter and an “Answer Guide” at the end of the book. Anyone seriously interested in catechetics can put all of this to fruitful use. At the same time, the casual reader can open almost randomly to any page and come away with something edifying. Terms and key concepts are defined in colorful boxes throughout the book, which is helpful. Some added visual aid is attempted with the inclusion of photos of stained-glass windows from churches around the world, but I personally found most of them to be clunky and not very inspiring. They aren’t distractingly bad, but neither are they very impressive.
As a clever, easy-to-read guide to our faith I put What Catholics Really Believe right up there with Father John Trigilio’s Catholicism for Dummies. It would make a fine gift for the Catholic who is seeking the knowledge he lacks, especially if he is troubled by Protestant arguments. The breezy style is attractive, particularly for people who have gotten into the bad habit of reading nothing longer than an email. Even for the already well-informed, the book is a good reminder of what we believe, and, as C.S. Lewis wisely pointed out, we all need reminding more often than we need instruction.
Register correspondent Dan Lord writes from Mobile, Alabama.
WHAT CATHOLICS REALLY BELIEVE
Dispelling the Misunderstandings of Historic Christianity
By Dr. Ray Guarendi and Rev. Kevin Fete
Nineveh’s Crossing, 2010
290 pages, $19.95
To order: www.NinevehsCrossing.com