National Catholic Register

Books

The Extraordinary Ordinary

BY Wendy Johnson

April 25-May 8, 2010 Issue | Posted 4/20/10 at 11:00 AM

 

The Extraordinary Ordinary Doers of the Word

Putting Your Faith

into Practice

By Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan

Our Sunday Visitor, 2009

128 pages, $9.95

To order: osv.com

(800) 348-2440


The apostle James exhorts us, “Be doers of the word and not hearers only.” We know we must put our faith into practice, but this is often easier said than done. In the high-speed world of 2010, where does our faith fit in? And how can our faith permeate the most mundane aspects of our lives?

New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan surely has heard these same concerns. The shepherd of the “capital of the world” is loved for his cheer, approachability and fearless defense of the faith. In Doers of the Word, Archbishop Dolan offers homespun wisdom and assistance as we live our faith in a secular culture.

Doers of the Word is written in a conversational style that is ideal for a brief morning meditation.

Archbishop Dolan has assembled more than 100 real-life stories that demonstrate how God is present amid the minutiae of life. Each meditation is followed by a related informational tidbit, ranging from papal encyclicals and quotes from saints to detailed instructions on how to calculate the date of Easter. (The archbishop wraps up his explanation by admitting that the easiest way is to check the calendar.)

The reflections he offers range over a wide variety of topics, including the sacraments, the liturgical year, the saints and building a culture of life. For example, he challenges the impression that “ordinary time” in the life of the Church is flavorless and insignificant:

“Is not ordinary time — the day-in-day-out, humdrum treadmill, from hitting the snooze button on the alarm until we brush our teeth before bed — is this not what living our faith is all about? It seems like we have a God who really liked ordinary time. … A Lord who arrived as a baby, not a superman; who grew up obedient to a mother and father, not a child prodigy. … A God who remains with us still in bread and wine, tears and smiles … awkward prayers, a beat-up book called the Bible, and the embrace and example of people who believe in him. If he were here with us today (and, of course, he is), he’d be on the bus or driving in the lane next to us … making beds and washing dishes, doing homework and kneeling in prayer … working the fields or manning the assembly line.”

In the preface, Archbishop Dolan mentions the culture shock he experienced when he moved to midtown Manhattan from his Milwaukee home nestled amid the trees on the quiet shores of Lake Michigan. Amazingly, he says that even the clamor he hears daily from his new chapel is conducive to reflection. It would have been helpful if the archbishop elaborated on the process through which he came to be able to meditate amid New York’s confusion and noise. Surely, this is a problem that many Catholics face.

For millennia, Christians have endeavored to live their faith in the world. Some eras and cultures have been more conducive to this task, others less. For Catholics in our modern secular environment, Archbishop Dolan has provided a valuable manual for dealing with the challenges of daily living.

Wendy Johnson writes from Davenport, Iowa.