Don’t ‘Doomscroll’ — Read ‘Web of Faith’

BOOK PICK: New book based on EWTN series answers on array of Catholic questions.

‘Web of Faith’ is a recent release from EWTN Publishing.
‘Web of Faith’ is a recent release from EWTN Publishing. (photo: ‘Web of Faith’ book cover via EWTN Publishing/Canva illustration)

Web of Faith

A Curious Catholic’s Answers to Theological Questions

By Father Ken Brighenti & Father John Trigilio

EWTN Publishing, 2021

400 pages, $19.95

To order: EWTNRC.com 

 

Catholics are often asked — or even aggressively challenged — to clear up confusion on a matter of Church doctrine, or to explain certain practices of piety and devotion, or to defend the Church’s stance on this or that controversial issue. Even Catholics who have never been in that situation are sometimes unsure of the finer points of theology, liturgy and morality. 

And as the 21st century really gets rolling, Catholics who were well-formed by their parents, catechists and parish clergy may be completely at sea when faced with today’s most pressing cultural and social issues. 

Fathers Ken Brighenti and John Trigilio are experienced authors and television presenters who specialize in answering tough questions about the Catholic faith. Their books include Catholicism for Dummies, The Catholicism Answer Book, and 101 Things Everyone Should Know About the Bible. On EWTN they have co-hosted many shows, including Crash Course in Catholicism, Crash Course on Pope John Paul II, and Web of Faith, from which this new book takes its title. 

The book, like the TV show, is in question-and-answer format, and Fathers Brighenti and Trigilio tag-team their way through questions in their inimitable style. For example, in clarifying the origin of the term “the rapture,” they describe the turn-of-the-millennium “end-times” panic that rose to fever pitch as New Year’s Eve 1999 approached:

Father Brighenti: “I remember being in a parish as an associate … and of course New Year’s Eve was going to take us into the year 2000. The computers were supposedly going to stop working. Electricity was going to be cut off. … Because we had a Midnight Mass on New Year’s Eve, the pastor said to the sacristan, ‘Shut off all the lights,’ and everybody gasped! And then the lights came back on, and he said, ‘See, you’re putting too much trust into all this speculation. Keep your trust in Christ, in His teachings and the Church, and do not listen to all these soothsayers.’ Like you’ve said before, and as we’ve said many, many times: When you die, that is your end, and that’s when you’re going to be judged. So live a good and upright moral life.”

The book, which covers four broad topics — doctrine, liturgy, prayer and morality — will be useful to Catholics at many different levels of knowledge. Some of the questions are pretty basic on topics such as purgatory, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and proper devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Some are questions that even seasoned Catholics might not think to ask, like “What do the different colors of the liturgical vestments represent?” or “The Second Commandment says, ‘You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.’ What does that mean?”

Other questions are real doozies: 

“Is gluttony a mortal sin? I am obese and use food to numb my feelings and emotions …”

“I am a faithful Catholic. If I am invited to a same-sex wedding, should I go or gracefully say no?”

“… I am trying to find true faith. It is difficult for me, because all I see is the worst in man, and it is impossible for me to trust anyone. What can I do to find true faith?”

Even with heartrending questions like these, Fathers Brighenti and Trigilio are up to the task. Their answers are in full accord with Catholic faith and morals. For example, questions about marriage and annulment are gentle but forthright and in full compliance with canon law. The sensitivity with which they address sexual sins and disorders is also admirable. However, I suspect this book went to press before the explosion of the transgender movement, because, unfortunately, that subject is not covered. 

The table of contents provides a topical list of all the questions, but an index would have been handy: Sometimes the authors’ answer to a question ranges far afield into information that is still important and useful to know but hard to locate without scouring back through the book. An index would remedy such efforts.

Nevertheless, Web of Faith is a great resource for parish RCIA programs, adult-formation study groups and high-school theology classes. Individual Catholics will also find this book helpful. It’s fun to read, too: The question-and-answer format combined with the authors’ easy, conversational style drew me in. I found myself flipping through page after page, enjoying every minute and learning a lot — a nice alternative to “doomscrolling” (scrolling through bad news) on my smartphone! 

Oscar Wergeland, “Service in a German Village Church,” ca. 1880

This Sunday, I’ll Be Going to Church. Will You Join Me?

“The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor. Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin.” [CCC 2181]