"May Crowning, Mass, and Merton: And Other Reasons I Love Being Catholic", by Liz Kelly (Loyola Press: 2006).
Perhaps this book has already made the rounds on St. Blogs, but if it did I missed it - and you shouldn't. I happened upon this book last week in the "half-off" section of the local Catholic bookstore, and after seeing the description on the back talk about "the litany of reasons to love being Catholic is extraordinary" and then list off an assortment of my own favorite things in the Catholic life, things like crucifixes, Swiss Guards, kneelers, Flannery O'Connor, and Tenebrae, well I just had to pick it up!
This is a great book, one that I feel embodies in a wonderful way the universal character of the Church - I don't agree with quite everything she says, or the way she says it (mostly in matters of, I acknowledge, personal preference - de gustibus
!), but I can completely relate to her experience of the Catholic faith and its expression in the world. And not only I, but I bet just about everyone who is at all familiar with Catholicism (and maybe even a lot of people who aren't but are curious) will also relate to it.
Her description of her Catholic faith experiences in life could be slightly uncomfortable for both those on the extreme traditional side, and those on the extreme progressive side (example: she emphasizes over and over again the beauty of Eucharistic Adoration and the sacrifical nature of the Mass - but also speaks of how much she loves the Sign of Peace and enjoyed an outdoor Mass in Maine where the priest really interacted with people - it's a bit unusual today to read honest commentary in favor of them all!). I also thought a bit amusing to see how she can go from quoting the infamous Flannery O'Connor to the infamous Andrew Greeley (actually pretty good quotes from both - !), in a completley honest, innocent, and faithful way, with no agenda or ideology involved. Throughout the whole book, she seems to simply be breathing out into words her entire life experience of Catholicism - from Merton to Mary to Michelangelo to Mass.
I must say, I was mildly curious about why she doesn't
list some things - or even quote them, as in the case of Pope Benedict. Pope John Paul II is a reason, and yeah, a great reason why we love to be Catholic - but not one mention of his successor? There are many other things too that I noticed as "missing" - but then I realized, silly me, that's the whole point isn't it? She's saying what some of her
reasons are for why she loves being Catholic, only some
. What the others are, she and God only know.
I, being human, look at her list of reasons why she loves being Catholic (like all of us look at any list we see) and immediately start matching her list to mine - duh, it's not going to match exactly, and most certainly we won't have the same priority of reasons. I may have a strong devotion to St. Josemaria - he's not on Kelly's list in any way, shape, or form. I may have a longing to experience Mass celebrated in Latin - not even a glimmer of this in Kelly's writing. But that's ok!
The whole point of this, after all, is something more wonderful than reading about someone else's reasons - it's to inspire us to start thinkinig about our own reasons! Some of those will match (I mean, we are Catholic, so I would hope that Mass would be on all of our lists!), other reasons are more fluid and tied to the individuality of each person, and that's the real beauty of being baptized members of Christ's Mystical Body, the Church. I know that both during and after I read this book, I have been thinking a lot on my own reasons - which really means my own experiences - on why I love living life as a Catholic in 2006 AD.
This would be a great Christmas present this year for friends and family, particularly those Catholics who are perhaps a little uncertain just why and how they are Catholic. It's made up of 49 very short chapters, each titled with one of her many reasons to be Catholic (for example, "Holy Water", "House Blessings", "Wedding Bands on the Hands of Nuns", "Fasting", "Silence", "The Hour of Divine Mercy", "The Young Thomas Merton in Rome", "The Sixth Station: Veronice Wipes the Face of Jesus", "The Ave Maria", and so on...) Each chapter does stand on its own (there are even a few repeated sentences here and there), so its great for busy folks who can only read a short chapter at a time!
As an additional note, the book would complement well with another newer book out (one that I know St. Blog's HAS taken notice of!), Saints Behaving Badly
, by Thomas Craughwell. Read what other Catholic bloggers
have to say on this one! (I bought a copy of this one at the same time, and am enjoying it as much as "May Crowning, Mass and Merton"!)