I'm happy to say I have in hand a copy of Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of Faith by Fr. Robert Barron of Word on Fire Ministries (inscribed and sent by the good Father himself!).
When I first opened its creamy pages (with an insert of glossy color plates in the middle, like all the very best books you read as a child), I thought Oh I am not going to make one mark on this special tome. I am going for once to leave this pristine. Within five minutes I had my pen out, and was madly bracketing, underlining, making stars and N.B.'s and exclamation points, and sticking little Post-Its on ever other page.
Fr. Barron is an author, HIGHLY-EDUCATED scholar, and evangelist, and his book (out September 6) is at once an introduction, overview, and invitation for those who don't know much about, but may be interested in, Catholicism; and a deepening, widening, and heightening for those of us who are interested already.
From the jacket flap: "Starting from the essential foundations of Jesus Christ's Incarnation, life, and teaching, Father Barron moves through the defining elements of Catholicism--from the sacraments, worship, and prayer, to Mary, the apostles, and saints, to grace, salvation, heaven and hell--using his distinct and dynamic grasp of art, literature, architecture, personal stories, Scripture, theology, philosophy, and history to present the church to the world."
That, plus there's a photo of the Cologne Cathedral that alone...I mean there has to be something greater than ourselves because how could mere mortals make something so beautiful, how could they want to make something so beautiful, otherwise?...
Photo: Robert Harding
Herewith a small sampling:
"But let us consider another way of construing freedom, one more in line with biblical sensibilities. On this interpretation, freedom is not primarily a choice, but rather the shaping of desire so as to make the achievement of the good first possible and then effortless."
"Therefore someone who has ordered himself fundamentally toward God is, ipso facto, a peacemaker, for he will necessarily channel the metaphysical energy that draws things and people together."
"In Pope Leo's text [Leo XIII's Rerum novarium of 1891] Maurin [Peter Maurin, co-founder of the lay Catholic Worker movement] found the line 'once the demands of necessity and propriety have been met, the rest that one owns belongs to the poor'"...
"The twentieth-century theologian Karl Rahner commented that ' "God" is the last sound we should make before falling silent' "...
"...God does not wrestle a rival into submission, for he has no rival; nor does he intervene to shape matter according to his aggressive will, for there is no matter that confronts him. Rather, through a sheerly nonviolent, nonintrusive, non-interruptive act of speech, God gives rise to the whole of finite reality: 'Let there be light, and there was light'..."
"At her trial on trumped-up charges, Saint Joan of Arc was asked for her understanding of the relationship between Christ and his church. This is how she responded: 'About Jesus Christ and the church, I know only this: they're simply one thing and we shouldn't complicate the matter.' As an articulation of the peculiarly Catholic sense of the church, it would be hard to improve on that."
|CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE, Chapel of Calvary|
Of Mother Teresa of Calcutta's decision to sever her formal ties to the Loreto Sisters so she could found her own community:
"In April of 1948, after several years of testing and waiting, canonical approval came from Rome, and Mother Teresa said to the archbiship simply, 'Can I go to the slums now?'
In the first weeks and months of her new life, Mother experienced terrible bouts of loneliness, depression, and discouragement--and an accompanying desire to return to the relative comfort and security of the Loreto Sisters. But she persevered, for she knew that she had to become like the poor in every way--both physically and psychologically--in order to serve them effectively."
From "The Dark Night," by St. John of the Cross:
I abandoned and forgot myself,
laying my face on my Beloved;
all things ceased; I went out by myself,
leaving my cares,
forgotten among the lilies.
(trans. Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez)
Fr. Barron is engaging, funny, whip-smart, and peculiarly posed to go mano-a-mano (his "weapons" charity, truth, love!) with the youngish, often angry, seekers/attackers of Christianity who are drawn in particular to his youtube videos and for whom he has a genuine affection. Way thin-skinned myself, I often have trouble under similar circumstances remembering that the attack inures to Christ, not me.
But Fr. Barron--he gets it completely.
"As I have mentioned many times throughout this book, Christianity is not a philosophy or a universal mysticism. It is, first, a relationship with Jesus of Nazareth"...
|DETAIL ISENHEIM ALTARPIECE|
MATTHIAS GRÜNEWALD, 1515