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Review of the Idiot’s Guide to Catholicism

This was published originally by the CatholicPhilly.com and is copyrighted to them. I do not own the piece, but thought I would share this really nice review!

‘Catholicsm’ isn’t so hard after all
IG Catholicism Cover     Idiots Guide to Catholicism1You can’t judge a book by its title, let alone its cover. Take Idiot’s Guides “Catholicism” (Julie Young and Father Eric Augustein, Penguin Group, 2015. 366 pp. $19.95).

It shares shelf space with such other distinguished titles in the Idiot’s Guides series as “The Catholic Catechism,” “Catholicism for Dummies” and “Catholic Mass for Dummies,” all of which suggest that particular demographic is well catechized.

Flippant title aside, “Catholicism” is a clearly written book, which explains in laymen’s terms what the Catholic Church believes, teaches and doesn’t teach. The particular expertise of the two authors are complementary. Young holds a degree in writing from St. Mary of the Woods College and has written for a number of Catholic publications. Father Augustein, who is vocations director for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, holds degrees in philosophy and theology from La Salle University and St. Meinrad School of Theology.
The book is broken down into 22 chapters over five parts: “What is Catholicism;” “The Sacramental Life;” “Living the Good Life;” Prayer and Holiness” and “Catholic Life and Culture.”

The writing is unquestionably orthodox in presentation yet in ways one might not have considered. For example the simple explanation of original sin as it is inherited from our first parents, refers “to people’s natural inclination to reject the will of God in favor of their own selfish desires and personal satisfaction.”

Breakout factoids and ancient and new quotes help to enliven the text, for example: “Ignorance of the Scripture is ignorance of Christ – St. Jerome;” “In the London betting houses I was in 44th place. Look at that. The one who bet on me won a lot, of course – Pope Francis.”

In another quote from Francis further in the text, the Holy Father comments, “The Internet, in particular, offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity. This is something truly good, a gift from God.”

In its coverage of all things Catholic, the book is indeed thorough, to the point of overkill. Devoting 10 pages to a list of the popes of the Catholic Church is a bit much, unless the authors were paid by the word.

With that quibble aside, Idiot’s Guides, “Catholicism” would be a great supplemental reading for anyone considering entering the faith, good for catechumens and catechists alike. Also it could make lively discussion for parish study groups, no matter what the participants’ foundational catechesis.

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Buy It, Borrow It or Bag It: The Shepherds of Fatima by M. Fernado Silva

The shepherds of Fatima         This is the story of the three shepherd children who were visited by the Blessed Virgin Mary near Fatima, Portugal in 1917. Ever since I was a young girl and had to study this story for religion class, I have been fascinated by it. Imagine, the mother of God coming to talk to you and performing a miracle that 70,000 people witnessed!
Assuming you have never heard of this, the basic version of the story is this: One day while tending the flocks, three children are visited by a beautiful woman who asks them to come back to this spot in the 13th day of each month. She says that if they do this, in October, she will tell them who she is and what she wants from them. Being good children (and suspecting that it is Mary who has made an appearance) the kids tell their family about the experience. They are met with skepticism, but as the months go on, they draw quite a crowd of the curious who ascend the mountains to watch the children go into a trance-like state as they talk to someone who no one else can see. Eventually, the local officials get involved and they lock the children up so that they can’t meet with Mary on the appointed day. When they are released, Mary meets them on the road and promises that in October, she will perform a miracle so that everyone will believe in the kids.
On a rainy October 13, the kids go to the appointed place (along with 70,000 onlookers) and the woman confirms that she is in fact the mother of Jesus…then something strange happened. According to newspaper reports, the clouds parted and the sun “danced” in the sky. People said it looked as though it spun around and then fell to earth before returning to its place in the heavens. The ground was immediately dried and there was no evidence of strange meteorological activity that day anywhere else in the world. Mary also told the children certain prophecies (one of which was kept secret until the pontificate of Pope Saint John Paul II) and made them promise to pray the rosary every day. Two of the children died within a few years of this event.
This book is the story behind the miracles. It uses material from Sr. Lucia’s writings (she was the only shepherd child to survive) and weaves together a novel-like narrative to tell this amazing story, some of which I believe and some of which I find suspicious. Over time, I can’t help wondering if some memories were embellished or if a bishop encouraged such embellishments to add drama and flair, but I really don’t know. I will say that this book was well-written and even though it is more spiritual in nature, I had no trouble reading it and getting a lot out of it. Worth the price. Buy It if you are into this sort of thing. Bag It if you aren’t.

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