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Buy It, Borrow It or Bag It: Dear Pope Francis by Pope Francis

Pope FrancisJesus once said “Suffer the little children who come unto me” and it is a directive that the Pope clearly takes to heart. Dear Pope Francis is, in my opinion, THE book of the religious season and makes a wonderful First Communion/Confirmation/Easter gift and good news…adults will like it too!

In this book, his Holiness, Pope Francis tackles the issues that are on the minds of 30 children throughout the world. Each child was asked to write a question and draw an accompanying picture (which are included.) They were collected by Fr. Antonio Spadaro S.J. (Director of La Civiltia Cattolica) and delivered to the Pope by hand in the Vatican. The pontiff told the editor that these children asked some very tough questions, but all of them are direct and to the point. Some are about Jesus, some about Catholicism and some about the Pope himself. While in Philadelphia, Pope Francis referred to one of the questions included in the book when he talked about the kid who asked, “What was God doing before he created the world?” He said he had to think quickly and provide an answer that was truthful, easy-to-understand and satisfactory to a child who really wanted to know. (BTW, the answer is a good one!) The Pope also takes into consideration the drawings of the kids, which he wisely discerned are often the key to understanding the question. This said to me that Pope Francis is a learned man who really knows how to “read between the lines.” Seriously, could we have a better leader than him?

It’s not uncommon for the Pope to speak to children, but it’s always nice when it happens and I feel books like these help restore our child-like faith. As I watched the coverage of the Pope’s visit to the US last year, it was obvious how much he loved being around kids. Although he was on a bit of a whirlwind tour, he absolutely LIT UP when he got to visit a grade school, see the kids’ projects, and talk to young people about soccer. This is a great book for young and old alike and I highly encourage you to buy it. It will be a treasure for your library and the perfect way to celebrate the Easter Season.

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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
BY LOU BALDWIN
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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Confessions of a Cynical Catholic: The “daughter” of Man

womangod    It remains the finest moment of my eighth grade year, not to mention, my most controversial one. As you may have figured out from some of these posts, when I was a kid, I tended to have a healthy skepticism about a wide variety of religious matters, despite my upbringing and often grilled my religion teachers on a variety of issues that were long on faith, but short on logic.

Such was the case the day that my religion teacher told us how important it was to recognize Jesus’ return the minute the Second Coming got underway. He suggested that as good Catholics we would have no trouble with this because our faith would not allow us to question and doubt Him the way the Jews, Romans and other first century factions did.

As you can imagine, this didn’t sit too well with me. After all, if I understood the story correctly, the people who were waiting around for the Messiah to show up had a very definite image of what He would look like, what He would say and more importantly, what He would do. They were certainly not banking on a carpentry major from Nazareth whose birth story was tantamount to tabloid fodder. Think about it, when Jesus began His public ministry he was known for being a headstrong pre-teen who went off on His own in one of the biggest cities on Earth, making wine at a friend’s wedding, and having a loud-mouthed cousin who ate wild locusts and invented his own sacrament. Call me crazy, but does that SOUND the like the resume of a deity to you? I’m just saying.

So I couldn’t really fault people for not exactly “getting it” the first time around, and I thought it was rude to condemn a whole population for not jumping on the bandwagon right away. After all, whose to say we wouldn’t act the same way in similar circumstances? I brought this point up to my teacher, saying that it seemed pretty human to err on the side of caution and be suspect of anyone claiming to be the Messiah.

“Well, perhaps, but we won’t make that mistake,” he assured me. “When Jesus returns, we won’t question it, we will know.”

Hmmmmm….exactly how would we do that? I wondered. It seemed pretty easy to get things wrong from time to time. After all, only a few years before I had been duped right in Mass if you recall, so I didn’t have a lot of faith in myself to recognize the Second Coming if it were staring me in the face. I’d also heard of countless stories in which folks blindly followed crazy people that they believed to be God including Charles Manson and Jim Jones. It seemed to me that there was nothing wrong with their faith, it was just placed in the wrong thing. How would we somehow know the difference? “So let me get this straight,” I asked, “So, if I am walking home from school today and someone tells me that he is Jesus and He’s back, I am just supposed to drop everything and follow Him?”

“Yes,” my teacher told me.

This flew in the face of every “don’t talk to strangers” lecture my mother ever gave me. Not to mention, I could be following a lunatic. Yet, here was my religion teacher actually encouraging this behavior. I let it go for the time being and allowed him to continue on with the day’s lesson, but it continued to eat at me. A few minutes later, I raised my hand and he called on me.

“Yeah, OK…I didn’t want to bring this up before, but I’m Jesus…I’m back.” I told him.

The room fell quiet. There are certain things that you just don’t do in life.  You do not yell “fire” in a crowded theater. You do not say “bomb” on an airplane. You don’t tug on Superman’s cape and you do not claim to be the Son of God if you are a 13-year-old girl attending a Catholic school. I knew that I was treading on dangerous ground and I couldn’t help wondering just how much trouble I could get in for making a statement like that. Still, I knew that there was something wrong with this teacher’s theory and I would not rest until I had made my point.

“No you’re not, Julie,” he told me, his face growing red.

“Oh yes I am,” I countered. “Where is your faith? You aren’t supposed to question it, you are supposed to just follow.”

He tried telling me that I couldn’t be God’s “Son” but I was ready for that argument. “I’m God, I can be whatever I want. Isn’t that what you are always telling us? I know I was a boy before, but….now I am going to get it right and be a girl.” (The girls in my class were delighted with this pronouncement of course.) I told him that if he would like, I would make him an apostle like some of the boys in the class who were known for clowning around. True to form, they rose to the occasion and got behind my new “movement.”

I can’t imagine what was going through my teacher’s head at the time, but I suspected that he would have loved nothing better than to smack me. Looking back on it, I really couldn’t blame him if he did. I was wayyy over the line, even if my comments were justified. I was just so mad that he was promoting blind faith and maligning others for having their reservations.  We ask for proof in every other aspect of our lives, why not this one?

In the end, he could not prove that I was not the daughter of God and eventually he dropped the argument. (The class period was over by then anyway.) Unfortunately he never quite learned that some blanket statements should not be made. A few  years later, my son ended up in his class and came home all excited that his new religion teacher told the class that if they ever had a faith-based question, they could come to him and he would answer it.

“So, he still thinks he has all the answers, does he?” I sighed, feeling that rebellious teenager rise inside of me. “Great, tomorrow I want you to go in there and ask him if Adam and Eve had belly buttons. That will make him squirm”

My son did as he was told and sure enough the teacher took the bait. Of course the whole class was perplexed by the question which prompted a discussion about evolution vs. creationism. Eventually he had to admit that he did not know the answer to my son’s question, but he was fairly confident from where it came. “By the way Chris,” he concluded. “When you get home tonight, please tell your mother I said hello.”

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Fabulous Fridays- Fighting the Father, Son and Holy spirit

HolyTrinityWindowLevelled  I am sorry that I have been remiss in my Fabulous Fridays postings, but as some of you know, I have been commissioned to write the Idiots Guide: Catholicism for Pearson.

If this doesn’t prove that God has a sense of humor, nothing does.

I have been a Catholic since I was six-years-old. I have only attended Catholic schools and quite frankly, lacking a habit or holy orders, I thought I was pretty qualified to write this thing…until I realized what I was being asked to do. I was being asked to put the entire body of Church thought into a piece of prose that could be easily understood by the masses.

Am I the only one seeing a problem here?

I can’t help wondering if somewhere in heaven God and Satan have not made another wager on humanity like they did with Job and that somehow I became the pawn they are betting on. In the brief period of time I have been working on this manuscript I have found myself fighting the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in such a way that I would not be a bit surprised if I am not an atheist when this whole thing is over.

My former religion teacher, who is truly one of the most amazing people I have ever met, said that she doubts it and that somehow, she suspects my faith will be even stronger. I hope so, but this sure isn’t easy. Being called to write something on His behalf is a little like being appointed an ambassador of a country you’ve lived in all your life and yet you know nothing about. I have had to define things like “faith” take on the issues of creationism and evolution, struggle with the issue of humanity and divinity where JC is concerned, and try to reel myself back in before going over to the dark side and deciding that we made the whole thing up in order to feel a little less alone in the universe.

On the other hand, I am actually being paid to think about these great mysteries and I have to say, it’s got to be the closet thing to nirvana that I have ever felt. I was the kid in religion class who had all of the questions, “Where did Mrs. Cain come from?” “Exactly WHO was Jesus talking to in the Garden of Gethsemane if not Himeself?”…and now I am charged with offering some answers. it’s a tall order and all I have to say is that I sure hope He knows what He is doing, because quite frankly…I wouldn’t trust me if I were him.

So, for the time being, if my Fab Friday posts are a little hit or miss, just know that I am probably knee deep in some philosophical question that you wouldn’t want me riddling out on here. If you are a person of faith, I am accepting all prayers that I get through this project in one piece and if you are not…I’ll take a simple wish of good luck. I’m pretty easy to get along with. (Don’t ask my family for validation on that, though…they have been known to lie.)

Take care, keep rocking and Fab Fridays will be back in full swing before you know it!!

J-

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