Sunday, June 16, 2013

Book Review: Rebuilding Catholic Culture

One of my summer reading picks for the Son Rise Morning Show Friday.

I received this book as a premium for making a contribution to PRI (Population Research Institute).

Book description from Sophia Institute Press:

Rarely does a book come along that so succinctly explains the decline of modern culture, articulates a defense of the Church's teachings, and offers a hope-filled path for building a civilization grounded in Catholic truth.
In these pages, Dr. Ryan Topping does all three, pulling back the curtain on the false philosophies of the secularists and showing that in the West today the most formidable threat to freedom is not failing economies or Islam, but secularism. Our best defense, he claims, is a vibrant Catholic culture, and our best hope for creating it lies in the principles found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
This book takes you on a masterful journey through the relevant portions of the Catechism, distilling sophisticated theological concepts into words that are simple, clear, and direct, while unpacking its core teachings on faith and morals that nurture true civilizations.
In Rebuilding Catholic Culture, you'll also discover sensible ways to begin restoring Catholic culture — right now — in your own life and family, and in our larger communities as well: in the theater, the classroom, in our hospitals, and even in the public square.
This profoundly accessible book will renew your confidence in the world-transforming character of our Creed and in the potency of our Faith to shape and redefine the culture of the West.

Table of Contents:
Foreword by Aidan Nichols, OP
1. On Faith: How Catholics Believe
2. On the Creed: Why Christology Matters
3. On Worship: How Liturgy Transforms
4. On Sacraments: When the World Is Enchanted
5. On Virtue: How Character Forms Conscience
6. On Law: What Love Commands
7. On the Family: How Love Grows
8. On Prayer: What Christ Pleads
Image Credits
About the Author

The organization of the book is very neat, you see: two chapters each for the four parts of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: Dogma; Liturgy; Morality; Prayer: Faith and the Creed; Worship and the Sacraments; Virtue and the Law; Family and Prayer. Throughout the book, Topping considers the state of Catholic culture today, examining the impact of the Second Vatican Council, secularization, etc, and often juxtaposing the decline of Catholic culture with the teachings of the Church in the Catechism. So modern church architecture ignores the role of beauty and order in liturgy; modern thought about conscience, as expressed by Robert Bolt in A Man for All Seasons, contrasts to the true meaning of conscience; current ideas about marriage contrast with the true definition of marriage, the family, and children, etc. I particularly enjoyed Topping's section on Dante's Purgatorio, with the introduction that its only in that part of the Divine Comedy that there is any conflict and drama: the souls in Hell have no hope; the souls in Heaven have all they need and want: the souls in Purgatory are working to expiate the punishments for their sins on earth--they have hope, they will progress, they will achieve sanctification, and they will join the saints in Heaven. The motto for Purgatory, in contrast to Hell, could be "Embrace hope, all ye who enter here."

Another aspect of this book I appreciated is that Topping gives us insight into the decline of Catholic culture in Canada and the triumph of secularism there. Topping offers sketches of a history similar to Russell Shaw's comprehensive American Church, tracing a story of accommodation and acculturation.

I agree with the publisher's blurb that this book "will renew your confidence in the world-transforming character of our Creed and in the potency of our Faith to shape and redefine the culture of the West", but it still makes me sad that we have had to undergo such decline and fall.

Highly recommended.

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