Monday, December 3, 2012

Book Review: Catholicism Pure and Simple

Books are marvelous things: there just cannot be too many of them (although my husband might demur) because each one of them is a human voice speaking human thoughts to another. There are many books of Catholic apologetics, many books that explain what the Catholic Church teaches--some are basic, some are detailed and advanced, some are encyclopedic and designed for quick reference--and each serves a purpose for different readers. Father Dwight Longenecker states his purpose and the outline of his book Catholicism Pure and Simple clearly:

This book presents the basics of the Catholic faith in simple, straightforward language. You will not find here complex philosophical arguments, insider churchy talk or complicated theological language. I have avoided hi-falutin' references and obscure quotations. There aren't any academic notes or quotes in Greek, Latin and Aramaic. This is meat and potatoes religion. This book does not answer all the questions or make all the arguments. It simply starts by explaining why we believe God exists, and then goes on, step by step to explain who Jesus Christ is, what his life and death mean and how the Catholic Church came about. It explains what it means to be a Catholic and how one lives the Catholic faith. This book is an excellent text book for someone who is in RCIA or confirmation class. It also provides an excellent back-up and refresher course for Catholics to know their faith better.

Although he does not use "complex philosophical arguments", Father Longenecker does begin with common philosophical issues--religion and human nature; suffering and free will; human longing for meaning and love; happiness, morality, creation and order, the meaning of life--and addresses the reader directly in discussing these issues in the first section, "Is Anybody There?" He then reviews the history of Revelation from the Old Testament to set up his presentation on Jesus in Section Two, "The God Man."

After an introductory chapter in which he addresses God's plan to go beyond the prophets and kings of the Old Covenant by sending His Son to bridge the divide between God and man, Longenecker begins the story of Jesus with His mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary--who, in her Immaculate Conception, "was simply all that a human woman should be." He makes an excellent connection between her free will "Yes" to the angel's message of the Annunciation and God's preserving her from all sin so that she would be able to make that decision: "this fulness of God's grace meant that Mary was fully human and fully free."

In the next four chapters, Father Longenecker describes Jesus's life and death, His teachings and actions, the miracles and healings; His revelation of the Father, His Passion and Death, and of course, His Resurrection and appearance to His followers.

Section Three, "The Fire of Life" covers the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the transformation of the Apostles, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity--and the meaning of these actions in our lives with our Baptism and the indwelling of the Holy Trinity in our souls; our transformation; our cooperation with God's work in the world; the gifts and the fruits of the Holy Spirit; and the Church.

Section Four, "The Great Battle" lays out the struggle between good and evil in the world, and our individual role in battling against evil (and working for good)! This brings Father Longenecker to the Sacraments and Prayer, The Holy Bible, saints and the Church--with a special chapter on the Holy Eucharist in the chapter aptly titled "The Ultimate Weapon"!

Section Five, "Welcome Home" is focused on the Catholic Church, from the viewpoint of the Parish, Church History (including the Great Schism and the Reformation), the hierarchy and the Magisterium, and the uniqueness of the Church as both Divine and human, Holy and sinful, Perfect and wounded, Infallible and yet capable of personal error. Finally, Longenecker addresses the Four Last Things: Heaven and Hell, Death an Judgment, providing a very coherent overview of Purgatory.

Father Longenecker sent me a free copy of his book in return for my honest opinion and review. His vocation as a pastor and as a father (he is a former Anglican minister, a married man who was ordained a Catholic priest under Blessed John Paul II's "pastoral provision" for former Anglican ministers) shines forth in every page on this book as he anticipates and addresses common concerns and issues. He blogs here and his website is here.

No comments:

Post a Comment