Wednesday, January 17, 2018

No.71: Into the Depths of Catholicism - Book #1 and A Reading Challenge

"...I try to project a joyful, confident presence.  To be honest, I think the smile goes a long way.  I hope they see a joyfulness in being Catholic, that there's more to it than the scandal we've been through - without for a second denying those scandals, and how terrible they were, but there's more to it than that.  I like to believe that gives people hope." (p.219) 
I think I first stumbled upon Bishop Robert Barron's work with Word on Fire last winter.  After hearing glowing reviews, I purchased his Catholicism DVD series for Mark's birthday and we have really enjoyed watching them.  Barron has a way of making challenging theological concepts approachable and understandable and in a non-threatening way.  His evangelization method is a bit unique, so I was excited to read more in his new book, To Light a Fire on the Earth: Proclaiming the Gospel in a Secular Age.

To Light a Fire on the Earth is the result of hours of conversations between Bishop Barron and journalist John L. Allen Jr.  The book reads like an interview, with commentary from Allen and long quoted passages from Barron.  It is a healthy mix of biography, reflection and down-to-earth advice.  I like Barron's strategic use of beauty as an invitation for individuals to learn more about Catholicism:
In Christian tradition, beauty, goodness, and truth are known as ‘transcendentals,’ linked to the three core human abilities to feel, to wish, and to think. Jesus refers to them in the Great Commandment when he talks about the mind, the soul, and the heart and inducements to take the wrong path with each of the transcendentals formed the core of his temptation scene in the Gospels. While Barron is convinced that Catholic Christianity represents the fullness of all three, he’s equally convinced that the right way to open up the Catholic world to someone is with its beauty…
"There’s something winsome and less threatening about the beautiful. ‘Just look,’ the evangelist might say,' at Chartres Cathedral or the Sainte Chapelle or the Sistine Chapel ceiling or the mosaics at Ravenna. ‘Just read,’ he might urge, ‘Dante’s Divine Comedy or one of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poems, or Chesterton’s Orthodoxy.’ ‘Just watch,’ he might suggest, ‘Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity at work among the poorest of the poor.’ The wager is that the encounter with the beautiful will naturally lead someone to ask ‘What made such a thing possible?’" (p.41)
I appreciated Barron's analysis on a wide range of topics concerning Catholics today, everything from prayer to science to social media.  Lots of food for thought.  This book is a great choice for someone interested in a new way of evangelizing faith to a skeptical and/or uninterested generation.

I received this book from Blogging for Books and all opinions are my own.

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One of my 2018 goals is to "Dive deep into faith" and this book was just the inspiration I needed to get started.  This quote really stuck out to me: 
...Barron's stock advice to aspiring evangelists is to "read, read, read," meaning to immerse oneself in Catholic thought and teaching, and in the great works of Catholic literature.  Secular nones sometimes ask a lot of smart questions of believers, Barron says, and without a solid intellectual foundation, evangelists will find themselves flustered, frustrated, and ultimately, ineffective. (p.126)
Faith is like a muscle - I need to do the work to make it stretch and grow.  I need to ask - and be able to answer - "What do I believe and why do I believe it?"  So to make it fun (and keep me on track!), I created this handy little reading challenge.  Feel free to use it too!  While the challenge was made with Catholicism in mind, it certainly can be adapted to other denominations too.  I'd love to know your favorite books - help me fill in the blanks!

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