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Rediscover Catholicism (2002)

di Matthew Kelly

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1,175712,368 (3.72)7
Rediscovering Catholicism takes us on an adventure of life-changing proportions. Beginning with our common yearning for happiness, Kelly reveals the essence of authentic Catholic spirituality while addressin some of the most important issues we face today both as individuals and as a Church.

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This book is one of several books in the apologetics genre that I have recently read and while perhaps the best of them, it still is not that good. So my issues with the book- First, like other titles I have read in this genre, it does not really seem to answer the questions that people have about religion and God. He seems to presume that all problems or issues with Catholicism come out of the “New Atheist” school. My experience is that most people do not know or could explain what they think. Rather, the “New Atheists” give a type of permission to allow people to not believe anymore, their reason for that lack of faith are probably varied but can be summed up that the experience that this book writes about is not the experience that many people have in their day-to-day interactions with people. Most important however is that he explanation of why one believes is off the mark. Essentially, one is Catholic so that you can be the best you can be. It is a version of the Prosperity Gospel heresy. Finally, at times, the tone was a bit negative. Several times he writes that the secular world has no moral code. This is fundamentally untrue. While it may not be systematically articulated or agree with the moral code of the Catholic Church or most Christian churches, there is a moral code. This thought ignores the history of theological thought that we can come to know God through natural law.
While I did not have some problems, I did begin by writing that this book is the best of the apologetic works that I have read recently. The best part of this book is the Third Part- The Seven Pillars of Catholic Spirituality. In this part he briefly goes over a different aspect of what he considers the essentials of Catholic spirituality. These are usually accompanied by an anecdote that shows how these played out in his own life. While I may have wished he emphasized some other things they were the most practical parts of the book. ( )
  morningrob | Jan 2, 2019 |
Bold, practical, inspiring, and profoundly wise, Rediscovering Catholicism helps each of us rediscover the true meaning of life as expressed in authentic Catholic spirituality. ( )
  StFrancisofAssisi | Nov 2, 2018 |
Kelly's book is both thought-provoking, inspiring and infuriating. I don't like his hard sell style, his habit of setting up straw men to make a point that can be presented in less inflammatory ways, or his perhaps unconscious equation of holiness with monastic spirituality. His examples of models tend to be vowed religious, not laypeople and married couples. On the other hand, he challenges readers to live their faith fully, to pray and too educate themselves through reading and bible study. ( )
  nmele | Oct 21, 2014 |
This was an... interesting book.

There are a few caveats to my review. First, I am not part of the intended audience for the book. This books is marketed to Catholics, generally, and to lapsed, lukewarm, or non-practicing Catholics specifically. The entire point of this book is to remind Catholics what's great about Catholicism and bring them back into the fold. With that in mind, my review is an assessment of Mr. Kelly's success in this regard, using my rather unique perspective in this matter.

Second, I'm going to spend a lot of time on one chapter in particular (to wit, Chapter 15); this is because it's the most glaring example of the areas in which this book failed. I admit, I do have a certain bias in this particular chapter, but I don't believe I am overreacting. Feel free to judge for yourself, though; there will be quotes.

To begin: Most of the book is quite good. It reaches its target audience compellingly and effectively; it plays to their emotional and intellectual background, as well it should. It conveys its message with firm conviction and unwavering resolution, which is always good in a book exhorting people to become virtuous. And when he selects from the saints for examples, he tends to select saints (or saints-to-be) that most people know, thereby making the message both personal (these saints affected him personally) and relatable ("Hey! I've heard that name before!").

And, for the most part, the editing is good. I didn't notice any glaring errors in the first fourteen chapters (although, during those chapters, I wasn't looking for any). Everything seemed cohesive; the book had a pleasant flow. The one awful editing choice that fills the entire book, and has nothing to do with chapter 15, is the hyphenation of a particular (set of) phrase(s). Because Mr. Kelly is exhorting his readers to become more virtuous, he often says that they should become a better, or even the best, version of themselves.

Only he doesn't write it that way. He writes, "a-better-version-of-yourself," "better-versions-of-ourselves," "the-best-version-of-yourself," "the-best-version-of-myself," and "the-best-version-of-ourselves." And it wasn't a one-time event. I never went an entire chapter - and I hardly went an entire page - without seeing this travesty. I don't know whether he made that choice, or his editor did, or whether it's an Australian thing (if so, it's still wrong), or what. But hyphenation is completely and totally unnecessary for that phrase, or any other like it. It was almost enough to put the book down sometimes - and that was before I got to chapter 15.

The only other note I took on an error was defining "eucharist" as "thanksgiving." While clearly this has been perpetuated enough throughout history that "eucharistus" in the Latin dictionary brings up "thanksgiving" as an alternate definition, it's quite... well, if not erroneous, then at least a little skewed. In the original Greek, "eu-charis-tos" means "good grace" or "graced well" or something similar. In other words, the Eucharist is a gift from God (a grace) that is good. I realize that this definition sounds a little boring and doesn't play into encouragements toward thanking God for His gift, but it's the fact of the matter, all the same.

Now, to the infamous aforementioned chapter: The subject is Scripture, and, to be more precise, how Catholics ought to be reading the Good Book a smidge more than they are now. However, the chapter begins with something quite out of character (so far in the book) for Mr. Kelly, and quite eviscerating for his entire façade as an ecumenist.

(Well, technically, it starts with one of those age-old tales about person A giving person B a Bible instead of the money that person B really wanted, and person B gets really mad for a long time, and then something happens to make person B pick up the Bible, only to find the money they wanted inside. I first heard it as a gift in a will to a guy who grew old and gray before he found the thousands; in Kelly's version, a kid's father gives it to him for his birthday, and then the father promptly dies. Either way, it doesn't spruce up this chapter any more than it spruces up a lazy Sunday sermon.)

As soon as the parable is over, Mr. Kelly launches into a six-page rant against Protestants in general. (Now you see why I said I was biased.) There is no lead into this rant; there is no connection to the rest of the chapter at the end of this rant. It seems to me that Mr. Kelly had an unfortunate experience with a rather unpleasant Protestant and, like many cradle-Catholics (i.e., Catholics who were born into Catholic families and grew up Catholic, rather than converts), lumped all Protestants into the anger and vitriol he felt against this one person. Or, perhaps, Mr. Kelly genuinely feels this kind of repulsion at the existence of those who deny the veneration of Mary and the primacy of the Pope. But I digress.

In this chapter, and especially in this rant, the flaws in this book come flowing forth. Chapter 15 is the most poorly edited chapter of the entire book. It has poor pacing, awkward phrasing, excessive repetitions (using the same word three or four times in a sentence without any apparent intended effect, for example), and bad punctuation (using semicolons instead of commas, commas instead of semicolons, and even a couple of colons in place of who-knows-what).

As I mentioned, Mr. Kelly generally misrepresents mainstream Protestantism as united with fringe sensationalists and crazies. It is true that there are some oddballs who insist that the King James Version of the Bible is the true and authorized Word of God... but given what Catholics said about their translation of the Bible as little as sixty years ago, Mr. Kelly really doesn't have any legs to stand on for that argument. Plus, most people don't think such ridiculous things.

In reference to Protestants and their actions, Mr. Kelly uses violently insulting terminology. He writes that the Bible was "kidnapped by Protestant and Evangelical Christians," who "corner" Catholics with a theory that "self-destructs into the most monumental case of well-argued nonsense in the history of humanity." Harsh words, are they not? Especially for Christians and, shall we recall, separated brethren (not just heretics anymore!). (The "kidnapping" terminology is echoed in a later chapter, when he talks about evangelism.)

This rant also forges the book into a self-contradiction. He writes during his tirade, "It is this dynamic interaction between the Scriptures and tradition that keeps the Word alive"; later, when he has returned to his regularly scheduled programming, he writes, "Allow the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, alive and present in the Gospels, to sink their roots deep into your life." Let us recall, Mr. Kelly, that the power of God is in His Word, and tradition springs from it; the roots give life to the leaves, and the leaves give energy to the roots. Without the roots, leaves wither; without the leaves, the roots grow more.

Similarly, during his rant, "Our non-Catholic Christian brothers and sisters place an enormous emphasis on reading and studying the Bible. [...] Many modern Christians make it sound like it is impossible to receive salvation without a Bible. If that were the case, what happened to the people who lived before the Bible was printed?" Later, quoting St. Jerome (to whom many Protestants claim ironic allegiance), "Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ."

Oddly enough, Mr. Kelly's rant also becomes, at one point, self-deprecatory. This seems rather unintentional, as many things do in such philippics, but it still sounds like Mr. Kelly is insulting the modern Church: "It is here, in the gap of most Protestants' understanding of Christian history [i.e., the first 1500 years after Christ, before the printing press], that you find the beauty of Catholicism." This suggests (though it does not declare) that it is difficult or even impossible to find the beauty of Catholicism anywhere else. (Naturally, he could mean that it is more starkly presented there, and he may well, but he should consider his words before he prints them in thousands of copies across the world.)

Mr. Kelly furthermore makes a rather obvious oversight in his characterization of "Catholics" versus "non-Catholics": the Eastern Orthodox Church. Of all non-Catholic Christians, they are by far the most recognized by Roman Catholics as having good theological and moral standing. They are also, and have always been, non-Catholic.

But Mr. Kelly seems to have forgotten they existed at all (and for someone who claims a stronger knowledge of Church history than non-Catholics, this is surprising). He writes, "It is also interesting to note that the great majority of non-Catholic Christians have no idea that there are books missing from their Bible, just as all non-Catholic Christians are Protestants, whether they are aware of it or not." First of all, the Eastern Orthodox Church accepts most, if not all, of the same Deuterocanonical books as the Roman Catholic Church; in some cases, they also accept other books, which the Catholics do not. Secondly, they are not Protestants; the Eastern Orthodox were the Eastern Orthodox (whether or not they ever used the name) five hundred years before there were any Protestants. And finally, I have met several Catholics were entirely unaware that their Bibles were even supposed to have more than 66 books.

He later writes, "For fifteen hundred years, when there were no Baptists, Lutherans, Pentecostals, Methodists, Anglicans, Evangelicals, Non-denominationals, or any other Christian Church of any type, the Catholic Church preserved the Scriptures from error, saved them from destruction and extinction, multiplied them in every language under the sun, and conveyed the truths they contained to people everywhere." This should be rather obviously erroneous, and I think any monk east of the Adriatic and Ionian Seas would disagree vehemently. I will applaud Mr. Kelly, of course, for taking the time to look up some names for some denominations (although I think capitalizing "non-denominational" misses the point).

This chapter, chapter 15, was such an odd departure for Mr. Kelly in his stated opinions of non-Catholic Christians. He often used the term "separated brethren" (see: Second Vatican Council) and generally referred to them in an imprecise, but respectful manner. And then the reader gets blindsided with this. It was quite unnerving. Oddly enough, he spends most of the six pages defending the common Catholic ignorance of Scripture - the very same ignorance that he eschews in the pages to follow. Pages which, I shall remind you, never mention this rant again, and never the twain shall meet.

Beyond that, I only have two notes from my reading of the rest of the book. On the one hand, his editing errors seem to continue. I think this is explained, to a small degree, when he writes in the final chapter of the book, "The problem with books is that they are never really finished; they are only ever abandoned. You could keep writing and rewriting the same book for your whole life and never be fully satisfied with it." He seems to have done just this: read over his book, decided to add some content, and failed to finish the proper editing process. This very passage seems similarly disjointed from the rest of the final chapter.

The last page has my last note. When I read, "Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things," I heard it in Tim Robbins' voice in my head, straight out of "The Shawshank Redemption." And when I read, "I hope..." I heard it in Morgan Freeman's voice from the same film. While I don't begrudge the man saying totally honest and true things about hope, and the similarity could be (and probably is) entirely coincidental, I think avoiding iconic and thematic quotes from major motion pictures should be standard in books, unless an homage is intended (which seems unlikely here).

At any rate, I make the book sound worse than it is, and I know that. Three stars really is honest. Most of the book is effective and helpful. Even the remainder of chapter 15 is mostly delightful and uplifting. But something, somewhere along the line, went horribly wrong. ( )
  Versor | Sep 7, 2013 |
Over the past 20 years, Matthew Kelly has seen more of the world than most presidents and more of the Church than most bishops. Now, in this unique and timely book, he proposes that Catholicism is not a lifeless set of rules and regulations , but a way of life designed by God to help each person reach his or her full potential. With remarkable insight, Kelly dispels dozens of myths that surround the rejection of Catholicism today and provides a profound and practical vision of what will lead the Catholic Church to thrive again in the future. Rediscover Catholicism is quickly becoming the most read catholic book of our times. From the spellbinding opening story, Kelly grips his readers and takes them on a life-changing journey to rediscover the genius of Catholicism.
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  Llkeith | Feb 1, 2013 |
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Rediscovering Catholicism takes us on an adventure of life-changing proportions. Beginning with our common yearning for happiness, Kelly reveals the essence of authentic Catholic spirituality while addressin some of the most important issues we face today both as individuals and as a Church.

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