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Posted January 24, 2011
I am a regular reader of the magazine "First Things" of which Fr. Neuhaus is editor in chief, so I've been looking forward to reading this book, and by and large, I've been more than satisfied with it. Fr. Neuhaus is a great master of the English language and the book is written in the same flowing and articulate style that we've come to expect from him. Many of the themes from his writings for the "First Things" have been repeated in this book, often substantially elaborated upon and expanded. I find particularly insightful and informative parts of the books that deal with his own experiences, of "becoming the Catholic [he] was" (to use the title of one of the chapters) and being present in Rome during the April of 2005, during the funeral of Pope John Paul II (the Great), and election of Pope Benedict XVI.
I wish, however, that Fr. Neuhaus spent more time on exact details of his conversion. Those seem to be swept under the rug of theology. I would also like to know how exactly did he decide to become not only Catholic, but a Catholic priest. On the surface of it that would seem a logical progression for someone who spent thirty years as a Lutheran pastor, but I would still want to know more about his perception of what that vocation meant for him.
Other objections that I have to the book have to do with two of Fr. Neuhaus's pet peeves: English translations of the Bible, and woeful state of singing in Catholic Church. The reason I became a Christian and a Catholic is very simple: I read the Bible. I read a very old translation into Serbian language, and yet all the main ideas that I came to associate with Christianity were very clear. I believe that it would be very hard for any translation to substantially alter the basic meaning of the Christian message. Of course, translations should be as accurate as possible, but I think it does little good to agonize over how a particular word was used here or there.
As for singing, I consider myself particularly challenged in that regard. I often say, only half jokingly, that I became Catholic because that was the only church that wouldn't kick me out because of my singing. I think it's actually a blessing that Catholics can't sing, because most people can't sing either. And if there is one thing that Fr. Neuhaus is so fond of saying is that Catholic Church is 'Here Comes Everybody'. Let's keep it that way.
If this review comes across as overly critical, that's because I believe that other reviews have been very good at spelling out this book's good points. I still consider this to be a wonderful book for anyone interested in all things Catholic, and a very worthwhile read. We need more Catholics and writers like Fr. Neuhaus.
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Posted November 7, 2009
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