Why Stay Catholic?: Unexpected Answers to a Life-Changing Question [NOOK Book]

Overview

First Place, Popular Presentation of the Catholic Faith category Catholic Press Association book awards, 2012
“The book resonates with the practical, the joyous, the spirit-lifting, and the reality of what it means to live as a Catholic.”

Third Place, Spirituality (paperback) category Catholic Press Association book awards, 2012
“This is a beautifully written book which draws...

See more details below
Why Stay Catholic?: Unexpected Answers to a Life-Changing Question

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK Study
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$10.49
BN.com price
(Save 29%)$14.95 List Price

Overview

First Place, Popular Presentation of the Catholic Faith category Catholic Press Association book awards, 2012
“The book resonates with the practical, the joyous, the spirit-lifting, and the reality of what it means to live as a Catholic.”

Third Place, Spirituality (paperback) category Catholic Press Association book awards, 2012
“This is a beautifully written book which draws one to meditate deeply on one’s own loyalty to the Catholic tradition. This is truly a book for our age.”

Third Place, General Interest category ACP Excellence in Publishing Awards, 2012

The uplifting book Why Stay Catholic? by Michael Leach is an uplifting book about what's right in the Catholic Church today, and why tomorrow offers such hope and promise.

Scandals in the Catholic Church won't go away. The uninspiring sermons keep coming, and lay people who don't feel fulfilled find themselves asking Catholic questions, and looking for Catholic answers. This leads them to the greater question, Why Stay Catholic?

In Why Stay Catholic?, national best-selling author Michael Leach offers surprising, inspiring, and timely answers to this life-changing Catholic question. Leach joyfully offers readers plenty of reasons to celebrate being Catholic, reasons to celebrate the Catholic faith here and now, and reasons to believe that the Catholic Church can and will change.

This book is not theology lite, it is spirituality with spine. It is about the beauty at the heart of Catholicism. While many authors wax nostalgic about the way things used to be in the Church, Why Stay Catholic signs with one unique voice, backed up by a chorus of original voices of all ages and from all times.

Why Stay Catholic? answers the question Why Be Catholic? and is about the things that last because they are spiritual. As such, the book is really an invitation to "taste and see how good the Lord is." Cradle Catholics, recovering Catholics, ex-Catholics, and even non-Catholics will love this healing antidote to a faltering faith and a wounded Church.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

America: The National Catholic Weekly

What’s Right With the Church

Thomas Groome | APRIL 4, 2011

 

Why Stay Catholic?
Unexpected Answers to a Life-Changing Question Michael Leach Loyola Press. 224p $14.95

I would never leave, even if they should try to kick me out. That may be as much Irish pigheadedness as genuine faith. But I have lots of friends and family who already have left or who often threaten to leave the Catholic Church. This breaks my heart. With some 30 million former Catholics in the United States alone, I meet lots of them along the way—on planes and trains, at family wakes and weddings. My first instinct always is to try to convince them, as Michael Leach advises, that instead of “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” they might reconsider and recognize that “The baby [Catholic faith] is precious, it’s real, it never grows old, can still give joy, peace, and assurance, and it’s not dependent on people.” Now I also have a great book for them to read. Why Stay Catholic? might well convince exiles to return and the wavering to remain.
In the spirit of James Joyce’s definition of catholic as “here comes everybody,” Leach makes a powerful argument for a big-tent Catholicism: “there is room in the church for everyone, or there is room for no one...for those who save their money for a pilgrimage to Medjugorje and for those who blow it at Vegas, for sinners, saints, and fools.” In that light, I thank God with renewed confidence for my own welcome.
The author—publisher emeritus and editor at large of Orbis Books—divides this fun book into three sections, around ideas, people and places that epitomize Catholicism. The ideas rise up afresh out of “the great deposit of faith”; but this “is not a limited checking account; it’s a trust fund that increases and multiplies.” His key conviction, repeated often throughout, is God’s unconditional love for every person. His central Scripture text is Rom 8:38-39, that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
The “People” section has stories of some persons well known to all and others better known to Leach who incarnate the Catholic faith. Many of his heroes are mine as well: Thea Bowman, Miriam Therese Winter, Dorothy Day, Bishop Ray Lucker, Andrew Greeley and now the author’s spouse, Vickie (for battling illness with faith and courage). Under “Places,” where the word gets made flesh again, he reviews parishes (like Old St. Pat’s, Chicago), schools, hospitals, monasteries, Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief Services and the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, among others.
In my view, the two best reasons for staying Catholic, as the book stresses, are the twin principles of incarnation and sacramentality. Of course, Catholicism is incarnational in its focus on Jesus. Leach is convinced that the Jesus event and his paschal mystery is not about a God who needed to be appeased for our sins but one who came looking for us out of love. Catholicism is particularly incarnational, however, in that it encourages people to enflesh their faith, to realize it in their lives, far beyond the purely confessional. This is why he emphasizes people and places who concretize it. And even the ideas that he highlights all lead to practices of one kind or another; Catholic Christian faith must get done “on earth as in heaven.”
The other side of the incarnational coin is the sacramental nature of Catholic faith. Again, this emphasis reaches a climax in the seven great liturgical sacraments that we celebrate in church, but these arise from and flow back into the sacramentality of the ordinary and everyday of life. Because “God is everywhere,” God looks for us and we respond through our lives in the world. In the words of St. Augustine, “If you have an eye for it, the world itself is sacramental.” It is the sacramentality of Catholic faith that makes it so humane, so life-giving. “Catholicism seen through the eye of a needle is a religion of rules and regulations. Seen with the sacramental imagination, it is a unique take on life, a holy vision, a way of seeing the chosen part of things.”
These twin principles—the incarnational and sacramental—are what make Catholicism most worthwhile, why anyone can well stay, regardless of disappointments and complaints and the scandals that beset the church. Indeed, these very principles lend Catholic faith its rich spiritualities; “When it comes to spirituality, “the author writes, “the Catholic Church is a Garden of Eden.”
These principles also explain why we love to tell the stories of faith, old and new, and why Catholics can often have a little more fun. “Catholics like to get together and eat cholesterol and drink beer and have fun.” This book itself oozes with the incarnational and sacramental, providing many laughs and a few tears while reading it. I learned, for instance, that “Americans trust angels ten times more than they do their congressmen. That makes sense.”
Meanwhile, Leach pulls no punches when it comes to the church’s shortcomings; his book is anything but a whitewash. In fact, it is brutally honest. Yet it is also long on hope, perhaps the theological virtue most needed now. He is convinced, for example, that the great controversies that beset our time concerning ministry (e.g., optional celibacy, women’s ordination) will all be solved in good time, and people will wonder what all the fuss was about. Just like that!
Treat yourself and your friends, whether staunch, wavering, recovering or in exile, to this inspiring book. It forcefully makes the case for staying; it will also “bring the smile back to [your] Catholicism, the kind that comes from deep in your heart....”
Listen to an interview with Michael Leach.
Thomas Groome is professor of theology and religious education at Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry, where he also is chair of the department of religious education and pastoral ministry.

— Thomas Groome

From the Publisher

Why Stay Catholic? took courage to write, and Michael Leach shows a masterful understanding of the meaning of Church and the mystery of God’s purpose for all of us. . . . A remarkable achievement!”
–Joseph Girzone, author of the Joshua series
 

America: The National Catholic Weekly - Thomas Groome

What’s Right With the Church
Thomas Groome | APRIL 4, 2011
 
Why Stay Catholic?
Unexpected Answers to a Life-Changing Question
Michael Leach
Loyola Press. 224p $14.95

I would never leave, even if they should try to kick me out. That may be as much Irish pigheadedness as genuine faith. But I have lots of friends and family who already have left or who often threaten to leave the Catholic Church. This breaks my heart. With some 30 million former Catholics in the United States alone, I meet lots of them along the way—on planes and trains, at family wakes and weddings. My first instinct always is to try to convince them, as Michael Leach advises, that instead of “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” they might reconsider and recognize that “The baby [Catholic faith] is precious, it’s real, it never grows old, can still give joy, peace, and assurance, and it’s not dependent on people.” Now I also have a great book for them to read. Why Stay Catholic? might well convince exiles to return and the wavering to remain.
In the spirit of James Joyce’s definition of catholic as “here comes everybody,” Leach makes a powerful argument for a big-tent Catholicism: “there is room in the church for everyone, or there is room for no one...for those who save their money for a pilgrimage to Medjugorje and for those who blow it at Vegas, for sinners, saints, and fools.” In that light, I thank God with renewed confidence for my own welcome.
The author—publisher emeritus and editor at large of Orbis Books—divides this fun book into three sections, around ideas, people and places that epitomize Catholicism. The ideas rise up afresh out of “the great deposit of faith”; but this “is not a limited checking account; it’s a trust fund that increases and multiplies.” His key conviction, repeated often throughout, is God’s unconditional love for every person. His central Scripture text is Rom 8:38-39, that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
The “People” section has stories of some persons well known to all and others better known to Leach who incarnate the Catholic faith. Many of his heroes are mine as well: Thea Bowman, Miriam Therese Winter, Dorothy Day, Bishop Ray Lucker, Andrew Greeley and now the author’s spouse, Vickie (for battling illness with faith and courage). Under “Places,” where the word gets made flesh again, he reviews parishes (like Old St. Pat’s, Chicago), schools, hospitals, monasteries, Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief Services and the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, among others.
In my view, the two best reasons for staying Catholic, as the book stresses, are the twin principles of incarnation and sacramentality. Of course, Catholicism is incarnational in its focus on Jesus. Leach is convinced that the Jesus event and his paschal mystery is not about a God who needed to be appeased for our sins but one who came looking for us out of love. Catholicism is particularly incarnational, however, in that it encourages people to enflesh their faith, to realize it in their lives, far beyond the purely confessional. This is why he emphasizes people and places who concretize it. And even the ideas that he highlights all lead to practices of one kind or another; Catholic Christian faith must get done “on earth as in heaven.”
The other side of the incarnational coin is the sacramental nature of Catholic faith. Again, this emphasis reaches a climax in the seven great liturgical sacraments that we celebrate in church, but these arise from and flow back into the sacramentality of the ordinary and everyday of life. Because “God is everywhere,” God looks for us and we respond through our lives in the world. In the words of St. Augustine, “If you have an eye for it, the world itself is sacramental.” It is the sacramentality of Catholic faith that makes it so humane, so life-giving. “Catholicism seen through the eye of a needle is a religion of rules and regulations. Seen with the sacramental imagination, it is a unique take on life, a holy vision, a way of seeing the chosen part of things.”
These twin principles—the incarnational and sacramental—are what make Catholicism most worthwhile, why anyone can well stay, regardless of disappointments and complaints and the scandals that beset the church. Indeed, these very principles lend Catholic faith its rich spiritualities; “When it comes to spirituality, “the author writes, “the Catholic Church is a Garden of Eden.”
These principles also explain why we love to tell the stories of faith, old and new, and why Catholics can often have a little more fun. “Catholics like to get together and eat cholesterol and drink beer and have fun.” This book itself oozes with the incarnational and sacramental, providing many laughs and a few tears while reading it. I learned, for instance, that “Americans trust angels ten times more than they do their congressmen. That makes sense.”
Meanwhile, Leach pulls no punches when it comes to the church’s shortcomings; his book is anything but a whitewash. In fact, it is brutally honest. Yet it is also long on hope, perhaps the theological virtue most needed now. He is convinced, for example, that the great controversies that beset our time concerning ministry (e.g., optional celibacy, women’s ordination) will all be solved in good time, and people will wonder what all the fuss was about. Just like that!
Treat yourself and your friends, whether staunch, wavering, recovering or in exile, to this inspiring book. It forcefully makes the case for staying; it will also “bring the smile back to [your] Catholicism, the kind that comes from deep in your heart....”
Listen to an interview with Michael Leach.
Thomas Groome is professor of theology and religious education at Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry, where he also is chair of the department of religious education and pastoral ministry.

America: The National Catholic Weekly

What’s Right With the Church

Thomas Groome | APRIL 4, 2011

 

Why Stay Catholic?
Unexpected Answers to a Life-Changing Question Michael Leach Loyola Press. 224p $14.95

I would never leave, even if they should try to kick me out. That may be as much Irish pigheadedness as genuine faith. But I have lots of friends and family who already have left or who often threaten to leave the Catholic Church. This breaks my heart. With some 30 million former Catholics in the United States alone, I meet lots of them along the way—on planes and trains, at family wakes and weddings. My first instinct always is to try to convince them, as Michael Leach advises, that instead of “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” they might reconsider and recognize that “The baby [Catholic faith] is precious, it’s real, it never grows old, can still give joy, peace, and assurance, and it’s not dependent on people.” Now I also have a great book for them to read. Why Stay Catholic? might well convince exiles to return and the wavering to remain.
In the spirit of James Joyce’s definition of catholic as “here comes everybody,” Leach makes a powerful argument for a big-tent Catholicism: “there is room in the church for everyone, or there is room for no one...for those who save their money for a pilgrimage to Medjugorje and for those who blow it at Vegas, for sinners, saints, and fools.” In that light, I thank God with renewed confidence for my own welcome.
The author—publisher emeritus and editor at large of Orbis Books—divides this fun book into three sections, around ideas, people and places that epitomize Catholicism. The ideas rise up afresh out of “the great deposit of faith”; but this “is not a limited checking account; it’s a trust fund that increases and multiplies.” His key conviction, repeated often throughout, is God’s unconditional love for every person. His central Scripture text is Rom 8:38-39, that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
The “People” section has stories of some persons well known to all and others better known to Leach who incarnate the Catholic faith. Many of his heroes are mine as well: Thea Bowman, Miriam Therese Winter, Dorothy Day, Bishop Ray Lucker, Andrew Greeley and now the author’s spouse, Vickie (for battling illness with faith and courage). Under “Places,” where the word gets made flesh again, he reviews parishes (like Old St. Pat’s, Chicago), schools, hospitals, monasteries, Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief Services and the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, among others.
In my view, the two best reasons for staying Catholic, as the book stresses, are the twin principles of incarnation and sacramentality. Of course, Catholicism is incarnational in its focus on Jesus. Leach is convinced that the Jesus event and his paschal mystery is not about a God who needed to be appeased for our sins but one who came looking for us out of love. Catholicism is particularly incarnational, however, in that it encourages people to enflesh their faith, to realize it in their lives, far beyond the purely confessional. This is why he emphasizes people and places who concretize it. And even the ideas that he highlights all lead to practices of one kind or another; Catholic Christian faith must get done “on earth as in heaven.”
The other side of the incarnational coin is the sacramental nature of Catholic faith. Again, this emphasis reaches a climax in the seven great liturgical sacraments that we celebrate in church, but these arise from and flow back into the sacramentality of the ordinary and everyday of life. Because “God is everywhere,” God looks for us and we respond through our lives in the world. In the words of St. Augustine, “If you have an eye for it, the world itself is sacramental.” It is the sacramentality of Catholic faith that makes it so humane, so life-giving. “Catholicism seen through the eye of a needle is a religion of rules and regulations. Seen with the sacramental imagination, it is a unique take on life, a holy vision, a way of seeing the chosen part of things.”
These twin principles—the incarnational and sacramental—are what make Catholicism most worthwhile, why anyone can well stay, regardless of disappointments and complaints and the scandals that beset the church. Indeed, these very principles lend Catholic faith its rich spiritualities; “When it comes to spirituality, “the author writes, “the Catholic Church is a Garden of Eden.”
These principles also explain why we love to tell the stories of faith, old and new, and why Catholics can often have a little more fun. “Catholics like to get together and eat cholesterol and drink beer and have fun.” This book itself oozes with the incarnational and sacramental, providing many laughs and a few tears while reading it. I learned, for instance, that “Americans trust angels ten times more than they do their congressmen. That makes sense.”
Meanwhile, Leach pulls no punches when it comes to the church’s shortcomings; his book is anything but a whitewash. In fact, it is brutally honest. Yet it is also long on hope, perhaps the theological virtue most needed now. He is convinced, for example, that the great controversies that beset our time concerning ministry (e.g., optional celibacy, women’s ordination) will all be solved in good time, and people will wonder what all the fuss was about. Just like that!
Treat yourself and your friends, whether staunch, wavering, recovering or in exile, to this inspiring book. It forcefully makes the case for staying; it will also “bring the smile back to [your] Catholicism, the kind that comes from deep in your heart....”
Listen to an interview with Michael Leach.
Thomas Groome is professor of theology and religious education at Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry, where he also is chair of the department of religious education and pastoral ministry.

— Thomas Groome

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780829435641
  • Publisher: Loyola Press
  • Publication date: 3/15/2011
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 674,061
  • File size: 5 MB

Meet the Author

Michael Leach is editor-at-large and publisher emeritus of Orbis Books. Dubbed “the dean of Catholic book publishing” by U.S. Catholic, he recently received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Catholic Book Publishers Association. He is the author of many books, including the national best seller I Like Being Catholic. Michael lives in Connecticut.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

Preface

Frustrated with the Catholic Church? Don’t despair! Be of good cheer! There is another way of looking at things.  This book is for you:

  • Cradle Catholics who love the church but are embarrassed by too many scandals and too many cover-ups;
  • Recovering Catholics who have been hurt by the church but wouldn’t mind a reminder of the beautiful things they miss;
  • Weary Catholics who are tired of hearing the same sermons week after week, who wonder where the beef is and whether they should just stay in bed;
  • Ex-Catholics—the fastest growing religion in America—who are interested in spirituality but still haven’t found it;
  • Non-Catholics who wonder what’s so great about this flawed church that most Catholics wouldn’t even leave it if they were kicked out.

Why Stay Catholic? responds to the questions: Why stay in the church? and What’s so good about being Catholic anyway? Its message is, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater!” The baby is precious, it’s real, it never grows old, can still give you joy, peace, and assurance, and it’s not dependent on people.
One story has it that Napoleon once told a cardinal that he could destroy the Catholic Church with his fists, in an instant, if he wanted to. The Cardinal laughed and said, “We clergy have been trying to destroy the church for eighteen hundred years with our sins and stupidity but haven’t come close. What makes you think you can do better?”
We live in a dualistic world. “The world is charged with the grandeur of God,” the poet Hopkins reminds us, but it’s also riddled with opposites: good and bad; hot and cold; pleasure and pain; happy and sad; war and peace; rich and poor; black and white; Democrat and Republican; Abbot and Costello; Red Sox and Yankee; the joy of victory and the agony of defeat; you name it, or not. Fortunately, we have Christ’s promise: “In this world you shall have trial and tribulation, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33)
This is a book about some of the good stuff in Catholicism. The beef. What Teilhard de Chardin called “the chosen part of things,” what Hopkins saw as “the dearest freshness deep down things.” It’s about the things that last because they are spiritual.
So put aside the portrait of the church you see on television—it’s incomplete, like a Mona Lisa without a smile, or a Pieta without an embrace. The purpose of this book is to bring the smile back to Catholicism, the kind that comes from deep in your heart, and to remind you of the embrace, the one you don’t always see but is closer to you than breathing and nearer than hands and feet.
—Michael Leach

 

PART 1
Ideas

The Catholic Church speaks of the “deposit of faith,” a phrase that points to beliefs and practices deposited by men and women in Catholic consciousness for the past two thousand years. Strictly speaking, it refers to a number of Scriptures and traditions as interpreted by bishops and popes, but spiritually seen, it’s an open vault so large and deep that no one can withdraw all of its riches in a thousand lifetimes. The deposit of faith is not a limited checking account; it’s a trust fund that increases and multiplies.
What is the gold standard in the deposit of faith? Ideas that point to spiritual realities. Many of them have been forgotten or ignored for too long. Here are just a few. Smile and know the embrace.

1
The Sacramental Imagination

Though I was blind, now I see.
—John 9:25

Being a Catholic is about seeing the chosen part of things.

  • An infant whose Father’s house has many mansions but who chooses to be born in a manger.
  • A man nailed to a cross who is not a victim but unbounded love.
  • A virgin womb. A faithful groom. An empty tomb.
  • A treasure hidden in a field. A coin found. A mustard seed.
  • Eternity in a grain of sand.

Catholicism is about seeing what the eyes cannot see and understanding what is at the heart of things: truth, love, mercy, goodness, beauty, harmony, humility, compassion, gratitude, joy, peace, salvation. It’s about seeing the ordinary and perceiving the extraordinary at the same time: the midnight glow of Easter candles that are, in truth, a thousand points of light; the stories of saints, the saga of sinners, and the rumors of angels that inspire and heal us. “It is only with the heart that one sees rightly,” wrote Antoine de Saint-Exupery. “What is essential is invisible to the eye.”
We don’t choose to see the chosen parts of things. It chooses us. It’s like when we gaze at the silhouette of a vase. Sometimes we see the vase; then instantly we see two faces. Which is real; which is true? We can’t force ourselves to see either one. Both are there. What we see in the moment chooses us.

We see water running down an infant’s head at baptism, and suddenly we behold new life. We watch a priest or a sister or a layperson handing out wafers but are aware that God’s spiritual child is sharing God’s spiritual life with God’s spiritual children—and we know that all are somehow mysteriously one. We look at a holy card, a piece of paper, and perceive fidelity, courage, and love. What first appears ordinary catches fire. The mundane turns to gold. A divine alchemy takes place. We see the chosen parts: beauty, love, harmony, joy. This is what is called the “sacramental imagination.”
A sacrament points to and opens what is invisible but real. It is an outward sign, instituted by Christ, to give grace. Catholics cherish the seven sacraments of the Church: baptism, confirmation, Holy Communion, reconciliation, marriage, holy orders, and the anointing of the sick. These are the Sacraments with a big S. There are also sacraments with a small s. We receive the Sacraments once or many times over a lifetime. But we give sacraments every moment of our lives.

  • We give a sacrament of baptism every time we behold another as a child of God.
  • We offer a sacrament of reconciliation every time we say to someone “I’m sorry” or “I forgive you.”
  • Every time a wife says to her husband or a husband to his wife, “I love you”—or better, when a husband gets a cold cloth and puts it on his wife’s forehead when she has a headache, or when a wife gives her husband a hug for no other reason than she knows he needs it—is a sacrament of marriage.
  • A sacrament of eucharist happens every time family or friends gather around a table to share in the good of God.
  • Every time someone decides to live a better life is a sacrament of confirmation.
  • Everyone who makes a radical commitment to be here not for himself but for God expresses a sacrament of holy orders.
  • Every time we visit a sick person in a hospital or nursing home and just kiss them on the cheek is an anointing of the sick.

What could be more beautiful?
An old song says, “Little things mean a lot.” Sacraments with a small s mean everything to those who give them and to those who receive them.
Catholicism is about cultivating our sacramental imagination so that we can see and be the chosen part of things.
“Catholicism is above all a way of seeing,” writes theologian Robert Barron in his book And Now I See. “Origen of Alexandria once remarked that holiness is seeing with the eyes of Christ. Teilhard de Chardin said, with great passion, that his mission as a Christian thinker was to help people see, and Thomas Aquinas said that the ultimate goal of the Christian life is a ‘beatific vision’, an act of seeing.”
When I was in seminary studying to be a priest, our English teacher, Fr. Ignatius Burrill, introduced us to the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins. He opened my eyes to a sacramental world of beauty beyond words. I’ll always remember this verse:

Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

When I was at home that summer, I saw Christ on Clark Street. I was walking toward our apartment near Wrigley Field and passed a down-and-out guy drinking from a bottle in a paper bag. I didn’t look him in the eyes. Then I recalled my friend Larry McCauley telling me about a church not far from both of us with a crucified Jesus etched in stone on the wall. A legend under the cross read, “Is it nothing to you who pass by?” Suddenly the man on the street and the man on the cross were one.
Later I saw a little girl playing jacks on the sidewalk in front of her house. She playfully tossed the jacks on the pavement just as God must have flung the stars across the sky. She bounced the little red ball, and it paused in the air as if it were the sun. I thought I was seeing the whole story of creation in a game of jacks.
I looked at many people on my way home that day but saw them differently than I ever had before. Each of them wore a human face, etched in stone or as sunny as July, and each revealed a unique face of Christ. Hopkins’s words appeared and disappeared. I saw a person, and I saw who was really there.
As soon as the moment came, just as soon did it go. But I remember it still.

There comes a moment, once—and God help those Who pass that moment by!—when Beauty stands Looking into the soul with grave, sweet eyes That sicken at pretty words.
—Cyrano de Bergerac

Fr. Burrill and Larry McCauley taught me that poetry is the best theology. The sacramental imagination, a unique Catholic idea, opens our inner eye to the chosen part of things. St. Bonaventure, a father of the church, counseled his students to “see with the eyes of the soul.” The mystic Meister Eckhart said that “we see God with the same eyes that God sees us.” Everything is somehow one. “If you have an eye for it,” St. Augustine wrote, “the world itself is a sacrament.”
“The sacramental imagination” is a phrase popularized by Fr. Andrew Greeley. He adapted it from the theology of his friend Fr. David Tracy, a theologian at the Divinity School of the University of Chicago, who wrote a seminal book called The Analogical Imagination. Fr. Greeley writes in his book, The Catholic Imagination:

Catholics live in an enchanted world, a world of statues and holy water, stained glass and votive candles, saints and religious medals, rosary beads and holy pictures. But these Catholic paraphernalia are mere hints of a deeper and more pervasive religious sensibility which inclines Catholics to see the Holy lurking in creation. As Catholics, we find our houses and our world haunted by a sense that the objects, events and persons of daily life are revelations of grace. (p. 1)

Catholicism, seen through the eye of a needle, is a religion of rules and regulations. Seen with the sacramental imagination, it is a unique take on life, a holy vision, a way of seeing the chosen part of things.
When asked who he was and what he did, Jesus told his disciples, “Come and see!” Who can resist an invitation like that?

2
God Is Everywhere

Q. Where is God?
A. Everywhere!
—The Baltimore Catechism

A tattered copy of this standard text sat on the desk of every girl and boy in Catholic schools from 1885 till the late 1960s. You will not find a Catholic adult who cannot repeat that remarkable Q and A. It’s a simple expression of faith that points to the chosen part of everything.
I was surprised not to find anything like it in the new Catechism of the Catholic Church, but that may just be me. The Baltimore Catechism was a sixty-two-page booklet, and the Vatican catechism has 928 pages and weighs more than my brain. I did find the word omnipotence five times in the index but no mention of the word omnipresence. I thought, Gee, this is like having a classic songbook of the Beatles that doesn’t include “Here, There, and Everywhere.” On the other hand, The Baltimore Catechism doesn’t tell us what Easter is about. It’s helpful to have more than one catechism in the house.
That’s because we can never hear enough of this wonderful Catholic idea: God is everywhere. We know from the movie, The Big Lebowski, that the Dude abides but we know from Scripture and tradition that Grace abounds. Grace runs through everything because God is “here, there, and everywhere.” What could be more comforting?
At the end of the novel Diary of a Country Priest a young priest lies dying, waiting for an old pastor to arrive and administer last rites. The friend at his bedside worries that the pastor won’t get there on time and the priest will not receive the church’s last blessing. The dying priest senses his concern and, in a halting but clear voice, says, “Does it matter? Grace is everywhere.”
The church may not always be there for us, but Catholicism teaches that God is everywhere for us. That’s all that matters.

Wither shall I go from thy spirit? Or wither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall thy hand lead me and thy right hand shall hold me.
—Psalm 139:7–10, KJV

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
—Psalm 23:4, KJV
 

Jesus taught us to look for God in the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. When I was a young priest (I left after three years to marry), I once said a Mass for children who were sitting in a field of dandelions next to a lake with frogs popping out like Muppets. I read the gospel on the lilies of the field and then asked the children: “Each one of you, go and choose a flower and just look at it.” They scattered and each found a pet dandelion and put their face close to it. “Just look at it,” I said. “And see how it grows.” The children smiled as the yellow lions smiled back. I waited. I whispered, “If I could look into your eyes right now, I would see a flower. God is everywhere, and each of you is baptizing a flower!”
Shortest sermon I ever gave.

The fullness of joy is to behold God in everything.
—St. Julian of Norwich

The day of my spiritual wakening was the day I saw—and knew I saw—all things in God and God in all things.
—Mechtild of Magdeburg

Finding God in all things is the foundation of Ignatian spirituality. But to say that God is in all things is not to say that everything is God. That would be pantheism, literally “All is God.” God and creation are not the same. God is greater than the sum of all the parts of all that he has made. “God is All in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28), “God is love” (1 John 4:8), and, incredibly, “We live and move and have our being in God” (Acts 17:28). These words spark our sacramental imagination and help us understand an awesome truth. We are like fish that swim in an ocean of love: the fish are in the ocean, and the ocean is in the fish. We are in God and God is in us. We are swimming in God but don’t even know it. The key to peace—and to swimming effortlessly through life—is to come to know who and where we really are. God is love, God is everywhere, and everywhere is in God. Wherever we are, God is always present! We don’t have to look far to find God. He is within us and all around us because we are within him. This idea has tremendous practical applications for prayer and daily living.
Here is what religious educator Michael Morwood has to say about the God who is so everywhere that “the heavens and the heavens above the heavens cannot contain him” (Psalm 68:33):

It makes a big difference how we pray if we view God as a person in heaven or, as the Baltimore Catechism put it, if we view God “everywhere.” For many of us prayer has been an effort to contact an “elsewhere God.” What happens when we shift our attention to an “everywhere God”—a sustaining Presence in all, through all, never absent, never distant, not in one place more than in any other place, a Presence “in whom we live and move and have our being”?
    There is a new story emerging in consciousness, one that evokes awe, wonder, and reverence as it expands our notion of God. We are beginning to understand that God is not limited to a place and only vaguely present in the universe. We are beginning to appreciate a God alive in every particle in the billions of galaxies beyond us and in the grass or pavement beneath our feet. God is here, everywhere, and always with us.

May we open our minds and hearts to the presence of God in us.
May God-in-us,
the “everywhere God,”
find generous and courageous expression in our words and actions as we undertake to make the reign of God evident in our world.
Amen.
(Michael Morwood, from Praying a New Story, pp. 7, 138)
 

God is present in the furthest star and in the smallest seed. God is present before and after we are born and in every detail of our lives. God is love and wisdom and available to us in each and every moment because we are, literally, in love. It only takes eyes to see.
Did you ever see that wonderful black-and-white movie from the 1950s, The Incredible Shrinking Man? The hero, Scott Carey, blond, blue-eyed, and tall, is sailing his boat in the ocean beneath an infinite sky. Suddenly a mist appears and covers him with a radioactive dust. Slowly he goes from six feet to three feet to three inches to infinitesimal. At the end of the movie this dot of a man is walking in his garden through blades of grass that are taller than trees, amongst towering flowers that look like planets and suns, and sailing on a twig over a puddle as large as a lake. Suddenly, Scott sees. He is still at home in the universe! It has shrunk but God is everywhere. We hear his inner voice:

So close—the infinitesimal and the infinite. But suddenly, I knew they were really the two ends of the same concept. The unbelievably small and the unbelievably vast eventually meet—like the closing of a gigantic circle. I looked up, as if somehow I would grasp the heavens. The universe, worlds beyond number, God’s silver tapestry spread across the night. And in that moment, I knew the answer to the riddle of the infinite. I had thought in terms of man’s own limited dimension. I had presumed upon nature. That existence begins and ends in man’s conception, not nature’s. And I felt my body dwindling, melting, becoming nothing. My fears melted away. And in their place came acceptance. All this vast majesty of creation, it had to mean something. And then I meant something, too! Yes, smaller than the smallest, I meant something, too. To God, there is no zero. I still exist!

The Catholic idea that God is everywhere is a source of infinite joy. God is love, and that’s where we live. Love does not look down and judge. Love teaches us how to live among flowers and to swim in an ocean of love.

3
God Finds Us When

We Least Expect Him Christmas, Good Friday, Easter—their message is not that we must appease an angry God but that a God of love has found us!
—Thomas O’Meara, OP, attributed

Isn’t that wonderful! We don’t have to look for God. God is not only everywhere, but God is always finding us!
God finds us when we least expect him. He finds us when we are lost in sin, and he finds us, too, when we’re lost in the sacrament of the present moment. This is a beautiful idea expressed in Catholic poems and stories throughout the ages. The deposit of faith is filled to overflowing with tales of God’s love.
The poet Francis Thompson (1859–1907) writes beautifully about our flight from God and God’s pursuit of us in The Hound of Heaven:

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
    Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
            Up vistaed hopes I sped;
            And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
            But with unhurrying chase,
            And unperturbèd pace,
        Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
            They beat—and a Voice beat
            More instant than the Feet—
        “All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.”

And finally, when we are out of breath and can run no more, we hear God’s call:

            “Rise, clasp My hand, and come!”
. . .
        “Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
        I am He Whom thou seekest!
Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me!”

We can no more escape God than a wave can escape the ocean. The wave is in the ocean, and the ocean is in the wave. God is with us whether we want him to be or not. St. Augustine wrote, “Our hearts our restless until they rest in Thee.” We will know salvation, sooner or later. Sooner is better.
The parable of the lost son (Luke 15:11–32) gives us assurance. A restless young man asks his affluent father for his share of the inheritance. The generous father gives it to him. The son goes off and squanders it, living a life of debauchery, sleeping with pigs and eating their swill. The prodigal son, like the lost soul in The Hound of Heaven, cries out, “I have recklessly forgotten Your glory, O Father!” He begins crawling back home, praying that his father will receive him as a penitent and let him back in the house, if only as a hired hand.
And here is the best part, the part that warms and enfolds us like a favorite quilt. Here is a reason that I am still Catholic:

While he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate. (Luke 15:20–24, NRSV)

The father makes the first move! The father races to embrace the son before the son can say a word!
God finds us, again and again, when we least expect him. He finds us because he never left us, giving us everything always, and giving us even more when we recognize who we are and where Love is. Jesus assures us that God can never leave us: “I will not leave you orphaned. . . . I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” (John 14:18, 20). Repentance happens when we realize that we are in Jesus and that Jesus and the Father are one (John 10:30).
God is the Hound of heaven. He finds us in our despair. It makes no difference what we have done—God is already there. This is an idea from the deposit of faith that makes it easy for me to stay Catholic.

If I ascend up into heaven,
thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there!
—Psalm 139:8

God’s love for us is freely given and unearned, surpassing all we could ever hope for or imagine. He does not love us because we have merited it or are worthy of it. God loves us, rather, because he is true to his own nature.
—Pope John Paul II

God not only finds us when we are lost; he also finds us when we aren’t even looking for him. He finds us in the present moment. Long before Eckhart Tolle wrote

The Power of Now

, Jean-Pierre de Caussade, SJ (1675–1751) wrote

The Sacrament of the Present Moment

, and Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection’s (c. 1611–1691) teachings were compiled in

Practice of the Presence of God

. In the first chapter of this book we learned about the seven sacraments with a small s. The

eighth

sacrament—the ­sacrament of the present moment—opens our eyes to a God of surprises who comes to us when we least expect him.

When Thomas Merton was a young monk at the Abbey of Gethsemane, he sometimes had to go to Louisville for a doctor’s appointment. At first the hurrying crowds distracted him from his endeavor to pray always. But one day Merton just let go. He stood still and looked. Suddenly the whole city seemed to glow with the grace of God. “How do you tell people,” he asked himself, “that they are walking around shining like the sun!”

That is a sacrament of the present moment.

In the movie

Field of Dreams

a tourist asks the hero, Ray Kinsella, “Is this heaven?”

“No,” he says. “It’s Iowa.”

Heaven begins on the spot where we are standing. Funny thing, but like Ray, I think I first had a sense of God’s presence playing baseball. Let me tell you about it.

I was eight or nine years old. Maybe ten. It doesn’t matter, because when it happened, time stood still, and I was eternal.

In my big-city neighborhood the kids played softball on cross streets where manhole covers served as bases. The fourteen-incher would pop its stitches, but you used it until it was a pillow. Even so, you’d better not smack it too far down the middle, or it might crack the window of an apartment building. You had to pull the ball to the street on the left or punch it down the street to the right. You began playing after school and didn’t stop until your mother called your name from a wooden porch or the sun sank behind the skyline.

Little guys like me sat on the curb until one of the big guys put us in, usually on the street to the right. I’d often drop the ball, especially hard line drives, and rarely hit one past the pitcher. I wanted to play well and not goof up, and I thought about what the other kids were thinking of me. Then one evening (or more accurately this one sacramental moment) while the sun was painting the apartment windows gold, I stopped wanting, stopped thinking.

And heaven said hello.

I was in right field. The ball popped off the bat like grease from a frying pan and lofted high over my head. All I did was see it and turn and follow its path. I wasn’t thinking about it. Just running, aware of each step, each move of my arms, as if in slow motion, knowing exactly where the ball would come down. At just the right moment, without looking, my fingers reached out and the softball fell onto my hands like a dove. I ran a few more steps, turned, held it up, and smiled!

The big guys cheered. Then the moment vanished.

But to this day, sixty years later, I can remember that golden instant when time stood still and I felt one with the ball, the sun, the street, and yes, let’s say it, love.

God is love, an unbelievable oneness that comes to awareness when you least expect it: in the sacrament of the present moment. Baseball first taught me not to worry about the past or plan for the future but simply to pay attention to the ball. I’d need many reminders ­throughout my life, but I began to learn: God envelops us when we least expect it.

I don’t remember what happened after that catch, but I remember other moments of oneness that came suddenly but never lasted more than an inning. Just as quickly as one came, I would take pride in it or dwell on it or try to do it again, and it was gone.

God finds us when we forget about ourselves and live in the present. Awareness catches us, but the moment falls apart when we try to pin it against the wall of our mind like a butterfly. It comes to us on colorful see-through wings. And as soon as we take credit for it, it vanishes.

But we never forget it.

Its promise keeps us going—and finds us again when we least expect it.

Everyone of every religion and of no religion has these wonderful moments. I grew up with them in a world of Catholic poems and stories and friends. Still Catholic? Why not?

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Preface xi

Part 1 Ideas

1 The Sacramental Imagination 3

2 God Is Everywhere 9

3 God Finds Us When We Least Expect Him 15

4 Nothing Can Separate Us from the Love of God-Nothing! 23

5 God's Will for Us Is More Wonderful Than Anything We Can Imagine 27

6 The Mystics, or There's a Way of Knowing That Has Nothing to Do With the Brain 35

7 The Mystical Body of Christ 41

8 The Communion of Saints 47

9 There's Still Something about Mary 55

10 It's the Stories, Stupid! 59

11 Jesus Died for Our Sins and Rose from the Dead-Really! 65

12 The Church Can Change-Really! 73

13 You Can Disagree with the Church and Still Be a Good Catholic 79

14 The Bethlehem Principle (There Is Room in the Church for Everyone or There Is Room for No One) 85

15 A Dizzying Array of Images for the Church 89

16 A Mass of Energy 95

17 A Garden of Spiritual Paths 101

18 Fruits of the Spirit 107

19 The Seamless Garment of Life 113

20 The Church's Best-Kept Secret 119

21 Everyone Has a Guardian Angel 125

22 Benedicamus Domino! or, Catholics Like to Party 129

23 God Is Found among the Pots and Pans 135

24 The Papacy, or It's a Tough Job but Somebody's Got To Do It 141

25 The Best Is Yet To Come 147

Part 2 People

26 The Singer and the Song: Miriam Therese Winter 153

27 Poet Laureate of Catholicism: Mitch Finley 159

28 She Who Overcame Thea Bowman 167

29 Friend of Those Who Have No Friend: Pat Reardon 173

30 The Muslims' Neighbor Bob McCahill 179

31 Upon This Rock I Will Build My Church Tom Kaminski 185

32 Wounded Healer Therese Borchard 191

33 God's Hands John Smyth 199

34 God's Voice Walter Burghardt 207

35 Godmother Dorothy Day 215

36 The Bishop Ray Lucker 223

37 Model of Forgiveness Antoinette Bosco 231

38 A Catholic Family Value Marybeth Christie Redmond 239

39 The Color of Gratitude Vickie Leach 247

40 In Gratitude Andrew Greeley 255

Part 3 Places

41 Old St. Patrick's Parish 269

42 The Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani 275

43 Catholic Charities 283

44 Catholic Schools 289

45 Catholic Hospitals 297

46 The Catholic Church Extension Society 305

47 Catholic Relief Services 313

48 Catholic Books and Bookstores 323

49 The Los Angeles Religious Education Congress 331

50 Vatican III 337

Thank You's 345

About the Author 347

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 27, 2011

    A must read!

    As Catholics, we've had it. We're beyond done with pedophilia and financial scandals, the rubric-obsessed leadership and an imbecilic hierarchy that thinks, as Archbishop Dolan recently remarked, that all that needs to change in the church is people's "perception" of it. So, why stay Catholic, indeed?

    As the editor of a Catholic newspaper, whenever someone asking that question comes to me-and the number of Catholics asking that question has gone viral in recent years-what I tell them is, "You're looking in the wrong direction. If you want to know why to stay, stop looking up (to the hierarchy) and start looking across (to the Catholics you know)." Michael Leach's Why Stay Catholic is a book that celebrates, in incredibly heartening terms, what you will find when you look across.

    Leach knows that those of us scrambling for the exit signs need to be reminded of what this Catholic Church is really about. Wisely, he opens his book with a number of chapters that strip away the hierarchical nonsense and get us back to God-a God who is everywhere, a God in whom we "live and move and have our being." And he asks with the Gospel, "Who can separate us from the love of God?" As Catholics, we know that nothing can, and yet, deafened by the arrogance and artifice and just plain manipulation that passes for direction from our church these days, it can be easy to forget that God is the very ground of our beings. Michael Leach brings us back to that knowledge so swiftly and deftly and with such great love that its awe inspiring. And this particular brace of chapters mark him as truly gifted theologian of our church as well.

    In his chapter on the Communion of saints, Leach writes of those considered by most to be saints by acclamation- Mother Teresa and Bishop Oscar Romero and the Late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin among them. "Many of us Catholics,' writes Leach, 'stay in the church because it has introduced us to people like these who are larger than life, but just like us." And it is Leach's genius for grounding God in everyday reality that gets through to you on every page of this book.
    Leach brings us to the stories of some truly exceptional Catholics-Sister Miriam Therese Winter, Father Andrew Greeley, Dorothy Day, the late Bishop Raymond Lucker and others whose names you may not initially recognize, but whose stories will leave you with that "Ah!" of recognition. They are saints, who like Romero and Bernardin, are living this life with us as God is with us.

    Reading Leach's Why Stay Catholic? you will suddenly find that you've stopped wondering where the nearest exit sign is. Reading it, you will find how quickly you cease to care about what the hierarchy is doing-now and forever. Reading Why Stay Catholic? will, in fact, lead you to let go of the dross and drudgery of Catholicism and come back to its Heart: God is with us. All of us. Always.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2012

    A must read!

    Ths is ia must read for anyone who wonders "why stay Catholic?" when the Church is under attack from all sides. It is also a must read for those (like me) who are questioning why they should stay Catholic, but just want some encouragement.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 22, 2011

    A Good Read for Catholics

    A excellent review of your Catholic faith.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)