Frequently, whenever I visit the public library I like to take a chance on an unfamiliar book. Even though I might already have a ton of library books on loan and sitting by my bed waiting to be read, I’ll still grab one more. And while I have a tendency to gravitate towards book I’ve read about online or in the newspapers or heard featured on NPR, time and time again I’ll grab a book that’s completely unfamiliar to me, usually by an author I’ve never heard of. By taking these little literary “leaps of faith” over the years I’ve discovered a number of excellent books.
Robert Barron’s 2011 book Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith is yet another one of those books. Despite being completely unfamiliar with its author Robert Barron and his book Catholicism, nevertheless I still took a chance and plucked it off the new books shelf during one of my recent library visits. My goodness I’m really glad I did. Barron’s book is an incredibly readable, engaging and illuminating reflection on the Catholic faith. It’s a book that Catholics will love and non-Catholics like myself will respect and enjoy.
Writing simply but with clarity and elegance, Barron refuses to present his subject matter in a dry, linear fashion like most writers would when tasked with writing a history of, or at the very least an introduction to, the Catholic faith. According to Barron, if one is to fully understand the Catholic Church then one must realize the overwhelming centrality of the incarnation is to the faith. Just as God became human in the form of Jesus Christ, so also is the Holy Church a tangible, earthy and flesh and blood entity with human beings as its constituent parts. In order to show the fullness of the Church as it’s moved and continues to move through human history Barron, (much like Phyllis Tickle did with her recent book The Great Emergence) likens the Church to a residential attic in which countless things are accumulated over the years but nothing is ever thrown out.
Yes, through his book Barron does serve is an apologist for the Catholic faith. But who cares since he’s a dang good one. I found Catholicism stimulating as well as a pleasure to read. I’d place it alongside other excellent defenses of the faith such as Dinesh D’ Souza’s What’s So Great About Christianity and Omid Safi’s Memories of Muhammad: Why the Prophet Matters. Judging by the number of favorable comments the book has generated on both Goodreads and Amazon, (not to mention last week I happened to see Barron’s book prominently displayed at a local bookstore), Barron’s book will continue to be well-received. This is an excellent book.