October 4, 2013

Editor emeritus’ latest book offers lessons in faith

Reviewed by Mike Krokos

Cover of Mere Catholicism: What the Catholic Church teaches and practicesIf you read John F. Fink’s faith-based column published each week on The Criterion’s Perspectives page, then you will no doubt enjoy sitting down and digesting his latest book, Mere Catholicism: What the Catholic Church teaches and practices.

Published by Xlibris, the book is a compilation of many of Fink’s “Year of Faith” columns that are currently running in The Criterion. A few chapters also began as talks that he gave about Catholicism.

The 42 short chapters for the book (they are two pages each) were written first, then condensed for publication in the archdiocesan newspaper.

As our editor emeritus points out in the book’s preface, the title is a play on another respected author’s book dealing with faith.

“C.S. Lewis’ masterpiece of Christian apologetics, Mere Christianity, was about Christianity in general, carefully refraining from teaching the doctrine of any particular denomination,” Fink writes. “Mere Catholicism explains specifically what Catholics believe and practice.”

But while Lewis’ book tried to avoid controversial subjects, Fink’s does not.

“Anybody who knows a number of Catholics will realize that not all of them agree about everything. There are so-called conservative Catholics, and there are liberal or progressive Catholics. Some Catholics are Democrats, and some are Republicans,” Fink writes. “Some Catholics go to Mass daily and pray frequently throughout the day, and others are less devout. In other words, there is a legitimate pluralism in the Catholic Church.

“However, there are also basic doctrines that all Catholics are expected to believe and there are basic devotions that Catholics practice. Most of those doctrines—but not all—are included in the Catholic Church’s two creeds, the Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed. Anyone who doesn’t accept those doctrines should not go around calling himself or herself a Catholic.

“Just as C. S. Lewis’ book Mere Christianity was meant to be non-controversial for all Christians, so this book is meant to be non-controversial for all Catholics. It includes many doctrines and devotions that Lewis didn’t touch on because those are doctrines and devotions that the Catholic Church teaches and practices. They might be controversial among different Christian denominations, but they shouldn’t be controversial for Catholics.”

From a chapter on “The Incarnation” to a chapter on “The Resurrection,” from an explanation of our “devotion to Mary” to chapters explaining “heaven and hell” and “purgatory,” the book offers quick lessons on what our faith teaches us as Catholics, and how those beliefs should shape our everyday lives.

As Fink adds in the preface, “It is meant both for Catholics, to give them a better understanding of what their Church teaches and practices, and for people who might be attracted to the Catholic Church, perhaps precisely because of its doctrines and devotions.”

However, the author also warns readers that the book is not a catechism.

“Thankfully, the Catholic Church now has excellent catechisms, including the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, both of which I quote frequently—and consulted even more frequently if I didn’t actually quote from them.

“Both of those catechisms, though, are lengthy, and I thought Catholics, and those considering Catholicism, should have something a bit more manageable. I hope the length of this book is about right.”

We believe it is, and we also think the book would be a great resource to share with teenagers hoping to grow in their lives of faith, people considering joining the faith, and Catholics—young or old—who are looking for digestable answers to what our faith teaches and why.

(Mike Krokos is editor of The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. To order Mere Catholicism: What the Catholic Church teaches and practices, contact Xlibris Corp. by phone at 1-888-795-4274 or visit the website www.2Xlibris.com. The book is also available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Amazon is selling the printed paperback for $11.74 and a Kindle edition for $3.99. Barnes and Noble’s price for the printed paperback is also $11.74. Its Nook Book edition is $3.49. The book will also be available at The Celtic Cross Catholic Gift Shop, 1512 W. 86 St., Indianapolis.)

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