April 24, 2015

Vocations director, writer combine to update guide on Catholic faith

By Mike Krokos

Cover to the Idiot’s Guide to CatholicismThere are Idiot’s Guides for organizing your life and understanding Medicare and Social Security.

For those looking to boost their culinary skills, peruse the pages of Idiot’s Guides to Paleo slow cooking, baking, and canning and preserving.

And for those interested in learning and better understanding the Catholic faith, there is a new, updated version of Idiot’s Guides: Catholicism.

Published by Alpha Books, the book is co-authored by Julie Young and Father Eric Augenstein, vocations director for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis who also serves as sacramental minister at St. Agnes Parish in Nashville.

Though the two had never met before the project, both had a connection to the publisher, who put them together to work on updating the Catholicism guide.

“Luckily, we had several friends in common, we hit it off right away, and we both had a similar vision for what we wanted the book to be,” said Young, who holds degrees in writing and education from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in St. Mary-of-the-Woods, and grew up at St. Therese of the Infant Jesus (Little Flower) Parish in Indianapolis and is now a member of St. Michael Parish in Greenfield.

That vision was in part shaped by the publishers, Father Augenstein noted.

“Since the Idiot’s Guides is a secular series, our primary audience are non-Catholics and those who are curious—or misinformed—about Catholicism,” Father Augenstein said.

“We take nothing for granted in our readers, starting with a very basic description of faith and assuming that readers know nothing about Jesus Christ, Scripture or any particular Catholic beliefs. In a similar vein, we also had in mind fallen-away Catholics and uncatechized Catholics—anyone who has a limited understanding of what the Catholic Church believes and teaches, or how to live as a Catholic in today’s world.

“However, we also think the book is valuable for anyone looking for a good overview of Catholicism as a refresher, or as a tool for evangelization.”

Young agreed.

“I often joke that this book could be subtitled, ‘Now that you are paying attention, here’s what you agreed to.’ I say that with my tongue firmly in my cheek, but I think as Catholics, we often go through the motions, memorize the answers and pass the tests without really digesting where these teachings come from or breaking them down,” she said.

“The important thing in this kind of book is not to take anything for granted, not to make presumptions about what someone knows or doesn’t know, and to offer them a good foundation as to what Catholicism is all about.”

One challenge the co-authors faced, they said, was encapsulating 2,000 years of Catholic teaching and tradition.

“There is so much information that could be included in an overview of Catholicism,” Father Augenstein said. “Our biggest challenge was determining what we felt would be most necessary for people to understand, and to present that material in a way that was engaging and did not presume any previous knowledge.”

The priest also hopes readers understand that the Church is not an institution.

“It’s a network of relationships, between humanity and God, and among all of God’s children,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons we talk so much about saints, and share the stories of holy men and women who spent their lives striving to grow in love of God and neighbor. We want to put the personal face on Catholicism.”

Young agreed, adding that “although it tends to measure time by the century rather than the year or decade, the Catholic Church is a surprisingly progressive organization.

“While we may think of the language as old-fashioned or its teachings out of place with modern society, these concepts are not something that were hammered out lightly,” she said. “The Church is keenly interested in how new developments in science, technology and other areas of discovery fit into the established canon, and will shape its future for centuries to come.”

Father Augenstein added there is a lot of misinformation in the world about Catholicism—including within the Church.

“The goal of evangelization is to spread the Good News, and to help draw people into a relationship with God that animates their human relationships and compels them to continue to spread that Good News,” he said. “Our hope is that this book can be one of many available resources to aid in that work of evangelization.”

(Young and Father Augenstein will take part in a book signing from 2-4 p.m. on May 3 at the Barnes and Noble bookstore in the Greenwood Park Mall, 1251 South U.S. 31, Greenwood. Copies of the book will be available for $19.95, and proceeds from books sold that day will benefit Catholic education in the archdiocese. The book is also available at Bookmamas in Irvington, and online at retailers such as Amazon. It is also available as an e-book for Kindle and other e-readers.)

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