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On Being Catholic Paperback – Feb 1 1997


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 263 pages
  • Publisher: Ignatius Pr; New edition edition (Feb. 1 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0898706084
  • ISBN-13: 978-0898706086
  • Product Dimensions: 20.1 x 13.2 x 2.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 318 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #79,943 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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First Sentence
To speak of the Roman Catholic Church as glad tidings is to rouse scandal and incredulity in some quarters. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
Thomas Howard is a former evangelical, turned Anglican, turned Catholic, and an editor-at-large for Christianity Today. His Evangelical credentials were very impressive, and so is his case for the Catholic Faith. Howard does not sling Scripture at the reader, nor does he attempt to do fundamentalist-style apologetics. Had he done this I probably would have put it down after the first page.
Howard's style reminds me a lot of C.S. Lewis'. When I first read of this comparison on the back cover I was dubious. However, his writing is laced with references to classical literature and a variety of philosophies. His knowledge of secular and Christian thought is quite impressive, as is his Latin and English vocabulary. Like Lewis, he seamlessly and clearly articulates his thoughts in a way that is quite beautiful without being superficial. Like Lewis, he also handles objections to his ideas as he writes, anticipating the objections various types of readers might have. While it is likely that Lewis will be read long after Howard, this is no reason to dismiss the importance of what Howard has to say.
For me, what makes his work so impressive is that he appeals to the deep need that humans have for tradition, religious encounter, symbol, sacrament, ritual, etc. Much of the book is based not on cold logic, but on human need and longing. A good example is when he explains the need that humans have for ceremony and ritual, and how eventually we "give external shape to what is in our hearts." He explains how when we internally remember a birthday, we give visible and external shape to this inner matter through common birthday rituals like candles, cakes, and presents. These rituals do not supersede the inner reality, but give meaningful shape to it.
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Format: Paperback
I bought this book at Barnes & Noble just over a year ago, maybe a month or two before summer, which was when I finally was able to read it. Now, it wasn't even my copy of the book that I read, for a girl I worked with was quite interested in what the Catholic Church is "all about", so I lent it to her.
That summer, I found myself doing volunteer work in the South Bronx with the Missionaries of Charity, and, lo and behold, this gem of a book was on their bookshelf. Next to it were also "Evangelical is not Enough" and "Chance or the Dance?" I first read "Chance or the Dance?", since it was shorter, then made my way to the book in review.
I must say that I wasn't used to the big vocabulary at all, but I loved the style of writing; it reminded me of C.S. Lewis, a long time favorite of mine. The big vocabulary may scare some away, but, as one reviewer recommended, I kept a dictionary nearby for the chance occasion when "reading in context", as we were all taught in English Class, just wouldn't cut it for me (the dictionary also helped me learn how to pronounce such words as "babushka" and "ebullient", which I had never come across before).
The range in chapter topic is quite nice. I can't quite say that it "covers everything", but I can certainly say that it suffices. I shall digress for a moment, and talk a wee bit more about his writing style. I think what I told my Mother last night in reference to this here book sums up my thoughts on his style of writing: "I feel like I'm reading poetry."
This book is just short of flawless. The only thing that I don't like, is his usage of the term "Roman Catholic Church" in reference to the whole Catholic Church.
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Format: Paperback
Despite his being a prolific and engaging writer, Howard's books have only shown up willy nilly, here and there throughout the years. Students may have taken his classes at Gordon College or St. John's Seminary. He wrote an entertaining column in the New Oxford Review when that was still an Episcopalian journal. His biography, Christ the Tiger, and a beautifully written apologetics book, Chance or the Dance, went in and out of print in various editions. He gave seminars at the C.S.Lewis Institute held at Seattle Pacific University, and wrote a wonderful book on the novels of Charles Williams, published by Oxford University Press.
That doesn't exhaust where you may have come across Thomas Howard, but those are a few places I ran into him. He described himself once in the New Oxford Review as sitting on a cliff overlooking Rome, dangling his legs off the end, and wondering how long it would be until he jumped. As it turned out, not only Howard, but editor Dale Vree, and everyone else associated with that publication jumped--with the magazine shifting from lively Episcopalian discussions to lively Catholic ones. Eventually I followed Howard and another favorite writer, Malcom Muggeridge, and jumped off myself.
Fortunately, my sponsor gave me this book as a confirmation gift. I say fortunately, because Howard describes a worst-case church service of the sort I experienced as a new convert in a new church. If not for this book, I would never have gone back, and never found the sort of joy and belonging that follows the awkwardness and discomfort of exploring something new.
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