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"The Catholic Imagination"
on June 10, 2004
Before reviewing this book, I must take exception to some scathing denouncements of both Greeley and his works. Apparently, these people & I must not have read the same Greeley books (and since I have read nearly every Greeley book published to date, that would take some doing). If Greeley is a blasphemer, then so am I. If he is going to hell, then I want to go there with him. If Greeley hates God, then I must too, because I see God the same way as Greeley. For the record, I am a minister, a writer, an avid reader, a woman, and an unabashed Greeley fan. I find Fr. Greeley's vision of God is so empowering, especially for women, that I shudder to think of a God who is not like the Being that he describes, defends, and quite obviously, deeply loves. All I can suggest, to those who decry Greeley & his work, is to re-read all of his books-this time without the blinders. If this happens, then I think his detractors will find that Greeley's overall themes are much more beautiful, resonant, and inspiring than they originally thought.
Now, on to the book I'm supposed to be reviewing... "The Catholic Imagination" is yet another example of Greeley at his best. When I finished it, I still wanted more. In fact, I hope Fr. Greeley does see fit to write a sequel to this evocative, delicious, and wonderfully moving book. It felt like he wrote this one more in the same vein as his fiction, and I think it is preferable to the rigid, often dry prose many others use when writing about 'the big things,' (God, Humanity, and the Universe).
Like many others, I especially loved Chapter Two (Sacred Desire). But the chapter that touched me the most was Chapter Three (The Mother Love of God). Seeing Greeley acknowledge the older female goddesses, many of whom represent the same ideals as Mary, made me appreciate him all the more. I like the inclusiveness that resonates in all of Greeley's works (fiction and non-fiction alike), and I can't help but wonder; why aren't there more writers (and readers) doing the same? God is all about inclusiveness, unconditional love, and being in our lives, every second of every day, forever. Greeley gets it. He sees it, and he celebrates it, in every book, and I would imagine every sermon, and every class, he writes.
Once you've read this book, read at least two Greeley novels. "Contract with an Angel" and "The God Game" come immediately to mind. While reading them, remember all that you've gleaned from "The Catholic Imagination," and you will see what I mean when I say that this book was written more like his novels than his other non-fiction work. Greeley's special gift, or rather, one of his special gifts, is the ability to make God and the big issues more real and immediate. He makes them understandable, even the complex or perplexing stuff. What Greeley gives us is the gift of perception, and even, for some of us, introspection. He helps us to be better people, and he shows us a God who dearly and deeply loves each and every one of us, no matter what. That, in itself, is one of the most priceless gifts anyone can give another person.
Overall, I'd give this book a rating of 10, but Amazon only allows 5, so I will give it 5 and ask y'all to double it in your minds. Then, once you've done that, indulge in as many Greeley books as you can. It will be worth more than you can ever imagine.