I’ve always had this problem where I get really nervous about talking about my faith with non-Catholics but at the same time I can’t keep quiet about it because it is who I am. I think I’ve gotten better with age. There was a point in my life when I stressfully felt like I had to convince people of the truth of my faith. But now, it’s more like this is a beautiful thing that informs every aspect of my life so it’s just bound to spill over into conversation wherever I am whoever I’m with.
Most of my friends growing up were not Catholic, and I remember them saying that they could never be Catholic because of all the things you would have to know.Now I think I understand. Looking from the outside in it does seem like there’s just so much seemingly superfluous stuff: all the patron saints and feast days and icons and statues and priests and nuns in strange clothes and titles of Mary (and what is it with Catholics and Mary anyway?). But at the time, the idea that there was too much to learn left me reeling. It was like saying you could never go to school because there was too much to learn. Or that you could never get married because there too much to get to know about a person. Too much to know and to love.
In college, I read Evelyn Waugh’s words on conversion and I wish I had known them before then, because it put into words those innate feelings I had:
“Conversion is like stepping across the chimney piece out of a Looking-Glass world, where everything is an absurd caricature, into the real world God made; and then begins the delicious process of exploring it limitlessly.”
And then I wish I had The Catholic Catalogue on hand. Not because I think everyone must be Catholic and must be Catholic this instant. (I think everyone should be wherever God wants them to be.) But just in case they were curious about all the seemingly superfluous stuff.
If conversion, as Evelyn Waugh makes it out to be, is the limitless exploration of a new land, The Catholic Catalogue, subtitled A Field Guide to the Daily Acts that Make Up a Catholic Life, is like a guide book for that journey.
Written by a mother-daughter team who runs a website by the same name, the book is organized in different sections titled: Smells and Bells (topics include among others: relics, oils and incense, praying the rosary, and processions), Seasons of the Church Year (describing how to keep and celebrate Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Ordinary Time as well as the various feasts within those seasons), and Seasons of Life (explaining sacraments and different vocations but also giving practical advice for things like naming a child, finding a spiritual director, and choosing a Catholic tattoo).
I think what I love most about this book is that it’s coffee table evangelization. It’s the sort of book that would have piqued my interest as a kid. I have this feeling that a good deal of imaginative, spiritual formation is actually hands off with raising children. (Maybe I think that because it keeps me from stressing about the enormous task of making sure your kids end up decent and faithful people.) It made a big deal in my childhood that there were simply good books around me. So I think exposing the natural curiosity of children to truth and goodness and beauty in indirect ways goes a long way.
The Catholic Catalogue is also perfect for newly (or not so newly) married couples trying intentionally to make their home into a domestic church. It makes for an ideal reference book in creating a rule or rhythm for living out the Christian life that’s tailored to your family’s own particular needs and devotions. The spiritual nourishment it offers makes it a beautiful gift idea for any sacrament in a person’s life.
Basically, if I know you and you have a major Catholic life event coming up, you’re probably going to receive this book from me. You’re welcome in advance.