by Michael Bettigole, OSF and James D. Childs
Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.
This text is about conveying the Catholic vision! What a delightful enterprise! The entire book is to help students understand the teachings of Catholicism in a personal way, to bring the tradition of the faith to life, and to make real the life of grace. The anthology will expose students and teachers to classic expressions of faith that convey the richness of the Catholic religious vision. This vision has an intellectual content, a series of beliefs that have been passed down throughout history from one generation to the next. As St. Paul said when instruction the Church of Corinth about the Mystery of the Eucharist, “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you…” (1Cor:11:23)
So the purpose of The Catholic Spirit is to make available to contemporary Catholics some great literary and artistic works that take God, religion and spirituality seriously. The expectation is that by joining together the teaching of the Church as outlined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church with works of art and literature that express that tradition in a personal way, you will be able to understand your faith not only with your mind but with all the strength and power of your heart and soul. The catechism of the Catholic Church presents the articles of faith in a precise and systematic fashion. By its very nature it is meant to teach rather than inspire. The pages of this text are filled with stories and poems, art works and music that is organized around the four pillars of the Catechism in order to assist all in understanding the relation that God has made to his people in an imaginative and emotional way, and how these expressions can impact your own personal experience of God. These stories, poems, works of art, films and musical selections are meant to convey a range of imaginative experiences of knowing and loving God. The authors are hoping that the reader will experience the loving kindness of God in a new way through your study.
The four units of the Catholic Spirit parallel the four parts of the Catechism of the Catholic Church which includes: the profession of Faith(what we believe); the celebration of the Christian Mystery(How we touch God and how He touches us); life in Christ(how we should live); prayer(how we talk to God and how God talks to us). Besides literature, examining art, film, and music can help you make deeper connections with truths of faith. Special features within each unit introduce works of art, film and music.
In the modern age, many composers have used contemporary secular music as a means to engage the congregation with music that is easily sung and easily understood. This many liturgies use the musical vocabulary of jazz, rhythm and blues, and country folk tunes as a vehicle for music about God. Although the music used for the worship of God has changed over time, all forms of liturgical music have the same goal: to involve the congregation in a musical experience that assists them in raising their hearts and minds to God.
The book has excellent activities and a call to the reader to read for understanding. The print is easy to read and inviting. There is a complete index and references. It is a book that the reader can pick up and put down easily. It is a book filled with information that is readable and readily usable. It is an excellent investment in Catholicism!