Saturday, January 7, 2012

Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith by Robert Barron

My Latest Book Review

Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith
by Robert Barron

(Image Books) ISBN: 978-0-307-72051-1 
e-book: 978-307-72053-5

At 280 pages, I thought this book would be one of those that requires several weeks to digest, a chapter a week. On the contrary, as I began reading I couldn’t stop. Granted, I have seen and heard Fr. Robert Barron on youtube and and knew of his affable personality and gifted homiletic style, but his writing is just as engaging and in-depth.
Now, to be sure, this is not a catechetical presentation of the faith, at least not in the style of a traditional catechism, per se, but Barron’s exploration and explanation of the Catholic faith is refreshing and invigorating. No doubt there will be those who will critique his approach as being too thin or too light, but his intent from the very beginning was to plunge the reader into the mystery of the Incarnation and the heart of the Paschal Mystery.

He begins with: “we are destined for Divinization” for “God descended to enter into flesh so that our flesh might partake of the divine life, that we might participate in the love that holds the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in communion.” This is called “theiosis, transformation into God.”
Throughout the book he illuminates the Catholic worldview that is a way of life and a relationship with God, who is always a Mystery, and with the Church, which is a collection of broken sinners in the hands of a loving God.

He delves into the delightfully holy and subversive nature of the beatitudes, the problem of evil, Mary, the Apostles and Saints, the Church as the Body of Christ, the Mass and the gift of the Eucharist, the Lives of the Saints, the many types of prayer, and the role of the Holy Spirit.

He gives us a sampling of diverse saints: Peter Maurin, Dorothy Day, Pope John Paul II, Katherine Drexel, Therese of Lisieux, Edith Stein, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Thomas Merton, St. John of the Cross, and Teresa of Avila.

The false hopes of Wealth, Pleasure, Power and Fame - the four classical addictions - were despised by Christ on the cross, Barron explains. “The crucified Jesus was detached from wealth...stripped naked...detached from pleasure...bereft of power...and completely detached from the esteem of others...hung from an instrument of torture...he endured the ultimate of dishonor.”

“But what did Jesus love on the Cross? He loved the will of the Father.”

In a timely passage of the book, Barron discusses the Path of Nonviolence that was so refreshing to hear from such a prominent Catholic spokesperson for the Church.

Peter Maurin, the cofounder of the Catholic Worker, claimed that the gospel of Christ, especially Matthew 25:31-46, the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, is equivalent to “dynamite.” “He wondered what society would look like if those ideals were the foundation of the political and social order.”

Peter Maurin was inspired by the social teachings of the Church, such as Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum novarum  and the line: “Once the demands of necessity and propriety have been met, the rest that one owns belongs to the poor.” The social teachings of the church are not new. Thomas Aquinas wrote: “While the ownership of private property is allowed, the use of private property should always be for the common good.” Maurin and Dorothy Day advocated the Principle of Subsidiarity and it is clear that Barron is inviting his readers to ignite the dynamite of the Church.

There are many surprisingly wonderful sections in this book, but two that I will specifically mention are his excursus on the Real Presence of the Eucharist and his exposition on Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell.

As Robert Barron said of his book: “What I propose to do in this book is to take you on a guided exploration of the Catholic world, but not in the manner of a docent, for I am not interested in showing you the artifacts of Catholicism as though they were dusty objets d’art in a museum of culture. I want to function rather as a mystagogue, conducting you ever deeper into the mystery of the incarnation in the hopes that you might be transformed by its power.”

Barron writes: “I stand with the theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, who held that the truth of Catholicism is best appreciated from within the confines of the church, just as the windows of a cathedral, drab enough when seen from the outside, shine in all of their splendor when viewed from the inside. I want to take you deep within the cathedral of Catholicism, because I’m convinced that the experience will change and enhance your life.”

Father Robert Barron has delivered on his word.

Father Robert Barron is an acclaimed author, speaker, and theologian. He is the Francis Cardinal George Professor of Faith and Culture at Mundelein Seminary near Chicago and also is the founder of Word On Fire (
Fr. Barron is the creator and host of CATHOLICISM, a groundbreaking ten-part documentary series and study program about the Catholic faith. He is a passionate student of art, architecture, music and history, which he calls upon throughout his global travels in the making of the documentary.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the above book for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”