Thursday, April 3, 2014

Book Review: Catholic by Choice

As a priest I meet a lot of inquirers, people who are interested in the Church but not sure about joining or not. Some have done a lot of reading and online research and are ready to make the plunge as they say and others are more tentative. Those who do want to join the parish are not really 'converts' as most people think; basically they are changing their affiliation from one Christian body to the next. In all of my years in parish ministry only a few were who I would consider really "converts" in that sense of the word; a conversion from atheism or non-belief to a full fledged Christian. However, spiritual journeys are spiritual journeys and everyone has their own story. My job is not so much to inculcate information to the neophytes but to help form and shape them into the Christian faith.

Richard Cole's new book Catholic by Choice (Loyola Press, 2014) is a memoir about one man's spiritual journey. The book opens up in a Benedictine Monastery in Texas which has "seen better days" according to Cole's description; Quonset huts, aluminum siding falling off the chapel, and an old decrepit dock. His three day getaway retreat begins the stirring of a spiritual journey which leads from basically a chaotic professional and personal life to a life of faith in a Catholic parish. He envisioned the Hilton but what he got was Motel 6! I've been in similar situations where sometimes the amenities at retreat centers are far from comfortable, but as a monk-friend told me, "we do that for a reason, we don't want folks hanging around here too long!" He's probably right. Basically they want you to visit but they also want you to leave too!

I don't want to give too much of the book away but Cole's spiritual journey leads him to get sober, find a work-home balance, and realize that life is more than going, going, going. As a business writer he lands a job writing text for a business website and from what I gather the Boss as she calls sounds like Tiger Mom; bold, brazen, and bossy. Life is not easy at home or at work. Cole's however that being in a parish with three very good parish priests helps him find his peace.

Catholic by Choice is a quick read, his fine writing style combined with funny anecdotes keeps the pages turning. However the last fifty or so pages of dramatic buildup to his being received into the Catholic Church seemed a bit forced and sounded like diary or journal entries. They probably were, but that's okay. This small detraction shouldn't give the reader pause. Cole's journey, is a journey which many people have had or will have one day. I am glad Cole's found the peace that he was so desperately looking for.

I commend Cole's for his honesty and humor. The bibliography and resources at the end of the book are also a nice addition and I was surprised to see that I have read most of the books that he lists which is affirming.

For more information of Catholic by Choice click here