Friday 19 May 2006

May Crowning, Mass and Merton: And Other Reasons I Love Being Catholic by: Liz Kelly

May Crowning, Mass and Merton:
And Other Reasons I Love Being Catholic
Liz Kelly
Layola Press
January 2006
ISBN 0829420258
270 pages.

This is a fascinating little volume, part meditation, part, biography and part theology. Liz Kelly open’s up to us her life and her faith and in doing so can help us to understanding our own faith and tradition better. She examines the things, traditions, places and people that are a source of encouragement, challenge and trial to her faith, and through these pense’s and thoughts opens our eyes to see Catholicism in anew light. As she states in her prologue “One: It’s hard. Being Catholic has taught me about balance and prudence and the deep joys of daily discipline and commitment…Two: It’s Hard. Sometimes it is painful to be Catholic, not because of rules and regulations so often associated with being Catholic are so restrictive, but because the love of heaven leads us to fearless expansiveness…”(p.XIII, XIV) Yes being Catholic can be hard but as Kelly shows us it has much in the way of consolation and rewards to make the hardships worth the efforts.

Kelly has separated her book into five roughly equal parts that examine different aspects of the Catholic tradition:
  1. Objects with Meaning
  2. Those who Journey With Us
  3. Devotion in Practice
  4. Truths That Bring Grace
  5. Rhythms of the Faith
In each of these area’s she examines different elements and examples of peoples, places, things, beliefs and practices that are means of grace in our lives. She opens up each of these categories like a flower blooming in an ever progressive way to draw us deeper into understanding the faith she is explaining to us.

In the first section she examines such elements as the Crucifix, Holy Water, incense, the Rosary, kneelers … and through them helps us to focus our faith on what matters most. She states “I don’t think heaven needs my burning candle any more than it needs holy water or incense. Sacramentals are for us, because we are sensory beings, and symbolism and sacramentals help infuse the spiritual into other planes of our experience – physical, emotional, mental.”(p.12) In exploring these items she opens us to the grace inherent in the use of them as tools to draw us closer to God. Not as an end in themselves, but as a means to an end.

In looking at the lives of some of those who journey with us in this quest for faith and a life in God, Kelly shares some of those examples of saints and people of faith who’s stories can be a source of challenge, inspiration and encouragement in our own journey with God. In Writing about Pope John Paul II Kelly says: “This picture is famous now, Pope John Paul II and his would be assassin, sitting together in intimate conversation two years after the incident. The Holy Father leaning toward the man with gentle attention, …He was unafraid of the vulnerability created by living in forgiveness, of sitting in total love with the enemy.”(p.59) Later while reflecting on the Communion of Saints Kelly reminds us of our own call to be saints, “Most saints did not have easy lives. Many were persecuted and martyred. They were an odd lot, many of them outcasts who experiences every kind of human suffering and weakness. And many of them began as ordinary folks like you and me.”(p.81) She also reminds as that our service is to be done for God “Like many of the saints of the church, Pier Giorgio seemed to lead two lives, not contradictory lives, but one that people observed and one that was hidden.”(p.98) So too our lives should bear silent witness to the work of God in and through us.

Through these examples and the many more that Kelly presents she shows a faith that is rich, vibrant and challenging. This book’s greatest strength is the devotion in which it was written and the sentiment of finding peace in the journey of life. Peace that ultimately can only come from God, but we have a gracious God who has given us many tools to help us along out part. This book is once such tool, for it reveals to us so many other tools that God has provided.

(First Published in St. Anthnoy Messenger June 2006 Book Review Section)

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