Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Review: Introduction to Catholicism: A Complete Course

Introduction to Catholicism: A Complete Course
The Didache High School Textbook Series
2003, Midwest Theological Forum, 388 pages, hardcover, Catholic

Though this is an introductory test, it is quite thorough and well-documented. In style it is forthright, intelligent, and uncomplicated. Church teaching is succinctly but beautifully stated, and supported by plentiful quotes from Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and various popes and saints. One is left with a profound appreciation for the beauty and wisdom of the Church, a better understanding of the Catholic Faith, and a deep gratitude to Christ Who guides us still through His Church.

The book begins with a treatment of the basic teachings of the Church: the universal call to holiness and need for prayer, the Trinity, Mary, the Mother of the Church, and the Church as the Body of Christ. That is followed by a general discussion of revelation and the deposit of Faith entrusted to the Catholic Church through which we come to know God. But knowing God is not sufficient for fallen creatures. We need His grace to answer the call to holiness. Consequently, each of the sacraments is explained, and instances are given of persons exemplifying the grace peculiar to that sacrament. Having established how grace is made available to us, the book then explains why it is not sufficient: free creatures must cooperate with grace. Using the Ten Commandments as a frame, the book explains the cardinal virtues and the virtuous life. This book is absolutely and unapologetically faithful to the teachings of the Church, while also inspiring, and encouraging to all who strive to live the Catholic Faith.

What I most liked about this book was its clear presentation and the ordered progression of principles, also its direct application and connection to the world of today. This connection is most evident in the photos used, and in the choice of persons and saints. So many of these persons lived in recent times. This serves to accentuate the fact that God is working today, in and through each of us. Obvious efforts were made to meld the old with the new, the past with the present, reinforcing the truth that God has been with us always. Cross references show the Scriptural basis of the teachings of the Church and the connections made through them. This is especially important if Catholics are to share the Truth with other Christians; more so today, given that many Catholics lose their Faith, which they neither know nor understand, through the persuasions of other fervent Christians.

This book was written for high school students. Its treatment of sexual matters is thorough but appropriately limited. Because children and circumstances differ, it may not be as limited as a given child needs. Parents should read relevant portions themselves to determine whether these chapters suit their needs. We have used this book with two of our children, and both have deepened their understanding of, and appreciation for, their faith.

Recommended for Grade 9

Reviewed by Maria Rioux (2-28-07)

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