Item description for On Being Catholic by Thomas Howard...
Overview In his first full-length book since converting to Roman Catholicism over ten years ago, Thomas Howard presents his wonderful, refreshing insights on the "glad tidings" of the deeper meaning of Catholic piety, dogma, spirituality, vision and practice, rendered in the unique style of prose for which he is well-known. The book's chapters take the form of lay meditations on Catholic teaching and practice, opening up in practical and simple terms the richness at work in virtually every detail of Catholic prayer, piety, liturgy and experience.
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Studio: Ignatius Press
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 7.9" Width: 5.2" Height: 0.9" Weight: 0.75 lbs.
Release Date Feb 1, 1997
Publisher Ignatius Press
ISBN 0898706084 ISBN13 9780898706086 UPC 008987060840
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More About Thomas Howard
Thomas Howard was a Professor of English and Literature for over 30 years. He is the author of numerous popular books including Chance or the Dance, Dove Descending: T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets, On Being Catholic, Lead Kindly Light and Evangelical is Not Enough.
Thomas Howard currently resides in Boston, in the state of Massachusetts. Thomas Howard was born in 1934.
Thomas Howard has published or released items in the following series...
Reviews - What do customers think about On Being Catholic?
This book is very informative Apr 5, 2008
Excellent book for all catholic it reminds you why you are and also is good for those who just became catholic.
Catholic to the Core Mar 13, 2008
Among the new breed of Catholic apologists, none are as rewarding to read as Thomas Howard. Raised in a prominent Evangelical family, his move first to Anglicanism and then to Rome caused him some personal trials as he lost both friends and employment because of his beliefs. Despite this, he has remained grateful for the lessons of the faith he received in his former ecclesial homes and sees his path as one of completion and not repudiation of what went before.
In On Being Catholic, Howard outlines his reasons for joining the Catholic Church with a humble passion that is the hallmark of his writing. This humility is important to Howard - he is adamant that it is not his place to reinvent the faith of the Church to his own liking. We are not to reinvent the faith with every generation so to make it easier to digest for contemporary sensibilities but faithfully follow, preserve, and pass on the truths that have been handed over to us.
Howard begins by making note of the inherent religious nature of man. As much as militant atheists may have in the past harped (and continue to do so) about their way being the wave of the future, kyries continue to be sung, prayers made in a thousand tongues, and coversions made in countless places around the globe. Atheism is ultimately a dead end and the question for the believing Christian remains of how we are to worship God. That is, what do we do when we enter the God's presence? For Howard, the answer is as simple: We do what Christians have done for two millennia - we join together in the liturgy to hear the Word. We baptize believers. We break bread, and drink from the cup. In both Word and Sacrament, we do as Christ himself has commanded.
Howard contends the Church finds its purpose in its liturgiy under the authority of a bishop and ultimately the Bishop of Rome. There may be different rites but the same basic outline is followed by all. No one may worship another way as a matter of personal preference. The Catholic Church is not, Howard claims, arrogant to insist others commit to her way of doing things. If one believes what the Catholic Church teaches, then it is as simple as truth and error. On the Catholic side, there is no record of any type of worship common to modern Evangelicalism prior to the last few centuries. All Christians with a history back to the early Church also worships using one of the historic liturgies. This is true for the Eastern Orthodox and other Eastern Churches as well as those who follow Rome.
Howard emphasizes how the liturgy affects the Catholic view of the act of corporate worship. Unlike most of Protestantism, it is not just a gathering of fellow Christians but a participation in the re-presentation of the one the one true sacrifice at Calvary. When a Catholic goes to Mass, it is the union of all the Church throughout time as the veil between this world and the heavenly realms is opened. The Eucharist becomes the real body and blood of Christ for the Church to feed upon and it is in this great mystery that the Church is made one throughout time and space. The Mass itself may be seen as a "diagram of glory" where the "work of the people" is to participate in this great mystery. Hence, attendance at Mass for the Catholic is never just "going to church".
Turning then to salvation, Howard points out that Catholic teaching differs greatly in the understanding of what it means to be saved. For the Catholic, being saved by the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not a moment but a process that begins with their baptism continues throughout their life in the Church. He further points out the simple "sinners' prayer" salvation common to much of contemporary Evangelicalism is a recent innovation. Catholicism and the early Church held to a higher standard of commitment than one might deduce from watching a televangelist.
The alien nature of Catholicism to modern sensibilities continues even in so intimate an area as prayer. In Catholicism, prayer is not merely an intellectual or emotional activity but one that incorporates all the senses. Thus the artwork, the music, the incense, and the requests for the intercession of Mary and the Saints can leave most Protestants more than a little uneasy. Yet all of this is part of the great fabric of the Catholic faith and follows from the understanding granted to the Church throughout history.
All of this is integrated, the author adds, into the importance of the physical in Catholic theology. We are not disembodied creatures and the dualism where the physical is seen as bad and the spiritual as good within Evangelicalism is completely foreign to Catholic thought. Christ took on our flesh and we are to be redeemed body and soul to serve Him. Thus what we do with our bodies does have consequences - not because our flesh is to be disdained but because we are to use it in accordance with God's plan for mankind. It is this embracing of the physical and making it holy that separated true Christianity from its gnostic competitors and allows Catholics today to embrace the mystery of Christ dying on a cross or the hidden wonder of an obscure young woman giving birth to a child in an obsure village.
The Catholic is one, Howard emphasizes, who lives within the tradition of the Church. For many Protestants, tradition is a dirty word that conjures up visions of prelates and priests coming between the "simple truths of Scripture" and the humble peasant. Only the peasant has rarely been humble and the myriad of interpretations on important issues underscores that Scripture is often not quite as perspicuous as some would like to imagine. In this cafeteria like atmosphere of doctrinal innovation, the consistency of Catholic tradition through the centuries is a guard against the chronic individualism common elsewhere.
In submitting oneself to the Catholic tradition and its demands on one's conscience, many suppose this is a surrender of one's freedom. Howard rejects this inference and claims that in becoming part of Christ's Church one finds a greater freedom than in the fleeting pleasures that the world associates with freedom. The mystery of the Church - including its discipline - opens our minds and hearts to a greater union with Christ in which we can experience true freedom and joy.
Howard finishes the book by examning a symbol associated closely with Catholicism that places many Protestants on edge: the crucifix. Again it is the Catholic embracing of the physical - even physical suffering - that allows this image of Christ suffering on the cross to hold such a central place in Catholic devotion. It gives comfort to many who suffer to be reminded that suffering is not always purposeless. This making visible the very physicalness of our salvation is in line with the entire sacramental view of the Church that is the core of Catholicism.
It would be a mistake to see this as a contentious book designed to make debating points in the endless squabbles along the Catholic/Protestant apologetics divide. It would also not be in keeping with Howard's generally charitable demeanor to engage in such argumentation. But do not mistake this charitableness for timidity or lack of conviction. In many ways, On Being Catholic is among the best books in defending Catholicism because instead of attacking Protestantism's weaknesses it focuses on Catholicism's strengths. There are certainly points where I believe Howard was a little too assured of the historicity of the papacy, but the overall power of the presentation and its understanding of the importance of the Sacramental life within historic Christianity ranks it among the most important popular Catholic books in recent memory.
Well worth your time... Apr 22, 2007
This book meaningfully explores and probes the "good tidings" of the Catholic church, measuring its teachings and concepts against preconceptions and objections by both non-Christians and, especially, non-Catholic Christians. Howard looks at a variety of topics moving from the general to the specific, from the question of whether man is essentially a religious being, through discussions of typical Christian subjects like the Gospels and evangelism, to considerations of particularly Catholic doctrines such as the Church's view of Mary and understanding of human freedom. Probably because he is a converted evangelical himself, Howard tends to be at his best contrasting Catholic and Prostestant views; the chapter which considers whether or not Catholics are "saved," for instance, is one of the book's best. He also excels in his treatments of Church tradition and prayer. A late chapter on "Hiddenness," primarily about gender, is probably the book's weakest mainly because Howard seems too tentative.
Reviewers like to compare Howard to C. S. Lewis; I don't wholeheartedly agree. There is the same tendency to work with apt analogy, of course. And Howard also works "in dialogue" as did Lewis, anticipating and answering objections as he goes. It's appealing and familiar, to be sure. But Howard tends to gush more than Lewis and a lot of his discussions get away from him. Lewis's voice is calm, solid, and reassuring in its peculiarly British sobriety. Howard's voice, on the other hand, bears the weight of much learning and enthusiasm. He's excitable and sometimes overwrought, like a old fashioned preacher. Consider his liberal peppering of the text with Latin phrases, something Lewis (a classics professor) certainly could have done but didn't rely on so much. All this is not to say Howard is less worthy, only that his style is perhaps not so accessible as Lewis's to a wide variety of reader.
Of course this is a nitpick, offered here only because of the common comparison to Lewis. In general, the book is fine, rewarding reading for both the committed Catholic or the curious non-Catholic. For the most part Howard manages to be open-minded and conservative at the same time, not an easy trick.
What it means to really BE Catholic Apr 6, 2007
As a convert to Catholicism I had already been introduced to Mr. Howard's work in his book "Lead Kindly Light" and had been very impressed with how well he told not only his story of conversion but mine as well. Because of that experience I couldn't wait to get started on this book once I had it but I have to admit that I was a little disappointed in this one. It may be that the other book was just so good that I expected too much of this book, it may have been that the author seemed to delight in using big and sometimes archaic words, or it may have been that this book was a little deeper than the other one but whatever the reason I found this book to be a little dry in comparison to "Lead Kindly Light."
That being said, I would still say that this is one of the better books on the subject of what it means to be Catholic. Having been raised an evangelical Protestant this author is very aware of the horrible misconceptions that many Protestants have about the Catholic Church and is also very aware of the kind of questions that evangelical Protestants sometimes ask Catholics and he takes these questions and answers them in a clear and concise way. He points out that many of the questions Catholics are asked don't resonate at all with them because the question is based on something that is just not part of their belief system. To help clear up these misunderstandings he takes the time to explain to the Catholic reader the background of questions like, "Are you saved?" and then explains to the Protestant reader why they may get a blank stare if they ask this question of a Catholic.
Throughout the book Mr. Howard takes great pains to get to the very essence of what it means to be Catholic and takes on some major issues that divide Catholics and Protestants. He takes on the arguments over tradition, which was never hard for me to grasp as I journeyed home to the Catholic faith and he also takes on the veneration of the Blessed Virgin, which took a while for me to grasp. Everyone I suppose has different hang ups as they make or consider making this move and the author has done an excellent job of tackling most of the things that are most likely to be sticking points. As a side note since grasping the devotion to Mary I have become as devoted to our Blessed Mother as any cradle Catholic.
One significant positive that I found in this book is that the author, with the sensibilities of a former Protestant, backs everything he asserts with scripture. The Church Fathers are liberally quoted as is the Catechism but even the most dedicated disciple of the doctrine of scripture alone will find every one of Mr. Howard's points to be clearly documented by scripture. Curious Protestants will find that this book answers a lot of their questions and devout Catholics will find that this book brings home the truly glorious experience that it is to be Catholic. I would especially recommend this book to any Protestant who is curious about the Catholic faith of a close relative and to any non-Catholic who is married to or about to marry a Catholic.
Another Gem Jan 23, 2007
Thomas Howard's work was instrumental in my conversion from evangelical protestantism to Roman Catholicism. He is consistently Chestertonian and Lewisian. He presents the protestant concerns with more rhetorical flourish than they normally do. On Being Catholic is no exception and I thoroughly enjoyed it.