How Can You Still Be Catholic?

by Christopher Sparks, Marian Press, £11

Christopher Sparks, an American blogger, asked his Facebook friends to finish the question: “How can you be a Catholic when … ?” The replies came thick and fast, Sparks set to work on his answers, and this book is the end result.

Sparks writes because he loves Christ and his Church. He encourages fellow Catholics to take heart, to be secure and confident in their possession of ultimate truth. And he encourages others to remain at least curious about the claims to the truth made by the Church (though, if they are not true, Sparks observes, these claims are “arrogant, impossible, insane and demonic”). He comes across as kind-hearted, bright, honourable, sincere, relentless. He is unflinching in his adherence to traditional teaching on faith and morals. He can be lyrical at times, rousing too, and near-ecstatic when writing of God’s love for all.

Sparks certainly cannot be accused of not “fronting up” (as rugby players like to say) to the challenges put before him. He makes a staunch and imaginative defence of Church bureaucracy and paperwork (things no one normally defends in any context). His arguments for the rightful place of the Church and tradition alongside Scripture are spot on. His case for the Catholic faith as something both highly simple and highly complex – rather, that is, than the needless complication of a simple message – is compelling and liable, I would have thought, to give some sceptics pause.

He also has the power to stop us readers in our tracks occasionally, as, for instance, when he asks us to “savour the weirdness” of the Holy Family. Mary and Joseph taught Jesus “how to walk, how to talk, how to live in their society, how to obey the law, and so on. They taught Him. They taught God.”

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