Tuesday, March 25, 2008


The Book: Thomas Greene, WHAT MAKES US CATHOLIC: Eight Gifts for Life. HarperCollins trade paperback reprint (sixth printing), 2002. Very good condition, minor water marks on first two pages.
First read: 2005
Owned since: 2005

I bought and read this book for a Lenten book club at my then-parish, St. Joseph's (now it's part of the consolidated St. Michael's), and when I just opened it, I caught a whiff of incense. Which is strange, because the book club met in the parish hall, not in the church itself.

My practice of Catholicism has always been undisciplined and haphazard; I go through cycles. It's not good, because -- as Groome points out -- Catholicism is all about the power and the gift of our community, unlike other faiths that emphasize a personal relationship with God.

That is not to say that we don't have personal relationships with God -- of course we do -- but it's equally important, if not more important, to be part of something larger. What Makes Us Catholic is organized around eight questions, and the fourth is, "Are We Made for Each Other?" This chapter addresses the paradox of individual vs. community directly: "Are relationships a pre-condition or an add-on to personhood? Do human beings become an "I" only through a "we," or are we first and foremost individuals who then enter tit-for-tat contracts for personal benefit?" The phrasing of that question makes the answer clear, at least for Groome.

One of the challenges of living in Gardiner is the relative isolation, which is countered by the reality of small-town life. The larger world is far away -- but my neighbors see everything I do, and I see what they do. In the summertime, when the windows open, we all hear everything that happens at this end of Water Street: who's sick, who's fighting, who's sad, who's angry at the neighbor's cat.

I'm always more aware of my isolation after company leaves. It was great to have Chris here for the weekend, and reminded me again that I live too far away from the people I care most about.

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