Be Bold. Be Catholic.

I thought the Feast of the Immaculate Conception might be a good day to bring you up to date on some things, in the hope that you might check out some of them yourself.

Back in September, I made my annual retreat at the Abbey of Gesthemani.  As you probably know, Gesthemani was the home of Thomas Merton, one of the great spiritual writers of the twentieth century.  If you’ve never been to the Abbey, I heartily recommend it.  They offer three and four day retreats.

Whenever I visit the Trappist monastery, I always come away with new thoughts and insights that help me with my ministry.  This visit was no exception.  I was in the library looking for something to read when I found two CDs by Matthew Kelly.  Kelly is a well-known Catholic writer and speaker, though his work was new to me.  The CDs are “Becoming the Best Version of Yourself and “The Seven Levels of Intimacy”. I don’t want to be overly dramatic, but these two CDs have changed my life.  As much as I read, I can’t imagine that I’ve never come across Kelly’s work before.

I hate to call these two programs “self-help” because I think that sells them short.  They’re so much more.  Yes, they’re about becoming a better you, but the spiritual component puts them far above the usual quick-fix books that seem to pop up on almost a daily basis.  Matthew’s premise is that God wants you to be the best that you can be and the path to being the best lies within the Catholic Church.

Kelly doesn’t do what a lot of writers do, which is to give you a bunch of platitudes and catchy phrases and let it go at that.  He gives us concrete steps; things that will actually help you become the best version of yourself.  I’m afraid I really can’t do Kelly’s work justice in a short blog post.  You’re going to have to dig into it yourself.  Besides, we’re all unique, we all have different experiences, and we all see things from our own perspective.  Keep reading and I’ll point you to a great offer.

When I got home I did some research and found that Kelly had written a book called “Rediscovering Catholicism”.  I ordered the book and I’m on my second reading of it.  Again, this is life changing stuff.  Long story short, the Church is in trouble.  Here’s a staggering statistic. 70% of Americans who call themselves “Catholic” don’t go to mass. How can that be?  I honestly don’t know.  But Matthew has founded an organization called “Dynamic Catholic” that is intent on changing that.  It’s dedicated to bringing fallen-away-Catholics back into the fold.

This is something that’s always interested me, primarily because of my own adult children’s drifting away.  I think you would be hard-pressed to find a baby-boomer Catholic who isn’t concerned about the same thing.  Ironically, I don’t know a single deacon in my area who isn’t praying for at least one of his children to come back to the Church.

Just this weekend my wife and I had the opportunity to hear Kelly speak in person.  What an awesome experience!  I left there determined to do whatever I can to reverse this non-Church-going Catholic trend.  I’m counting on you to do your part as well.  Here are some things you can do.

I paid full retail for Rediscovering Catholicism.  You don’t have to.  You can get the book for free.   Just pay shipping and handling.   Order it here.  I’ve also put a permanent link to the free book web page in the sidebar on the right.  Dynamic Catholic has a program for your parish to distribute the book to parishioners.  You can read about it on the site.  They also offer materials to facilitate parish discussion of the book.  You might consider ordering two copies, one for yourself and one for your pastor.  Personally, after reading my (full-price) copy, I ordered six more to share with my pastor, youth minister, music minister, and family.  (This would be a great, inexpensive, Christmas gift.)

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not in the business of selling books (at least, not yet.) But I love the Catholic Church and, frankly, can’t understand why more people don’t share my enthusiasm.  I hope Matthew Kelly and his organization are a rousing success.  They’ll ship over 1,000,000 copies of Matthew’s book this year.  Hopefully those books will be shared and read by more than one person.  Of course, some of them won’t be read at all.

But this is a message that needs to get out.  I’m going to do all that I can do to spread the world, through this blog, and in the rest of my ministry.  During this season of Advent, and especially on this feast day of Our Lady, I hope you’ll be moved to at least take a look at the Dynamic Catholicism web site.  There are also some videos of Matthew speaking on YouTube. There are some other videos here.

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