Thomas GROOME: What Makes Us Catholic. Eight Gifts For Life. New York : HarperSanFranscisco, 2002. pp. 314 $ 23.95 Hardcover. ISBN 0060-6339-80.
Reviewed by Biff ROCHA, University of Dayton, Dayton OH 45420

Welcome to a celebration of what makes Catholicism beautiful. Boston College Theology professor and religious educator, Thomas Groome presents What Makes Us Catholic: Eight Gifts For Life as a passionate declaration of the Catholic spirit. This book attempts to describes eight distinctive emphases he believes are shared by all Catholics, from Ted Kennedy to Pat Buchanan, and from pop-star Madonna to Mother Angelica.

The book began in response to a quip in a bar. "Maybe you should write a book about that -- what it means to be Catholic, even after you've left the church" (xiii). What Makes Us Catholic is a book for those people of God who have hung up their rosaries and stopped attending Mass, but who have really not left Catholicism. The author describes his audience as ranging from the devout to the alienated, radical reformers to defenders of the status quo; from tired cradle-members to curious catechumens and enthusiastic neophytes; from baby-boomers who feel that Vatican II has been betrayed to GenXers who wonder what the boomers are whining about. Groome recognizes that today people don't just disagree with the Church, they ignore it. Thus What Makes Us Catholic is an open arms welcoming introduction, or perhaps re-introduction, to the life of the Church.

Groome begins by asking the "Big questions" of human existence, then organizes the responses which have been drawn from the depths of Catholicism's rich legacy. Sacramentality and community; justice, an appreciation of human potential and fallibility; a reverence for tradition, universal care, a Catholic imagination, and a faith-based spirituality that permeates every day, are the eight attitudes or qualities that mark the Catholic Christian. Each chapter begins with a personal story illustrating the particular way of thinking, which is further explained in the chapter. Sewn within the warm narrative are questions for reflection. Each section then concludes with suggested practices to exercise that particular quality of faith.

Groome presents what he sees as the best of Catholicism, downplaying the hierarchy and emphasizing aspects more palatable to contemporary tastes such as the Church's affirmation of all great religions and inclusiveness. Groome maintains Catholic Christianity is marked by an overwhelmingly positive attitude toward the human condition and the world. Life is to be celebrated and enjoyed, cherished and defended. The Catholic faith insists that people are essentially good, drawing a contrast with the Calvinist emphasis prevalent in America which stresses our totally fallen nature. Because it is free of religious jargon the book will not intimidate those who feel they have little theological background. While it might not be at an appropriate level to challenge college students, it would be an excellent resource for adult education programs, faith sharing groups, youth retreats and personal reflection. With only about ten endnotes per chapter, the book lacks sufficient documentation to be a solid reference for deeper academic study. It is written for the disillusioned audience, individuals who are searching for an essential connection. Groome's invitation is for the people who, if it really came down to it, might want to put their faith into action. Sensitively written with an ecumenical spirit What Makes Us Catholic should appeal to non-Catholic readers as well as Catholics of all degrees.

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