success stories

Posted March 25, 2003

Book: It's Not The Same Without You: Coming Home To The Catholic Church
Author: Mitch Finley
Doubleday, pp. 193

Excerpt from Jacket:

Sixty million people in the United States claim a Catholic identity. The next largest group — approximately nine million — is made up of people who are "fallen away" Catholics.

Mitch Finley addresses this audience, as well as parents struggling with the almost inevitable teenage rebellion against religion.

Finley examines a wide variety of reasons Catholics choose to leave the Church, treating each one in a fair-minded way. He recounts dozens of true stories about people who left and returned, a few about those who have yet to return, and candidly acknowledges that many — perhaps most — active Catholics experience periods of estrangement. Asking forgiveness on behalf of the Church for the ways lapsed Catholics may have been hurt by the institution or its official representatives, he also reminds readers that forgiveness needs to go both ways.

Encouraging Catholics to begin a new relationship with their religion, Finley suggests ways to become part of a parish once more. He also discusses the Church's obligations to those who have left, highlighting successful outreach programs. In guiding readers along the path from alienation to reconciliation, Finley shows that there are good reasons for "coming home again."

Excerpt from Book:

G.K. Chesterton, the great early twentieth-century English Catholic convert, compared the Catholic Church to a deep well and all other religions and philosophies to the shallow parts of a river or lake. "I could not abandon faith," Chesterton said, "without falling back on something more shallow than the faith. I could not cease to be a Catholic except by becoming something more narrow than a Catholic."

Remember that the word "Catholic" means "universal" or "all-inclusive." This is the ideal that the church that calls itself "Catholic" strives for. To repeat, then, no matter what anyone may see that is good, true, or beautiful in another religion, philosophy, or Christian tradition, that goodness, truth, and beauty is either already present in Catholicism or it is perfectly welcome in and compatible with Catholicism.

One of the best examples of this in the late twentieth century was Thomas Merton, the convert to Catholicism and Trappist monk who became a famous writer, poet, artist and social critic. Merton had a deep admiration for Buddhism and the disciplines of Zen meditation. He learned from Buddhism, participated in dialogue with Baptists and many other religious and philosophical traditions, and incorporated Zen meditation techniques into his own spirituality. In all this, however, Merton remained a deeply committed Catholic to his dying day. A few years prior to his death, Merton wrote in his personal journal: "There is nothing more important than the gift of Catholic Faith — and keeping that faith pure and clear."

If there is anything that is incompatible with Catholicism, it is anything that is less than good, true, or beautiful. If Catholicism shuts the door on something, it's because it somehow fails to measure up to being good, true, or beautiful.

. . . Why be Catholic? Here's why: "You will find in Catholicism the greatest potential to experience God's self-gift, or grace. You will find in the Catholic Church the most reliable opportunity to discover that truth about yourself, about other people, about life, and about the world we live in."

Table of Contents:

Part One
Understanding the Alienated Catholic
‘Lapsed' Catholics are people too
Chapter 1: Leaving the Church for understandable reasons

Chapter 2: Returning to the Church for many reasons

Chapter 3: Discovering that the Church changed while you were away

Chapter 4: Letting go of anger, bitterness, and disappointment

Chapter 5: Becoming active in the life of a parish again

Part Two
Reaching out to alienated Catholics
Chapter 6: Successful outreach programs for alienated Catholics

Chapter 7: When engaged couples are uncertain about the Church

Chapter 8: When adult offspring are alienated from the Church

Afterword: Why be Catholic?