Mary, the Mass, Dorothy Day, Bishop Ray Lucker, Sister Thea Bowman, Catholic Charities — those are just six of the 50 answers that Michael Leach proposes as his response to the question “Why Stay Catholic?”
The question is the title of the Loyola University paperback out within the past month. Leach, who for more than 30 years has been involved in Catholic book publishing for organizations such as Crossroads and Orbis, offers very personal reasons his faith remains a key part of who he is and how he lives.
The list of a half-a-hundred are divided into three areas — ideas, places and people — and a few of the inclusions might lend you to see them as a give-away that the author resides on the decided progressive side of our church’s ideological divide. That may very well be true, but other inclusions in the 50 are even more evidence of what this reviewer sees as more prevalent than the assumed liberal-conservative camp arrangement.
That reality is that even presumed liberals cherish Catholic traditions, value Catholic institutions, and love the church in spite of its weaknesses.
Leach has a marvelous chapter — reasons #24 — titled “The Papacy, or It’s a Tough Job, but Somebody’s Got to Do It.” With a dash of papal history, a smidgen on infallibility and a poignant piece on what he’d do if he were pope, Leach explains the good that our earthly spiritual leaders can do and have done, and does so gracefully.
Minnesotans will want to read why he includes St. Paul native and late bishop of New Ulm Ray Lucker in his “people” section. And locally owned St. Patrick’s Guild gets a mention as one of the good Catholic bookstores that are Leach’s reason #48.
Along with loving his church, Leach challenges it in this 224-page work. Readers will find that he was a priest for just a few short years, and I find that’s often a turn-off for some. Stay with him, though.
I too began to sour on Leach when he acknowledged that, like at least 60 percent of those who call themselves Catholic, he isn’t a regular Massgoer. Again, stay with him. There’s comfort to be found in doing so.
Finally, make sure you get to reason #50, Leach’s vision for Vatican III.
Would that everyone who calls themselves Catholic had the same vision. — bz