Bishops are people, too! Who knew?

September 28, 2009

Bobz Book Reviews

“Effective Faith,”
by Bishop Thomas J. Tobin

I’ve just read Bishop Thomas Tobin’s book for the second time, and I liked it just as much as I did the first time.

I’d only spent a handful of hours in the bishop’s company a few years ago, but I was invited to read a proof of a collection of newspaper columns that he’d written for diocesan newspapers in Ohio and Rhode Island.

What I said about the writing of the Bishop of Providence then ended up as an endorsement on the back cover:

“Bishops are people, too! Who knew? Expecting a book by a bishop to be dry and theological? ‘Effective Faith’ . . . is the antithesis. Meet a down-to-earth, self-effacing human being who happens to be a Catholic priest and bishop.”

Teaching without preaching

I added at the time that this collection of columns deserves a wider audience, and I’m glad that Seraphina Press from Minneapolis has made that possible with this easy-reading, 175-page paperback.

What the bishop does best is take the news of the day — the topics real people are talking about — and make them the perfect subject matter to grab readers’ attention and engage them in the lessons that life keeps teaching him.

That means writing about sports, about casinos, about how life changes, about all the “stuff” in his life and ours and the need to get rid of some of the baggage.

One of my favorite chapters is “The Gospel at 30,000 Feet,” where he describes getting the third-degree about the church from a non-Catholic seat-mate on an airplane. The questioning is priceless!

There’s a beautiful chapter about his interior thoughts as he held the baby he’d just baptized and pondered the world she would find on her journey.
“Ashley’s World” lets us all into Bishop Tobin’s world, if you will, and the questions we all have about what the future holds.

The chapters are short, worth savoring one a day for 40 days, worth reading and spending time reflecting on our own view of life, faith, the issues of our day and our own little world.

Nice job, bishop. — bz

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About Bob Zyskowski

Bob is the Client Products Manager for the Communications Office of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. A 42-year veteran of the Catholic Press, he is the former Associate Publisher of The Catholic Spirit. You can follow him on twitter or email him at

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  • Anonymous

    Helping a charity is a really a great experience. I remember last year when I’ve donated a car, its really an unforgettable experience to seeing the smile of the kids, its priceless.

    Kathi Boller,
    State of Minnesota Car Donation
    Wheels for Wishes

  • JakeM25

    During my conversion I learned that to have fulfilled one’s obligation for a mass attendance (as we are required to do on all Sundays as well as other Holy Days of obligation (as denoted by the national bishop’s conference) one had to be present by the time of the Opening prayer before the readings begin, and must stay until the end of the Closing Prayer just before the dismissal. It was my understanding that if one was not present for that duration of the mass then the obligation was not fulfilled which does count as a sin.

    • Faithandreasonsblog

      May I ask what was the source of the information you received? Different priests have given me different answers, which led me to want to write this post. When mortal sin is involved (whether or not one has fulfilled the obligation), I feel that the Church would tell us clearly if there were specific points in the Mass that we had to be present for. Since several liturgy experts and an apologist confirmed that there is no mention of this in canon law nor other guidelines, I am trusting their word. If anyone has other information and the source, I will revisit this.