Weber frankly doesn’t seem shy about much. He bares a lot about himself in a just-out, lower-case titled paperback, ”fearing the stigmata,” which is billed by Loyola Press as “Humorously Holy Stories of a Young Catholic’s Search for a Culturally Relevant Faith.” There’s a lot of truth in that.
In a bit of a reversal of the usual routine in which a popular book is made into a movie or a TV series, “fearing the stigmata” can be accused of being a TV show that’s been made into a book.
The TV piece — “A Word With Weber” — is a two-minute segment that runs every week on CatholicTV.com, and two minutes is just about how long it takes to read a chapter in the book.
The contents are somewhat similar, too. Every chapter starts with an off-beat story or memory, produces at least a giggle and usually several, and ends with a connection to Weber’s faith life or spiritual journey — and maybe, just maybe — to yours and mine.
Funny and faith go together fabulously
Weber writes about his mom asking at the post office for “Madonna” stamps at Christmas time and being told that there is yet to be a stamp issued that honors the pop singer.
He writes about playing balloon-volleyball with nuns, dressing up as Zak the Yak for a reading encouragement program, about liking Cheez Balls, about appreciating Mass, about his observations after years of watching the collection basket being passed, and about stopping after work to pray before a statue of Mary at a busy intersection.
He snitches on himself about the time he received Holy Communion and then had to play the harmonica — yes, the harmonica — as he accompanied the choir for the communion hymn. It’s only slightly irreverent. Weber, of course, being a good Catholic gentleman, had the sense of preface the story about being the harmonica player at church by noting: “If you have strict notions about church music — pre-Vatican Two-era — and you just fainted, I apologize.”
Since a regular workout seems important to his generation, Weber is right on the target audience with his wish that “people could look to religion or church the same way they look to a gym.” A priest is like a person trainer, he writes, and the pews and kneelers like Nautilus equipment: “At a gym, it’s health. At a church, it’s spiritual health. A soul is nourished with community and Christ, and we don’t even have to break a sweat.”
He sneaks in advice for older Catholics that “young adult Catholics want just a little nod, a little recognition that they are on the Catholic team, too.”
And he has some advice for his own media-obsessed generation: While he’s all for You-Tube and Facebook, some of life’s events are better savored by “soaking in the moment without the worry of technologically capturing it.” I love his introspection: “Am I experiencing life in order to write about, and is something lost in the attempt to communicate the moment?”
Telling it like he is
What readers will most appreciate is Weber’s unabashed honesty. As do many of us today — not just twenty-somethings — he struggles with, in his words, “the overall challenge of trying to be a good Catholic. . . . The real problem lies in knowing what voices to listen to.”
And a Weber take-away? ” Be a good Catholic in whatever way you can.”
The book is funny, filled with the self-deprecating kind of humor that SiriusXM’s Lino Rulli, aka “The Catholic Guy.” brings to his afternoon radio show.
After you read “fearing the stigmata,” or maybe even before, you really need to check out “A Word With Weber” on http://www.CatholicTV.com. There’s a typical segment here. See one and you’ll want to watch several. Just Google Matt Weber CatholicTV.
Check out the book on the Loyola Press site. But before you click over to one of those sites, read just one more paragraph — after this one, I mean. It’s the most clever writing in the book, and it comes as Weber begins a chapter by repeating a nugget of wisdom an Irish seatmate shared on a flight from Dublin to Boston: “Matty, me boy, let me tell you something about love. It is the itch around the heart that you just can’t scratch.” Weber follows by writing:
“Perhaps this is a common phrase in Ireland, or maybe she made it up. In my younger years, I never really thought too much about love. I knew that love was patient and kind, a type of story, all we need, in the time of cholera, cannot be bought, and the name of a shack. I had heard that C.S. Lewis identified four kinds of love. The Greeks wrote about it. And Paul, the apostle, was pretty sure it bears all things, believes all, hopes all things, and endures all things.”
I wish I’d written that.