Cover image for I like being Catholic : treasured traditions, rituals, and stories
I like being Catholic : treasured traditions, rituals, and stories
Leach, Michael, 1940-
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Doubleday, 2000.
Physical Description:
159 pages ; 25 cm
Corporate Subject:
Subject Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BX885 .I2 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
BX885 .I2 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



A celebration of the treasured traditions, rituals, and stories that run through the bloodstream of American Catholics For Andrew Greeley, it is the reverence of Christmas night and the exultation of Easter morn. Martin Scorsese, like many others, remains grateful for the nuns who rapped his knuckles but built his self-esteem. Mary Gordon recalls the sense of lightness that follows confession; Vince Lombardi, the strength he derived from Mass; and Christopher Buckley, the role St. Thomas More plays in his writing. I Like Being Catholicbrings together the memories, thought, and hopes of famous Catholics and ordinary parishioners, lapsed and "good-enough" Catholics, and those who have devoted their lives to the faith. It captures their abiding ties to and deep affection for the Church and offers the wide-ranging, sometimes surprising views on the good things that come with being Catholic. This is not a book of theology. It is about the beauty at the heart of Catholicism. It is about what Teilhard de Chardin called "the chosen part of things." It is about family and community, the value of Catholic education, the significance of sacraments and milestones, and the cultural impact of Catholicism--there are lists of the ten best Catholic novels, the ten best Catholic movies, ten Catholic heroes of the twentieth century, ten good reasons to raise your kids Catholic, fifty things Catholics like best about being Catholic, and much more ... I Like Being Catholicis a book for all those who have ever called themselves Catholic. It is a book of warmth, affection, humor, and love.

Author Notes

Michael Leach, a founder and the president of Continuum Publishing and president and publisher of Crossroads/Continuum Publishing, is the executive editor of Orbis Books. He lives in Greenwich, Connecticut.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

This book's resolute title and upbeat chapter headings promise a positive, apologetic approach to Roman Catholicism, and its essays do not disappoint. Longtime religion publisher Leach and Catholic author Borchard have edited a glowing collection of Catholic testimonial essays, fond remembrances of childhood church and parochial school days, loving prayers and descriptions of favorite Catholic rituals, traditions, prayers, saints and cultural influences. Bestselling novelist and priest Andrew Greeley sets the tone with his enthusiastic opening essay, "It's Fun to Be Catholic," which extols Catholicism as both a "religion of festivity and celebration" and a uniquely communal "religion for everyone." The ensuing chapters consist of a wide array of topically arranged contributions from clergy and laity of all ranks, walks of life and degrees of renown. Side by side are accounts from Saint Francis, Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa; from Yogi Berra, Gary Cooper, Mary Higgins Clark and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy; and from ordinary electricians, innkeepers, parents and children. Leach and Borchard provide structure, connecting insights and a few brief essays to coordinate this multifaceted, highly favorable presentation of Catholicism. These laudatory essays are generally inspiring and educational to read, but the collection's perfectly positive picture omits any significant awareness of undeniable contemporary church dilemmas, such as declining church membership and vocations, or disagreements regarding "relevant" worship styles versus traditional Mass. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This little book covers a great deal of ground, offering quotations from the likes of Mary Higgins Clark, Woody Herman, and Bob Newhart as well as less-surprising choices such as Pope John Paul II and Andrew Greeley. Upbeat, celebratory, and not wholly without a sense of humor, this enterprising anthology includes not only testimonials from the famous and not-so-famous faithful but also a "photo gallery," as well as entertaining lists ("The Ten Best Catholic Novels You'll Ever Read" and "Ten Good Reasons To Raise Your Kids Catholic," which includes "So they'll have some rules to reject when they're teenagers"). Pleasant, and never darkened by doubts, this volume should attract a wide readership. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One It's Fun to be Catholic By Andrew M. Greeley In its best moments Catholicism is the happiest of the major world religions. It is permeated by the reverent joy of Christmas night, the exultant joy of Easter morn, the gentle joy of First Communion, the satisfied joy of grammar school graduation, the hopeful joy of a funeral mass, the confident joy of a May crowning. Catholicism is shaped by the happiness of hymns like O Come Emmanuel, Adeste Fideles, the Exultet, and Bring Flowers of the Rarest. Catholicism is an old, variegated, complex religious heritage. Many different cultural streams have emptied into its vast rivers. New ones still pour into it today. One can find in its history almost anything one wants--superstition, ignorance, bigotry, cruelty, arrogance, pride. One can easily find such realities today, too. Our ancestors have tortured and burned heretics and witches. They have murdered pagans, Muslims, Jews, Greeks, Protestants, and other Catholics. Anyone who has been raised Catholic has had experience with the harsh, negative, dour, repressive components of our heritage. Yet at its best--and all religions should be judged by their best--Catholicism is essentially a religion of sacramentality and community, a religion which believes that God is everywhere in our daily life and world and that we honor God as part of a community of believers. Anglican historian Owen Chadwick, in his book The Popes and European Revolution, comments, "The religious world of Haydn and Mozart had this characteristic of the Catholic eighteenth century, that it was a world of happy religion. . . . Like rococo architects, these were not men of an otherworldly religion, or (if they were) the other world was close to this world and permeated all its being." Precisely. Perhaps without realizing it Professor Chadwick put his finger on the essence, the genius, the fundamental orientation of Catholicism, that aspect of our heritage which distinguishes us from all the other great world religions. We believe that the sacred is everywhere, that it lurks among us, sanctifying everything. We live in haunted houses, enchanted by the Holy Spirit. God is not (only) distant. God is among us in the water, the bread and the wine, the oil, the body of the beloved. And in the sun and the moon and the stars, in reconciliation after quarrels, in the touch of a friendly hand, in a glorious summer sunrise, in a chill winter sunset behind a frozen lake, in a familiar face seen in a crowd after many years of absence, in the cool waters of summer and the blazing fire of winter, in chocolate ice cream (with raspberry sauce!), in a joyous romp with our lover. Grace is everywhere. All is grace! Alone of the major world religions, Catholicism affirms life, affirms flesh, affirms pleasure, affirms art and music, affirms a God who is present in the objects and events and persons of daily life. Hence we have angels and saints and souls in purgatory and stained glass and statues and Mary the Mother of Jesus. They all remind us of the presence of God in the Sacraments as well as in all the sacraments of our world. Sure, Catholicism can easily slip over into superstition, folk religion, and a syncretistic blend with paganism. But other world religions that emphasize the distance of God and the god-forsaken nature of our world risk reducing the world to an empty and almost meaningless place. God is both present and absent, of course, both near and far, both immanent and transcendent. Catholicism bets that its emphasis on his presence, his nearness, his immanence, is legitimated by the mystery of the incarnation, that the word became flesh and dwelt among us (literally pitched his tent among us). This appeal, this attractiveness, this charm of Catholicism is the reason why we remain Catholic, no matter the sins of the past or the foolishness of the present. Once a Catholic, it is said, always a Catholic. If Catholicism can enchant and enthrall your imagination in the early years of your life, you will always be haunted by it. As novelist Alice McDermott said, with considerable pride, we are forever doomed to be Catholic. There's no turning back. Somehow too many of our teachers and our leaders don't seem to understand that we remain Catholic and always will be Catholic because of stories of the presence of grace in the world, stories of God's love all around us. Most Catholics know better. They know with St. Therese of the Infant Jesus (and the Holy Face) that God is nothing but mercy and love. They know with the Irish Dominican poet Paul Murray that God loves us so much that if any one of us should cease to exist He would die of sadness. They know with the American (and Chicago) theologian Robert Barron that God cannot help but love us with all the tender love of a mother. There is a distinctively Catholic imagination--sacramental, liturgical, analogical, call it what you wish--which enables Catholics to see the world through a different set of lenses. That is the first reason it is fun to be Catholic. Catholicism is thus a religion of festivity and celebration, of holidays and parties, of a sacred calendar, of Christmas cribs and Easter lilies, of processions and pilgrimages, of seasons and colors, of special prayers and special patrons. They are all part of the explanation of why Catholicism is a happy religion and why it is fun to be Catholic. The other dimension of Catholicism which is so attractive to Catholics is its emphasis on community--an emphasis which is diametrically opposed to the emphasis on the individual which is so much part of American culture. Catholicism teaches and Catholics believe in their bones that we relate to God as part of a network of family, friends, and neighbors. We feel all other human behavior intuitively involves us as members of groups. Why should religion be any different? Why should we, when it comes to religion, go off into the desert by ourselves? Why desert our lovers, our neighbors, our friends, when it comes to God? So we express our intense communal relations at every level of our lives and most particularly in the neighborhood parish which is the church for us. Catholics cluster, they bond, they converge, they swarm. Catholicism in James Joyce's happy phrase means "Here comes everybody!" We draw our boundaries out as wide as we can and, in our better moments, include within the boundaries even those who think they are outside. It's hard to stop being a Catholic. Those rigid people who try to draw the boundaries tightly (so as to exclude the ones with whom they disagree) misunderstand what Catholicism is about. We are not a religion for only the saved, much less for those who think that they are saved. We are a religion for everyone. Even those who have been excommunicated are still Catholics. The only way one can get out is by formally and explicitly announcing that they have renounced the faith or by joining another denomination. Even then neither the church nor your own imagination gives up on you. Never! It's more fun being Catholic because it's more fun to belong to something than to be a religious lone wolf. Do I have evidence for my claim that Catholics are (on the average) more communal than others? Does one really need evidence? I wonder. However, in a multination study of family life, my colleagues in the International Social Survey Program discovered that in virtually every country Catholics are more likely to live with their parents or to live close to them, to visit them often, and to talk to them often on the phone. The same things are true of relationships with children and siblings and even with other relatives. Catholics, as I say, tend to swarm. I administer this questionnaire to my students at both the University of Arizona and the University of Chicago on the first day of my class in the sociology of religion. The young people refuse to believe that such behaviors have anything to do with religion. Then when I present the findings (the same as in the multination study), they tell me that "everyone knows Catholics are more communal!" Yeah! It is fun to belong to something, it is fun to believe that God is close to us, loving us like a spouse, a parent, a friend. That's why Catholics stick to their church, come what may. That's why the confusion and the chaos in the church in the years since the end of the Second Vatican Council has not driven Catholics out of the church despite all the attempts of us priests and bishops to drive them out! Despite the creeps and the party-poopers, the puritans and the spoil-sports, the kill-joys and parade ruiners, Catholicism is too much fun to leave. It always has been. It is not likely to change. Deo gratias! Andrew M. Greeley, a native of Chicago, is a priest, a distinguished sociologist, and a best-selling novelist. Interlude I like being Catholic because the faith is ancient, and ancient in my family and clan, and so connects me to men and women I love, some I have never known. Because the Story is riveting, enticing, entrancing, enormously powerful and persistent. Because of the mythic magic of the Mass. Because Catholicism is about Light. Because all of Christ's message can be boiled down to a single word: love. Because His story has an eerie human genius and truth, a mother with a child, a mysterious powerful father, the puzzled brave stepfather. Because I need to believe in a future driven by love and in a life after this life defined wholly by love. Because divinity is everywhere and in everything and Catholic saints above all others have articulated this with passion and poetry. Because more than any other faith it is about hope beyond sense; and so to me is the bravest of faiths; and so I eat it happily, carried along by its utterly human stew of foolishness and grace, cruelty and joy. --Brian Doyle, journalist Portland, Oregon Chapter Two It's Good to Be Catholic Ten Good Reasons to Be Catholic By Kathy Coffey Number One: We are the community that remembers Jesus. I see this especially in the surrendered lives of those who show us Christ's face, his hands and eyes and words and compassionate touch. We call it the Mystical Body, but it means that we recognize Jesus in the laughter and voices of those around us: little kids, retired folks, teenagers, all those in whom Christ continues to take flesh. While all Christian communities remember Jesus, Catholics do so in a particular, liturgical way. When someone we love has died and we try to recapture memories of that person, we usually do so through our senses. We remember Grandma's tortillas, or the song that Grandpa sang off-key. One of my friends whose husband died broke down when she smelled his after-shave lingering in his shirts. It is the same with Jesus. When we remember him, we grope for the touch of his hands on a loaf of bread, the sound of his voice telling stories, the words he breathed into wine. We find him still in the simplest human activities, eating and drinking, gathering with friends and telling stories. When I was teaching undergraduates at Regis Jesuit University in Denver, three students asked, "Mrs. Coffey, are you coming to our Mass for Holy Thursday?" I was slightly taken aback. It's not often that 19-year-old boys invite me to Mass with major enthusiasm. They did not get this excited about the English class I was teaching. So I went. And what I saw is not unique; similar liturgies occur around the country. My college students were so dressed up I could barely recognize them. They had vested for the high holy days. They carried beautiful banners; they processed reverently with bells and baskets and bread and wine. All the while they chanted Tom Conry's song, "All people here who remember Jesus, brother and friend. All who hold to his mem'ry, all who keep faith in the end." It's for moments like those that I keep returning. Number Two: Catholicism has universality. We Irish have our gifts, but mariachi music isn't one of them. So I've been grateful to the people with Spanish and African-American backgrounds for the richness, the color, the vibrancy they bring to our faith. No one tradition has the resources to meet the challenges of the next century. Yet in the church, we find the pluralism that the human race will need to survive. Some examples may clarify Number Two. In Santa Fe, I once attended a workshop that concluded around 10 p.m. It had been a wonderful day, but we were all tired. So when we heard that we'd end with the blessing, the Anglos assumed, with typical efficiency, "one size fits all"--one blessing for all of us. Wrong. Every single person got an individual blessing. I learned that night that there are some things so important they don't fit on a tight schedule. What universality means in practical terms is that on Wednesday night I can visit a poor parish where the people come through pouring rain to sit on folding chairs in a gym with a leaky roof. Then on Saturday, I can fly to a megachurch which cost millions, a parish with the highest concentration of M.D.'s and Ph.D.'s in the country. In both places, we explore the same, unchanging Sunday Gospel that crosses all the differences. Number Three: Catholics make bold claims. Sometimes these startle people of other traditions. "Who do you think you are?" they might ask. We answer, seriously and repeatedly, we are Christ's presence on earth today. We cooperate with God to build God's kingdom in this world. In the Eucharist, we say that through bread and wine we become the body of Christ. It may sound arrogant, but this is what Jesus meant when he said, "You will do greater things than I have done." How's that for a bold claim? Each sacrament is similar, but take Confirmation for another example. The Spirit comes, we say, through this ritual gesture of imposing hands and this chrism signed on the forehead. The same Spirit transformed terrified disciples who'd locked themselves in a room in fear of the authorities. The same Spirit transfigured the known world through the efforts of 12 people who weren't especially bright or powerful. This same Spirit is ours. Number Four: The church is a family. The church is at its best when we are like family: When we lose sight of that, we become legalistic, antiseptic and cold. Sometimes it's a dysfunctional family, but it gives my children something broader and deeper than anything I could ever give them alone. My oldest son, David, recently returned from Chicago where he attended Mass at O'Hare Airport. He said something I've waited 23 years to hear: "That's what I love about being Catholic. It's the same everywhere in the world. I know what to do when they take up the collection!" Excerpted from I Like Being Catholic: Treasured Traditions, Rituals, and Stories by Michael Leach, Therese J. Borchard All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Andrew M. Greeley
Introduction: I Like Being Catholicp. 1
Chapter 1 It's Fun to be Catholicp. 3
Interlude: Brian Doylep. 9
Chapter 2 It's Good to be Catholicp. 10
Ten Good Reasons to Be CatholicKathy Coffey
Ten Good Reasons to Raise Your Kids CatholicMichael Leach
Fifty Things Catholics Like Best About Being CatholicWilliam A. Burke
Interlude: Mitch Finley, John Deedyp. 17
Chapter 3 JMJ--Catholicism's First Familyp. 18
JesusJoseph Girzone
Jesus, Model of LovePope John Paul II
There's Something About MaryTherese J. Borchard
Go to JosephJoseph M. Champlin
Plus selected bitsFlannery O'Connor and William F. Buckley, Jr.
Interlude: Cokie Robertsp. 33
Chapter 4 From Math to Mysteryp. 34
The Value of Catholic EducationBret D. Thomas
The Mystery of CatholicismJoan Wester Anderson
Plus selected bitsWilliam J. Bennett and Leon Panetta
Interlude: The Average Catholic by Michael Leachp. 41
Chapter 5 Sacraments and Milestonesp. 43
A Few of My Favorite ThingsTherese J. Borchard
Plus selected bitsRosemary Haughton and Robert F. Morneau
Interlude: Mary Gordon, Annie Dillard, Mary Higgins Clark, Clare Boothe Luce, and Flannery O'Connorp. 54
Chapter 6 Mass Appealp. 55
My Heart Got Stuck in the Daily MassPatricia Carol
Plus selected bitsMaria Shriver and Martin Scorsese
Interlude: Babe Ruth, Vince Lombardi, Knute Rockne, and Yogi Berrap. 62
Chapter 7 Favorite Prayers, Traditions, and Ritualsp. 63
The Varieties of Catholic PrayerMichael Leach and Therese J. Borchard
The Brooklyn Dodgers and the Catholic ChurchDoris Kearns Goodwin
What Makes Being Catholic Great? A Child's PrayerSusan Heyboer O'Keefe
Favorite prayers and selected bitsJulie Ann Brown and Richard Rohr
Interlude: John Thompsonp. 78
Chapter 8 Everyone Calls Me Father ... or Sister ... or alp. 79
I Like Being a Sister ... a Brother ... a Seminarian ... a Priest ... a Missionary ... a Lay Minister ... a Bishop... Plus selected bitsCardinal Joseph Bernardin and Florence Henderson
Interlude: Moses, Bob Newhart, and othersp. 89
Chapter 9 Saints Preserve Usp. 90
Outrageous HolinessRosemary Haughton
Ten Catholic Heroes of the Twentieth CenturyRobert Ellsberg
Plus selected bitsChristopher Buckley and Marilu Henner
Interlude: Martin E. Marty, H. L. Mencken, and Nicole Kidmanp. 103
Chapter 10 The Great Commandmentp. 104
The Challenge of StewardshipMario Cuomo
One Little Action at a TimePatricia Crowley
Plus selected bitsLouis Freeh and Sue Fox McGovern
Interlude: David D. Fosca, Richard K. Taylor, Catherine Mowry LaCugna, and Claire Catanesep. 114
Chapter 11 Catholic Culture--It's Everywherep. 115
The Ten Best Catholic Novels You'll Ever ReadPatrick Samway
The Ten Best Catholic Movies You'll Ever SeeMichael Leach
The Best Catholic Music You'll Ever HearThomas Day
Plus selected bitsWalker Percy and Mercedes Ruehl
Interlude: Federico Fellini, Joe Mantegna, Maureen O'Hara, Martin Sheen, Moira Kelly, and Gary Cooperp. 130
Chapter Twelve: Here Comes Everybody!p. 132
At Home in Noah's ArkCyprian Davis
Confessions of a Cafeteria CatholicMichael Leach
Selected bitsDiana L. Hayes and Lawrence S. Cunningham
Here Comes Everybody Photo Gallery
Interlude: Jeremy Langford, Marc Munfakh, Tom Beaudoin, Charles J. Chaput, and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedyp. 144
Epilogue: One Church, Two Erasp. 146
A Young Adult Catholic Looks Back with LoveTherese J. Borchard
An Elder Catholic Looks Forward with HopeMichael Leach
About the Editorsp. 154
Acknowledgmentsp. 155
Permissionsp. 157