Saturday, October 30, 2010

Book Review: 2011 Catholic Almanac

I received the Our Sunday Visitor's 2011 Catholic Almanac from The Catholic Company a few days ago as part of their reviewer program and could not wait to dive into it.  At first glance I was overwhelmed with the enormous amount of information contained between the covers.  The book is 640 pages in length (paperback) and printed in very small type (may need the magnifier for this one) and covers nearly everything one can imagine in a single volume.

Topics include:
    2011 Catholic Almanac
  • The year in Review
  • The Journeys of Pope Benedict XVI
  • The Latest on the Sex Abuse Crisis .
  • The Renewal of the Legionaries of Christ
  • Catholics and Health Care Reform
  • A Welcome for Anglican Converts
  • The Vatican Investigates Medjugorje
  • Update on Life Issues
  • Canon Law
  • Glossary of Catholic Terms
  • Church Calendar
  • Scripture
  • Social Teaching
  • Sacraments
  • Saints
  • Church History
  • Encyclicals
  • National and World Statistics 
  • Shrine Locations
My 12-year old son was looking through the timeline of 2010 events and picked up on the single error we found. The Raids in Belgium were reported to have taken place on June 35, 2010 - which clearly was a typo.  I shall not hold that against the editor as the poor man was probably visually impaired by the time he finished proofing this opus. 

I found the Chronology of U.S. Catholic History to be very interesting.  I have read much about our history in the United States but did not know that in the early 1890s, Eastern Rite Catholics came in large numbers without their own bishops and were treated poorly by many Latin Rite Catholics, including clergy.  Because of this, the result was the defection of thousands from the Catholic Church.  This serves as a tough reminder that ignorance can sow prejudice anywhere.  Also of great interest to me was the Church-State relations section.  Decisions of the Supreme Court were briefly explained and quite noteworthy.  I found the legal background behind church tax exemption to be very interesting as well as the history of busing parochial students, providing textbooks to parochial school students and issues affecting other religions as well.

In my view, the almanac treats current events fairly and evenly.  I was very interested to read the following disclaimer following the listing of Catholics in Mr. Obama's cabinet: "It is noted that while nominally Catholics, members of the Obama Cabinet uniformly hold positions that are in strong opposition to the Church's teachings, particularly regarding abortion."  Wow.  Well said. 

Two other sections which drew my attention were the sections on Ecumenism and Inter-religious Dialogue and the listings of internet sites and periodicals.  Much of the Ecumenism portion was documents listed from Vatican II and I have heard the concerns from many Catholics about fear of 'protestantization' of the Church.  This can be found in many Catholic communities in the United States (Diocese of Rochester comes immediately to mind) and I found that the Almanac approached the topic delicately and went so far as to list the Primary Duty of Catholics on page 577.  I could find no fault with the information in this section and was comforted to read the following:

"[Catholics] primary duty is to make an honest and careful appraisal of whatever needs to be renewed and achieved in the Catholic household itself, in order that its life may bear witness more loyally and luminously to the teachings and ordinances which have been handed down from Christ through the Apostles."

I know that some of that may make fellow Catholics shudder - most especially the word 'renewed'.  Many I know have been deeply injured by the Church gone rogue in the name of renewal.  What I found most important about the entire section is that the focus needs to be first on our own Church before we stress concern over relations between our Church and other churches.  The next section goes on to explain reasons why Catholics cannot participate fully in protestant 'eucharistic' liturgies and that reception of communion by Catholics at protestant liturgies is prohibited and the positions protestants may and may not hold at our Liturgies.

The portion of the Almanac listing Catholic websites caught my eye more for what was omitted than what was included.  I will let the reader decide what they think of the listings as I have discussed Catholic websites elsewhere on this blog.  I couldn't imagine why was left off the list but was pleased to see Catholic Culture's site included.  Perhaps the next edition will be include a more comprehensive listing of internet sites.
    Overall, I found the almanac to be very well compiled and an important addition to my collection of books.  The price is $32.95 and appears to be well worth the investment.  After the Bible and Catechism, I would say that this just may be the must have book for your shelf.  As part of their reviewer program, The Catholic Company offers books for reviewers to choose and keep for free if I promise to post an honest review of the book be it positive or negative. I'm pleased to say I honestly like the book and hope that others will appreciate it as well. 

    Join The Catholic Company Email List - Get 15% Off First Order  Also, be sure to check out their great selection of Baptism gifts.  I don't know about you, but it is difficult to find a nice Baptism gift in my local stores.

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