US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Why Stay Catholic?

By Heidi Schlumpf | Print this pagePrint |
Why Stay Catholic?
By Michael Leach (Loyola Press, 2011)

A few years ago a Catholic publisher asked Michael Leach to write a book on “101 reasons to be Catholic.” He declined, saying he could only think of three.

Leach may have been only half-joking, but I know how he feels. It would sometimes be easier to think of 101 reasons not to be Catholic: sex abuse and coverup scandals, crackdowns on theologians and women religious, unwelcoming parishes, bland homilies, etc.

But when Leach—publisher emeritus of Orbis Books—realized that the fastest growing religious group in America is ex-Catholics, he felt compelled to celebrate what’s good about our faith tradition. In Why Stay Catholic? Unexpected Answers to a Life-Changing Question, he gives 50 answers to that question, highlighting 25 Catholic ideas, 15 people, and 10 places that inspire. The essays are personal, a little folksy, and definitely upbeat—just like Leach in real life.

The section on great Catholic ideas begins with the sacramental imagination and ends with heaven. In between Leach explores a number of ideas that could use a little positive PR: God is everywhere; the seamless garment of life; the church can change; you can disagree with the church and still be a good Catholic. Leach’s favorite seems to be: “Nothing can separate us from the love of God—nothing!”

The people and places who embody those great Catholic ideas are better known: Dorothy Day, Catholic Charities, Father Andrew Greeley, Catholic schools and hospitals. But the most beautifully written chapter in the entire book is about a woman whose life is infused with gratitude: Leach’s wife, Vickie, who has been diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s.

Catholics with no complaints will find much to agree with in this book. Catholics who struggle with their church will be reinvigorated. Those who have left may reconsider. Why Stay Catholic?—and Leach’s blog—is evangelization at its best.