Thomas Baker

Thomas Baker is the publisher of Commonweal

By this author

Coming soon to a pulpit near you?

There hasnt been much comment here about the U.S. bishops recent document on preaching, Preaching the Mystery of Faith, approved at their November 2012 meeting. Since it represents a new direction in the bishops thoughts about the goal of Sunday preaching, I wonder what people think about the changes the bishops have recommended.

The War on Beige

The search for good resources for adult religious formation is not an easy one. There is the Catechism of the Catholic Church itself, of course, authoritative and imposing, but using it as a text in a parish setting is too much like trying to teach people about baseball with the Baseball Encyclopedia instead of taking them to a game. At another extreme, there are colorful four-page lesson handouts from many publishers, with quick, middle-school-level treatments of many Catholic topics, but studiously avoiding anything that might look too much like doctrine or history.

It Wasn’t Cheap

The final days of Dietrich Bonhoeffer in 1945 make for powerful and painful reading. Imprisoned for two years as a conspirator in a plot against Hitler, Bonhoeffer left Buchenwald packed into a hellish wood-burning van with fifteen other prisoners in a surreal, disorganized drive to an uncertain destination. After a case of mistaken identity almost saved him, his journey suddenly ended at the concentration camp in Flossenbürg, where he was hanged early in the morning of April 9 at the age of thirty-eight.

Restless

Which of the Ten Commandments is, in practice, the most neglected? For sheer volume of violations, anyone with an iPad (or without one) could help make a convincing case for the coveting of goods. On the other hand, at least people still recognize, in theory, that following that tenth commandment is an admirable idea. For a rule that has almost completely dropped from believers’ collective sense of obligation, it would be hard to beat No. 3: Remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day.

An Offer You Can Refuse

James Carroll is nothing if not ambitious as a writer, and in Practicing Catholic he has given us at least three books for the price of one. That is an attractive offer during a miserable recession. But it is not the bargain it seems.

Highly Contagious

If the word “monks” wedged into the title above sets off a warning bell for you, I am sympathetic. You too may be tired of the endless number of “spirituality” books that repackage friendly bits of monastic wisdom and hospitality (sometimes even recipes) for busy people. Even the ancient discipline of lectio divina seems to have come in for a new wave of popularization. “You read with a candle next to you,” one participant in a local L.D. workshop recently explained to me. A book-with-candle combo package can’t be far behind.

California Dreamin'

I should start by admitting that a few years ago I fell in love with Anne Lamott, and it was hard not to. Admittedly, this was from something of a distance, during a reading she gave at a local bookstore. Slightly disheveled, just a little spacey but smart and dead-on funny, she seemed like she’d be a great pal and next-door neighbor, someone who might occasionally have words of wisdom and would always be good company.

Purpose-Driven Spirituality

There’s a low-hanging cabinet over my desk that I have been meaning to move for years, and as I was sitting down (finally) to start a draft of what you are reading, I hit my head on that cabinet really, really hard. I saw stars, lost vision for a second, and sat with my head down on the desk for a long while.

Here are three possible interpretations of this minor event (although it seemed major enough at the time).

Priests

No one is as effective as Andrew Greeley when it comes to using survey data in a street fight. In Priests: A Calling in Crisis, he’s armed and has some points about the priesthood he’d like you to understand.