Mass Appeal 'Idiot's Guide' Puts Fun into the Fundamentals of Catholicism
Karlak, Pat, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Guilt is a given, but humor? It's not a well-known byproduct of the Catholic religion.
Setting out to change all that is a book that takes an irreverent approach to the faith.
It's called the "Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding Catholicism," (Macmillan, $17) and it's finding a big audience among practicing and "fallen-away" Catholics.
Co-authors and longtime friends Mary Faulkner and Bob O'Gorman, a Loyola professor, managed to meet the biggest challenge they faced in writing the book: How to craft a comprehensive guide to the 2,000-year-old faith that counts 1 billion members worldwide, without putting readers to sleep and without poking fun in a mean- spirited way.
"The church is not an amusing organization. We wondered how we were going to write the book," says Faulkner.
Once they got a handle on the format, which is common to all 350 books in the "idiots" series, the humor started to flow.
It helped that the two are "happy Catholics" who take great joy in their religion.
In fact, they go so far as to find a direct correlation between that joy and whether someone remains a member of the faith.
"Many who were not happy Catholics are not Catholics today, which is an interesting connection," says Faulkner, a free-lance writer who has a master's degree in religious education.
The irreverence makes appearances throughout the 396-page book.
It's apparent in the chapter titles: "The Church: Moving from Steeple to People," to "Tasting, Touching, Smelling God."
It's apparent in sections such as:
"You're so Catholic if ... you name your first daughter Mary, you have mistakenly genuflected before taking your seat in the theater, or you know more than 15 recipes for preparing tuna fish."
It's apparent in the telling of Catholic culture, where you learn, for example, that in preparing a body for an Irish Catholic wake, the women in the family would tie the deceased's two big toes together, which they believed would prevent the person from returning to Earth as a ghost.
And it's apparent in the titles of the sidebars that provide nuggets of useful information and serve to loosen up the book and make it breathe: "Saints Preserve Us," "For Heaven's Sake!" and "S'ter Says," which is accompanied by a sketch of a benevolent nun.
Even Jesus and Mary smile from their photos in the book.
Who would think writing about Catholicism could be so amusing? Time was when Catholics who publicly explored their religion were excommunicated - or worse. …