A Brief Introduction to Catholicism
While the number of Jesus' followers in 33 AD is unknown, those who claim Him today as the source of their life and unity in the Catholic Church number about one-fifth of the human race. Catholicism for the Non-Catholic presents the Catholic faith from an historical perspective and within its current practice. Fr. Chiola explores the uniqueness of the Catholic Church among other Christian denominations, the structure of authority, the Protestant Reformation, the influence of the Second Vatican Council, and contemporary tensions and struggles. He also addresses Catholic prayer life, the veneration of the saints and the special honor given to Mary as the Mother of God.
Richard Chiola is a Roman Catholic priest in the diocese of Springfield in Illinois. He previously taught theology at Yale Divinity School and St. John's University, Collegeville, MN, and has given retreats, parish missions and workshops in the U.S. and abroad. He holds a Ph.D. in Historical Theology.
REVIEW: ". . . may be the perfect gift to give non-Catholics who have expressed interest in the church. But its readable writing style and forthright approach might be just the thing to get non-practicing Catholics to at least consider glancing through and maybe reading a chapter or two." Catholic Times
EXCERPT: "The Catholic Church developed by adapting to various cultures. In the process it also adopted practices from other world religions. Today, one of the great issues confronting the Church is how to continue to adapt to the rapidly changing cultural conditions in the ever shrinking global village.
In the period before the New Testament books were written, in the first decades of its life, the Catholic Church adapted the Jewish world view in which it was born to the Greek culture in which the faith was being preached and lived. The Church spread east among Jewish Christians whose descendants two millennia later still use Aramaic in their liturgy. The Church adapted in the first centuries to the culture in Lebanon and today the Maronite Church has its own unique forms and practices, customs and liturgy. Similarly, the Catholic faith adapted to Egyptian, Armenian, and Syrian cultures, as well as the cultures of Rome, and the northern European tribes. In each of these cultures, different liturgical, devotional and theological expressions created a truly Catholic or universal expression of Christian life.
The Catholic Church, in the first centuries and especially in the east, adapted customs that predate Christianity. The use of incense in worship, sprinkling persons and articles with water as a sign of blessing, the use of icons and statues, oil lamps or candles, and the vestments of the clergy are all cultural adaptations that vary, depending on the area in which the Church lived when they were adopted. Music, chant, and prayer-forms are clearly cultural expressions which vary in the Church from location to location. Since the Second Vatican Council, the Church has been in a process of relearning how to adapt itself to diverse cultures, a charism it had severely restricted after Trent. This work of the Spirit holds great promise as the Church faces its next great cultural Everest, adapting the Catholic Faith to an increasingly secularized world-culture driven by materialist interests and projected into every part of the earth by mass communication."