Catechists and Teachers: Buy This New Book!

I cannot tell you how much I have enjoyed paging through this amazing new book, written by two deacons of the LA archdiocese, called Ascend.  Essentially it's an introduction to the Catholic faith for young adults and (full disclosure: I blurbed it, but only because I loved it) it's written in their lingo....


...bright, bold graphic designs; lots of stories about inspiring Catholics; easy-to-understand catechesis.  The glossy new book, published by Paulist, is really quite extraordinary and wonderful.  Here's a sample chapter in PDF form.  And here's the book's website.  Trust me, it's beautiful: unlike any other catechetical book you've ever seen.  (One of the authors is a talented web designer, which explains some of the book's look).  One of our editors, who runs an adult initiation program, flipped through it and said, "Gee, after you're done with it...."  And no I'm not paid to say any of this, but I am paid (well not really, but you know what I mean) to tell you about great new ways to evangelize.

James Martin, SJ


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8 years 7 months ago
Hello!  I'm a high school Theology teacher (though not currently teaching) - the textbook seems pretty good from the sample given, but one thing I dislike is something that I think is a problem with most high school Theology textbooks: I'm not sure how to label the problem exactly, but ''lack of critical distance'' is the phrase that always comes to my mind, even though I don't know if that's the right term.  It's easier to explain with an example: I think that a Theology textbook should always say not ''XYZ is wrong,'' but rather, ''The Church teaches that XYZ is wrong,'' or something like that.  Obviously not every sentence needs to be like that, but I think that should be the general approach.  Perhaps ''objectivity'' is the word I'm looking for.  I think it's important to give students the ''space'' to agree or disagree.
I certainly believe in Church teaching, and strive to make Catholicism intelligible, attractive, and ultimately irresistible to students, etc. - I want to keep my generation and future generations from leaving the Church.  But I think that aim is better served by allowing the ''objectivity'' or ''critical distance'' I'm talking about.  (And of course that doesn't preclude letting students see that you believe this or that, and sharing with them how much you hope they'll believe it too - while also giving them the freedom to disagree with it, not judging them, etc.)  Why can't high school textbooks be written with the same ''objectivity'' that is found in various books used in college classes, etc.?
8 years 7 months ago
Brendan, I think you'll find that Ascend takes an approach like the one you've outlined. I am one of the authors, and while it was not our intent to write a high school textbook, I suppose it could be used as such. It is actually written for young adults around the ages of 18-39.
Now I think your point is quite valid, although you should note that the phrasing you suggest is specifically discouraged by the USCCB for school catechisms. We use it a lot in Ascend because our concept assumes a pluralistic setting and it's important to distinguish when something is held by all Christians; by Catholics, Orthodox and Anglicans; or by few Christians. Ecumenism especially requires that we be clear when there are disagreements in belief and when there are not. So, for example, it drives me up the wall when I hear someone pontificate that belief in the Eucharist is what sets us apart as Catholics. How demeaning to Orthodox, Anglicas and Lutherans is that? Yet such is the smug and insular way we have approached catechetics.
8 years 7 months ago
I very much enjoyed reading the section of the book available for review. Just curious if Fr. Martin (or Mr. Stoltz) can answer whether the book has an imprimatur and nihil obstat. I read many books on religion lacking these official stamps of approval, but if I were to recommend the book in my parish for use by a youth group, for example, one of the first questions I'd be asked is whether the book has been formally vetted and approved by Church authorities. Thanks.
8 years 7 months ago
Bill, the book went through a formal diocesan theological review and has been published with the permission of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
8 years 7 months ago
Thanks for your reply, Deacon. I look forward to reading the entire book after it is published next month.


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