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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Staying Faithful Today: A Book Review

by Kathleen Blease

Staying Faithful Today: To God, Ourselves, One Another
by Alfred McBride, O. PRAEM.
St. Anthony Messenger Press
Paperback, 95 pgs., list price $13.99
(Available at The Catholic Company) the family goes so goes society. Think about it. If fidelity toward the one to whom you made a lifelong vow is not possible to keep, then just what else is failing in life?--K. Blease

True fidelity is at the crux of our person hood. It defines who we are, no? Are you a faithful friend? An honest co-worker? A devoted parent? A loving spouse? All these definitions hinge on our intrinsic ability to practice fidelity.

The quality of our community rests on this. Have you ever met someone who doesn't seem to practice fidelity? This person can throw us off balance. We never know what we can say in his presence, how he might use what he knows about us. Or how he mocks our fidelity to our community, to our children, and to our spouse as just foolishness. He is looking out for Number One! Just work in an office for a short time, and chances are pretty good you just might meet him. His views and actions are disturbingly temporal and self-involved.

Sadly, this way of life invades our culture. It can be discouraging.

When The Catholic Company made this book available to us reviewers, I was hoping to find pearls of wisdom, specifically about fidelity in marriage. After all, as the family goes so goes society. Think about it. If fidelity toward the one to whom you have made a lifelong vow is not possible to keep, then just what else is failing in life?

I explained to the company's review coordinator that my goal was to provide this book to my readers in order to help them (you) understand their (your) marriage vows and how to live them out. Me, too. I, like everyone else can use the instruction in grasping the deeper and lasting intentions of Holy Matrimony. It's a lesson never wasted.

Alas, my goal was much smaller than what this book offered.

Father McBride digs deep into scripture and our Lord's teachings to unfold the true guise of fidelity. It is not just for marriage, and after reading this book, I feel kind of silly for approaching it in only this way.

Father begins with a much bigger view. His first two chapters aply explain that fidelity is not a man-made concept. It comes straight from Heaven. I'm thinking about when, many years ago, someone told me that monogamy was not part of our nature. "Men," he told me, "are not made to live that way. We are animals, too." (Don't worry, it wasn't my husband who told me this.) I'm sure this man is not alone in believing this idea. Father sets it straight. As a matter of fact, we are made in God's image (the animals are not) and God is fidelity. I particularly love Chapter Two: God Is Always Faithful To Us. It is worth the price of the book right there.

Notice the chapter titles. Here they are:

Chapter One: If You Don't Love, You Will Not Be Faithful
Chapter Two: God Is Always Faithful to Us
Chapter Three: Be Faithful to Your Real Self
Chapter Four: Stay Faithful to Your Friends
Chapter Five: Stay Faithful to Your Communities
Chapter Six: Stay Faithful to Your Marriage
Chapter Seven: Behold, A Faithful Priest

Of course I would not be surprised if you are already living this kind of life--or are at least striving to do so. But Fr. McBride gives us specifics, and I always like specifics. They sort of clump together to act as one big affirmation for those of us who think we are stumbling through life like a bumbling fool. In a culture that makes our faith countercultural, every affirmation that's steeped in Christ is certainly much needed and should be welcome. In short, you are getting it right, and you should keep trying, despite the hurts that might come your way.

My only suggestion to the author is that I would like to see more insight about marriage in his sixth chapter. I believe it's his shortest discussion. However, I make this suggestion with some hesitation. After many years of marriage, I can see--with a bit of retrospect applied--that Father's advice is excellent. It is simple and pithy yet well placed. Perhaps these simple directions are powerful enough to guide--and even heal--a marriage going over the bumpy road. Still, when I got to the end of the chapter, I thought: That's it? I guess I had to give it some time to let it seep in, then I could see his wisdom in keeping it simple. It's digestible.

Lastly, I'd like to tell you now much I enjoyed Father's final chapter, "Behold, A Faithful Priest," in which he openly and frankly discusses celibacy and what it is like to live as a celibate. If you ever wondered why priests must remain celibate (at least as they are in the western rites), you will find plenty of answers in this chapter. I always thought highly of our priests, but this gave me a much deeper appreciation for how they live out their calling to Christ, bound to His bride the Church. Perhaps this would be a chapter worth sharing with our older sons and daughters.

Come to think of it, the entire book would make excellent reading for our high school seniors.

Staying Faithful Today is a pleasure to read, written in a conversational tone. It also provides plenty of scripture as its backbone. The book is also designed to be used in discussion groups, giving thought-provoking questions and discernible prayers at the end of each chapter. Perhaps your parish would be interested in reading it among men's prayer groups, women's and moms' groups, and RCIA.

About the Author: Alfred McBride, O. PRAEM., holds a diploma in catechetics from Lumen Vitae, Brussels, and doctorate in religious education from the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. He has written many books, including a series on the Bible, four books on the new Catechism of the Catholic Church; A Priest Forever: Nine Signs of Renewal and Hope; A Short History of the Mass; and The Story of the Church.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Staying Faithful by Alfred McBride, O. PRAEM. They are also a great source for serenity prayer and baptism gifts.

Enjoy and happy reading.

God bless.

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