Why I Am Catholic
(and You Should Be Too). By Brandon
Vogt, Ave Maria Press, 2017.
Spiritual Insights Into an Essential Encounter With God. By Fr. Donald Haggerty, Ignatius Press, 2017.
I Am Catholic (and You Should Be Too) and Conversion: Spiritual Insights
Into an Essential Encounter With God are two different approaches to the
same questions. What does it mean to be Catholic, what happens when one becomes
Catholic, and what does it take to stay Catholic? Both are written to appeal to
the reader’s intellect and soul although anecdotes, arguments, and in Vogt’s
Vogt opens his book on Catholicism and conversion with the following
“Anything but Catholic.
Spirituality, great. Religion, fine. Attending church,
But why in the world would anyone become Catholic today?
Isn't Catholicism a backward, intolerant, bigoted religion? Isn't it run
by pedophile priests and full of scandals? Doesn't it degrade women and
LGBT people and obsess about sex? Isn't it plagued by pointless rules
that stifle real faith?
I was not raised Catholic. Some of my friends must have been
Catholic growing up, but I never knew it. I grew up in a Presbyterian
church, which provided a warm community and great formation. Yet like
many young people, the life of faith never took root in me. This was
almost certainly my fault, not the church's.
As a teenager, I probably would have identified as "spiritual
but not religious." But then in college at Florida State, while
studying mechanical engineering, I fell in with a Methodist group on campus,
which dramatically affected my faith. I found a deep, vibrant community
that welcomed me in. They weren't afraid of hard questions, and they
exposed me to the fascinating world of the Bible. I started praying on my
own and began devouring books about God and faith and philosophy.
But then, as a twenty-year-old senior with a budding faith, and on
the cusp of graduating, getting married, and starting a new engineering job, I
did something few people could fathom, something that didn't fit with all those
other sensible decisions: I became Catholic.
To say friends and family were surprised would be a vast
understatement. Most were profoundly confused, and remain so. Though
I've discussed it often, trying to explain what led me into the Church, it's
still hard for people to understand how a young man with an apparently
well-functioning brain would not only look favorably on an institution such as
the Catholic Church but also actually choose to join it.”
Vogt’s book is deeply personal.
It touches upon themes of family, logic, courage, and going against the flow.
It’s a consistently upbeat book– there is no browbeating or anger in the prose,
just warmth, happiness, and encouragement. Vogt comes across as a man whose
life has been deeply enriched by his faith, and that he now seeks to spread his
happiness and purpose by sharing the sources of that jot with as many other
people as he can find.
the book, Vogt stresses that being a faithful Catholic generally means
distancing oneself from the popular and prevalent trends of the time. I should mention that Vogt’s description of
the hostility towards Catholicism (and the respect for other religions one
might consider embracing) in the introduction is far from universal. It’s
certainly common enough, but it’s also just one experience.
his introduction, Vogt writes:
“Choosing to be Catholic is provocative. It's
countercultural. It's literally the opposite direction our culture is
going. The Pew Research Center completed a massive, national religious
study, surveying more than thirty thousand Americans, which found that exactly
half (50 percent) of millennials who were raised Catholic no longer call
themselves Catholic today. That's massive attrition. Half of young
Catholics have already left the Church (with more likely following in the
future). That explains why "former Catholic" continues to be
one of America's largest religious groups.
The study also found that roughly 80 percent of people who left
the Catholic Church have left before age twenty-three. These aren't
lifelong Catholics who stay on the fence for decades before drifting
away. They're young people, people in high school or college, or young
adults — people the same age I was when I chose to become Catholic.”
Vogt draws upon the intellectual influences that shaped his spiritual
journey. The works of G.K. Chesterton
are chief among them.
“It's easy to swim downstream, to accept the status quo.
What's hard is to be a rebel, to look with fresh eyes on something most people
reject and say, "What if they're mistaken? What if 'anything but
Catholic' should perhaps be 'what else but Catholic'?"
These same questions struck G. K. Chesterton. He was one of
the most popular and prolific English journalists of the early twentieth
century, writing more than a hundred books and more than five thousand essays,
and lecturing all over the globe. But in 1922, he stunned the world by
announcing his conversion to the Catholic Church. Friends and family were
just as confused as mine were almost a century later. They thought this
normally straight mind had gone horribly off the rails, asking him accusingly,
"Why would you
Chesterton replied, as was his wont, with an essay. He
titled it, plainly, "Why I Am a Catholic," and he began it by saying,
"The difficulty of explaining why I am a Catholic is that there are ten
thousand reasons all amounting to one reason: that Catholicism is true."
contrast to Vogt’s ebullient work, Fr. Haggerty’s book Conversion is
less colloquial, but full of comparably strong insights into the nature of
conversion and maintaining one’s faith. There are many references to the fact
that one’s faith must not be allowed to become complacent or repetitive. At one
point, Fr. Haggerty mentions Pope John Paul II’s dictum that priest must strive
not to fall into the trap of treating their duties like those of being an
office clerk. Otherwise, the prayers and duties of the vocation become mere
tedium, missing the power that comes from the zeal of a burning faith. It’s not
exactly clear what a better comparison would be, perhaps a soldier in a
never-ending battle would be a more ideal standard, or perhaps a relief worker
or medic in a disaster area.
“The aftermath of
a conversion is as significant as the conversion itself. The soul’s response to grace in this period
after a conversion has a crucial impact on later life. It is one thing to be a prodigal son who
returns to his father after coming to his senses and repenting. It is another thing to open one’s eyes fully
to the new life that beckons in the glowing sunrise of a recent conversion. The recovery of grace is always only a first
step toward a discovery of immense possibilities in a life with God.”
of these books do an excellent job of encouraging their readers to find a
lasting faith in the Catholic Church.
Neither writer ignores a very potent truth: faith can be vital, but it’s
information about Why I Am Catholic and supplementary resources can be
found at https://whycatholicbook.com/get-book.)