In his new book Louder Than Words: The Art of Living as a CatholicMatt Leonard has provided a resource covering many aspects of the Catholic faith. It is a book I think will be useful for those exploring Catholicism for the first time, those in RCIA and those who have been Catholic for years. The information provided is solid and Matt uses numerous references to Scripture, the writings of Saints and various Popes.
Matt opens the book with a brief overview of how he, the son of a Protestant pastor, converted to Catholicism. He does a wonderful job illustrating that in our own faith journeys we are very similar to the saints. Saint Jerome was intense, passionate……and a crank. Saint Vincent de Paul is well known for having a short temper. Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton was firmly rooted in this world out of necessity. She had children to raise. The point here being even saints had issues and challenges…the same ones we do today.
In the chapter “Beer, Chocolate and Value-Added Suffering” Matt drives home the point that suffering is a part of life. Due to the Fall, suffering is necessary and will happen either here on Earth or later in purgatory. In light of this, earthly suffering can be redemptive and be value-added for our souls. We are to get rid of anything and everything that could cause us to stray from God In short it’s so much more than giving up chocolate and beer for Lent.
Perhaps the chapter that had the biggest impact on me was the chapter on prayer titled “The Primacy of Prayer”. This chapter is the longest in the book and for good reason. It is chock full of great information on prayer. He makes a very good point about prayer early on that a familial relationship with Christ is “established through the grace of the sacraments, but cultivated through prayer.” He goes on to say that “A sacramental life devoid of prayer is like an exquisite meal with no utensils. You need both.” As the chapter unfolds Matt breaks prayer into 3 stages – vocal, meditative, and contemplative, and explains how as our relationship with God grows deeper, so will our prayer life. But it’s a two way street, as our prayer life strengthens, so does our relationship with God. The rest of the chapter is a walkthrough of each stage of prayer. A great resource and a wonderful chapter you will surely grow from.
These are just a few highlights in the book. Many other topics are touched upon including penance, the Mass and the Eucharist, and Heaven. Throughout the book stories are sprinkled about St. Francis, Solomon, St. John Vianney the Cure de Ars, St. Therese of Lisieux, and Maximilian Kolbe. References are made to the writings of Pope Benedict XVI, Pope John Paul II, St. John Chrysostom, and St. John of the Cross to name a few. All good stuff and all of it solid theology……even if you don’t realize it by the easy manner in which Matt presents it.
As I stated at the beginning of this review I feel this book serves many people at many different stages of the faith journey. This makes the book valuable on many fronts. Matt has given us a powerful guide to what the Catholic Faith is and how to live it. Throughout the book he sprinkles some personal stories and reflections to keep the book amusing and not so dense that you need to put it down and walk away. A tough task to do but one he pulled it off brilliantly.
I will close this review with the paragraph Matt closed Louder than Words with, it speaks volumes. “Live a life of no regrets. Don’t cut any corners. Dedicate yourself to the God who made you, loves you, and offers a mind-blowing eternity with him. It’s the offer of a lifetime — literally.”
I received a copy of this book for this review from the publisher Our Sunday Visitor.