Robert Barron is an American professional who focuses on theology and shares his knowledge through his books. Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith is one of his writings that discusses religion that is close to the author. Barron speaks about those features of Catholicism that provide it with an opportunity to distinguish itself from other religions.
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Barron’s book starts with the introduction that is focused on the identification of the Catholic thing (8). He considers that the enfleshment of God is the major element that should be discussed. In particular, Barron states that the Word of God turned into flesh and entered the world of bodies peacefully (8). While other legends and philosophies discuss the interaction between people and gods, they mention that divine figures are ruled by aggression and bring harm to human beings and nature.
In Catholicism, on the other hand, God comes to help the world’s population and to save everyone. He benefits people instead of hurting them. Moreover, He expects people to follow his example and start bearing some divine features. This religion presupposes the great humanism that is critical for the public. Even though some may believe that the doctrine of the Incarnation is the main feature that is to be considered when identifying Catholicism, it is vital to pay attention to the fact that it does not distinguish this religion from other Christian churches.
In addition to the identification of those features that make Catholicism unique, Barron outlines what will be discussed further in his book in the introduction to it (10). The author claims that he is willing to let readers acknowledge the artifacts of Catholicism. He speaks about his desire to reveal what separates Jesus from others and how his teachings lead people on the path to joy. Moreover, the author states that Catholic Church is a mystical body that is not only focused on the opportunity to praise God but also to make ordinary people holy.
Barron believes that God is willing to develop a friendship with human beings, and the way people respond to His divine love identifies how they will be treated eventually (12). Finally, the author makes readers realize that the Catholic tradition is full of various artworks (stories, images, and buildings, etc.) but has a technical nature, associated with well-grounded arguments and intellectual passages.
His first chapter, Amazed and Afraid, Barron starts with unexpected humor, which may make readers think that his writing is not academic and opposes generally accepted views on spirituality and its gravity (14). The author states that the fact that God became human has the essence of comedy because this powerful creator turned into a weak little baby by his will. In this way, Christianity presupposes that people should not be too serious. This approach is not strange, as Christianity is not a philosophy or ideology, considering its primary focus; it is a relationship to the change of Jesus as a man to Jesus as God.
Barron also attracts attention to the fact that even spiritual individuals do not know much information about Jesus’s life before he started speaking to masses (16). Everyone acknowledges how he was born, but no one has an idea of what he was doing during the next thirty years. This fact makes the figure of Jesus even more mysterious. Moreover, he also wanted to get to know what others think about him. For instance, asking “who do people say that I am,” Jesus reveals that he is interested in the way people treat his identity (Barron 17).
He is not concerned of what they say about his teaching but focuses on his person. This element makes him different from many other religious founders because they urge their followers not to think of them as of some individuals but to consider their spiritual way and those moral recommendations they make. In comparison to the Buddha, Mohammed or even Confucius, Jesus seem to position himself as a man who attracts attention not to his words but to himself.
However, this fact does not mean that Jesus fails to treat his teachings appropriately, it means that he acts in the person of God and wants others to get to know more about Him. Further, Barron develops this idea, discussing Jesus’s words and actions as those that live even after his death, focusing on Testaments and outstanding events.
In the second chapter, for instance, he speaks about Jesus’s teachings, emphasizing that even though he shared them with the crowds, he was not eager to be treated as Messiah. Nevertheless, the power of his speech is undeniable because even when many of his disciples left, this inner circle rested to obtain more information about eternal life. Barron claims that Catholicism presupposes freedom, as those laws described by Jesus are aligned with joy, and people are not compelled to act in a particular way but have an opportunity to make their own decisions (37).
Moreover, regardless of the fact that some beatitudes seem to bear negative connotation, they can and should be interpreted differently. Even being on the cross, Jesus loved God’s will and was positively approached, he urged people not to harm each other and to love even enemies, developing a new vision.
Further, Barron discusses the mystery of God in the Catholic tradition, emphasizing that He is a being but higher than typical people are. He does not exist at any particular time or place in the world and does not belong to any cosmic objects but He can be observed through His creatures and effects (56). God is the one who knows what is good and what is bad while people do not have this information. As evil is there where there is no God, people are encouraged to follow Him.
Still, they are free to make any choices that is why they tend to repeat errors of their predecessors. Barron believes that God became a creator because he had no needs of his own but He had the love that He wanted to express (68). The Trinity also reveals a family of love.
In the sixth chapter, Barron reveals that the church means a lot for Catholics because they treat it as a sacrament of Jesus that shares his energy instead of being just a place for gathering people who have similar ideas. The church becomes God’s body with the help of which He reaches people that is why Catholics say that the church is one. Moreover, it is holy because it represents Jesus and his love. The term “catholic” reveals “both the internal integrity of the church and its universal outreach” (Barron 152).
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Finally, it is apostolic, as it is grounded on those people who belonged to Jesus’s inner circle. Thus, the Catholic Church is a body with all vital organs, the head of which is Jesus. Saying “I am the vine, you are branches,” he encouraged others to gather under his protection (Barron 133). In this way, it is not surprising that Catholics visit the church rather often, and reveal their willingness to be more than just a human institution.
In the sevens chapter, the author states that Catholic liturgical life is associated with gatherings of different people who forget about their diversity and focus on the desire to become closer to God (Barron 159). At the Mass, they sing and pray to Him, listen to His Word, receiving this message from priests. People focus on the real presence of God and Jesus, as they have an opportunity to try his flesh and blood. In this way, communion with the Lord that changes all people who participate in it is held. It is believed to the source of the Christian life that unites all pious Catholics.
Thus, Barron develops a guide to the Church that includes important information about theological tracts and even focuses on such controversial topics as abortion and sexuality. The author resorts to inspirational stories and shares information through his own narrative, which makes him closer to readers. He researchers Catholicism from different perspectives, ensuring that the newcomers to the faith receive an opportunity to obtain all information that may be needed. Moreover, he adds various images of those paintings, cathedrals, and other objects that were affected by religion.
Barron, Robert. Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith. Image Books, 2011.