Book Review: The Heart of Catholicism: Practicing the Everyday Habits That Shape Us by Bert Ghezzi

by Deacon Mike Whitehead

From the beginning of The Heart of Catholicism, author Bert Ghezzi lays out his premise –– this book is geared toward women and men participating in the Christian Initiation process, as well as cradle Catholics looking for a way to plug the holes in their knowledge about faith and the Church.

So, we will use that as the standard to set the benchmarks by which we will judge Ghezzi’s work.
Actually, there is an interesting correlation between adults seeking to enter or learn more about Catholicism and Catholics practicing the faith over decades. Both groups need to be grounded in the basics of the faith. We see it consistently in the Christian Initiation process –– the Catholic spouse of the person going through RCIA learns a great deal, as well.

For Ghezzi, being Catholic is all about our relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s that simple. He says “Catholics are joined to Christ and to each other in the Church by these bonds: profession of faith and participation in the sacraments.” Score one for the author.

He offers a very good breakdown of faith, conversion and discipleship. For the author, faith and conversion must be in place before discipleship is possible. In Christian Initiation, as well as for practicing Catholics, we are called to be disciples of Christ.

As we know, the sacraments and Mass are a big part of our Catholic identity.

Ghezzi gives a good overview of the sacraments without getting tangled in language that might confound readers. Not only does he give straight-forward explanations of each of the seven sacraments, he takes it a step further by explaining what the sacraments do for us.

There is an entire chapter devoted to the Mass. Although we might argue that any discussion of the Mass is worth two or three chapters, The Heart of Catholicism gives a thorough nuts-and-bolts breakdown of the Mass. Of particular note: Ghezzi speaks from the heart about how the Mass is transformative in his life.

He does the same with prayer. All of us know obtaining and maintaining a meaningful prayer life takes time and attention. It can be difficult and overwhelming, especially if you are just entering the faith or your knowledge of Catholicism is grounded at an eighth-grade level. The author allows us into his life by offering personal reflections on his prayer life. That vulnerability makes us feel better about our struggle with the peaks and valleys of our own prayer life.

The most disappointing chapter in the book is called “Reading and Applying Scripture.” As a reader, you would think that reading and applying scripture would be one of the most important chapters in the book. And you would be correct. But, for whatever reason, Ghezzi truncated his discussion of the Bible. However, there is a useful breakout on how Catholics interpret scripture.

Speaking of breakouts, The Heart of Catholicism is full of breakouts, as well as end-of-chapter discussion questions. Plus, this isn’t a 500-page tome. In 164 pages, the author adheres to our 21st century mantra of a quick read.

Ghezzi also gets bonus points for his “Choose an Action” segment at the end of each chapter. For example, under the chapter titled “Observing the Liturgical Seasons,” his first plan of action is to make Sunday Mass central to our lives. Each chapter is full of great plans that can play a central role in your faith life. He also gets kudos for discussions on the importance of parish life, caring for the poor and putting faith into practice.

In the end, we give The Heart of Catholicism a B+ – Ghezzi maintains his focus and delivers an informative read that gives us all food for the journey.

The Heart of Catholicism can be found in Slattery Library at the Catholic Center, as well as Barnes and Noble, Amazon and Books-A-Million.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>