Jon Sweeney, a self-described evolved Protestant and noted religious writer, has long been fascinated by the Catholic Church. However, it wasn t until he was a young missionary in the Philippines that he truly began to understand the Church s traditions, mysteries, and religious beliefs and its hold on those who follow the tradition. As he explains, Catholic spirituality is all about responding to the fundamental mystery of Jesus, the incarnation, and what it all meant in the beginning as well as what it means today.
In Almost Catholic, Sweeney offers an appreciation of Catholicism, weaving in the story of his own explorations with those of others who have also been attracted to this tradition. He finds himself drawn to the Church s ancient and medieval traditions out of a desire to connect with the deepest and widest paths on the way. Two millennia of saints and practices and teachings and mystery form a connection for him to the very beginnings of Christianity.
Jon M. Sweeney is a prolific author who wrote Born Again and Again, named one of the Best Books of 2005 by Spirituality & Health magazine and honored with an Award of Merit by Christianity Today, and Light in the Dark Ages: The Friendship of Francis and Clare of Assisi, a selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club. He writes for the website www.explorefaith.org, and his articles have been published in a variety of magazines including Catholic Digest, The Lutheran, The Merton Seasonal, and Spirituality & Health.
Introduction vii SECTION ONE The Language and the Spirit 1 Forget What You Thought You Knew 3 Catholic 11 Forget About Conversion 16 Doubters and Believers, Atheists and Agnostics 22 Eleven Steps to Becoming a Truly Catholic Christian 26 SECTION TWO The Catholic Imagination 29 God Is Here 31 Sacred Spaces and Places 36 Privy to a Revealed Secret 42 But It s Too Easy 48 Taking Vows 54 Becoming a Saint 62 SECTION THREE Faith with Flesh 69 He Loved His Own Flesh 71 The Sensuousness of Jesus 77 The Crucifix 81 Stations of the Cross 88 Bones and Bodies 93 Something Good About Hell 101 SECTION FOUR Much More Than Kitsch and Jesus Junk 109 Rosary Beads 111 Little Books 116 Images That Speak 122 Novenas for Heathens and Outcasts 128 Going to Confession 135 The Sacred Heart of Jesus 140 SECTION FIVE My Own Cloud of Witnesses 147 Thomas Merton 149 Saint Francis of Assisi 153 Every Idealist Who Has Ever Tried 156 G. K. Chesterton 160 Flannery O Connor 165 The Catechism as a Mystical Novel 172 SECTION SIX Together with Others 179 Take Me to the River 181 Sacraments and Sacramentals 187 Contemplative Living 192 Eating and Kissing 197 Millions of Blessings 203 Excommunication 207 Appendix Defining a Few Terms 213 Notes 217 Suggestions for Further Reading 225 Acknowledgments 227 The Author 229