Like many notable Catholic blogger I received a review copy of Meredith Gould’s The Catholic Home which is in its second edition. I had been looking forward to reading this after reading Julie of Happy Catholic’s review, though less so after reading Tom of Disputation’s review.
The first and largest section of the book covers the liturgical year. Brief summaries are made of the prominent part of the liturgical year followed by summaries of celebrating them at home. Throughout the book chapters from the Catechism are used to reinforce the various feasts. Most of the chapters includes a look of the various traditions used throughout the world to celebrate these feast. Mostly involving food which of course makes sense for liturgical feasts. It is interesting to read about the various liturgical customs and this exactly the type of information that I want to see in a book of this type.
The chapters are also interspersed with prayers and some handy lists of information relating to the liturgical year. She write with a good sense of humor which occasionally made me smile. I really wanted to like this book, but now I know why you aren’t suppose to look a gift horse in the mouth. There is a lot to like and a much useful information for somebody just entering the Church and wanting to bring the liturgical year into the daily activity of their homes. Unfortunately there are many errors in this book. A chapter that included a classic Marian prayer included a comment that saying it would make Martin Luther spin in his grave. Obviously the author is not aware that Martin Luther never lost his Marian devotion. But that is only a minor criticism and fairly unimportant, the other errors are much more problematic.
The first section of the book is the best part and if that was all to it I could probably recommend the book. Some parts were just odd. The section that covers the Liturgy of the Hour’s just was not serious. She recommended against the 4-volume set because of all the ribbons to keep track of. Instead she said we could basically do the same thing with our Bibles and that your church’s bulleting probably lists the readings or that they can be obtained from a Catholic web site. Of course this is just not possible. The readings from the daily Liturgy mesh with the readings in Divine Office, they are not the same thing. Trying to use your Bible you would end up with a heck of a to more ribbons trying to keep track and of course you wouldn’t have the antiphons, readings, hymns, etc. Not to mention the second readings from the Office of Readings mostly from the Church Fathers. I’ll stick with my 4-volume set. Though she could have recommended the one volume Christian Prayer as an alternative.
The section on the sacraments is where things really break down. Now in a book of this type you don’t expect theological exactness, but a lot of the wording left a lot to be desired. Discussing baptism "You technically don’t need a priest for this rite in an emergency." and then goes on to say "This like all other sacraments, derives and confers meaning whe celebrated in public." Sorry a sacrament does not derive its meaning by being celebrated in public. The meaning is just as full when done in private. Now if you are going to talk about an emergency situation it would be nice if the proper form and matter for this was mentioned.
The section on the anointing of the sick contains information that is just plain wrong. She says "Anxiety disorders, addictions, or unhealthy relationships are as worthy of anointing as, say, something terminal." Unfortunately many parishes are teaching this and have open anointing where people just come up in line as in Communion.
1004 §1. The anointing of the sick can be administered to a member of the faithful who, having reached the use of reason, begins to be in danger due to sickness or old age.
§2. This sacrament can be repeated if the sick person, having recovered, again becomes gravely ill or if the condition becomes more grave during the same illness.
Can. 1005 This sacrament is to be administered in a case of doubt whether the sick person has attained the use of reason, is dangerously ill, or is dead.
Can. 1006 This sacrament is to be conferred on the sick who at least implicitly requested it when they were in control of their faculties.
This sacrament is for those who are gravely ill not for problem relationships. This is a serious liturgical abuse and it is sad to see it furthered in this book.
The section on marriage says you have to have the marriage ceremony in a church, but that if you insist on having it outdoors you can have a Deacon do it. This is not without a dispensation from the local ordinary and if done without it will be an invalid marriage. If the Bishop does give permission, then it would not just be restricted to the Deacon anyway, in those cases a priest would be allowed to do it.
On the section on Holy Orders my jaw drop with "Currently the vocation of priest and deacon is open only to Catholic men." Currently? She then goes on against priestly celibacy mentioning how some of the Apostles had been married and then bringing up the old myth about celibacy being imposed because of medieval property rights disputes. She speaks glowingly of the Orthodox and there having married priests without mentioning that both their monks and bishops are required to be unmarried. "God only knows what the future holds for those who feel called to receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders." Did somebody send me a prank copy of this book? Testing to see if I read the whole book. I wish that was the case.
The short section on the Rosary to me seemed to concentrate on Mariolatry and displaced devotion more than devotion. The guide on when to pray the mysteries was just plain wrong. Luminous Mysteries on Sunday, funny I could have sworn Rosarium Virginis Mariae recommended Thursday. You pray the Glorious Mysteries "on Wednesdays and Saturdays from Easter until Advent." is another mistake.
The book ends with Essential Prayers which rightly contains what you would expect it would and ends with suggested readings and various internet links. The links are solid and I saw no problems with the recommendations, though most of the books were unfamiliar to me.
This book could have been a great guide to give people in RCIA. It does contain a lot of good practical advice and suggestions for celebrating the liturgical year. Unfortunately the flaws make it totally unsuitable for anybody new to the Church. Not recommended.