Up Front and Personal

Why Bother Being a Catholic?

by Antoinette Bosco

“God finds us again and again, when we least expect him. He finds us because he never left us.”
These comforting words, found in “Why Stay Catholic? Unexpected Answers to a Life-Changing Question” (Loyola Press), stay with me because of the power contained in them.
The book’s author, Michael Leach, is publisher emeritus and editor-at-large of Orbis Books.  In “Why Stay Catholic,” he confronts a reality that we all live with: knowing people, often our relatives, who were once good Catholics but now never go to Mass.
Mike honestly acknowledges that many Catholics have left the church because of scandals or something as mundane as “simple boredom” that led them to question their faith. But then he gives remarkable reasons for celebrating our Catholic faith despite our oftentimes great disappointments.
While the book is significant, the man behind the book is even more so.  Mike has edited and published more than 2,000 books by such authors as Nobel Prize and prestigious book award winners. He is the former president of the Catholic Book Publishers Association, the ecumenical Religion Publishers Group, and Crossroad Publishing Company.
In 2007, Mike, who is dubbed “the dean of Catholic book publishing,” was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Catholic Book Publishers Association.
I have known him for more than 40 years.  But it was in April of 2001 that he took me by surprise with a special request.
Mike called me, saying that he had read an editorial that I had written for the Hartford Courant, expressing how appalled I was that Montana had brought back the death penalty, which I had opposed all of my life. (And I continued opposing it even though my son John and his wife Nancy had been murdered in Montana not long before the state resumed executions.)
Mike then asked if I would write a book on the death penalty for him to publish at Orbis.
I asked him, “When do you want it?”
He said Aug. 1, and I agreed.
But when I hung up I thought, “You crazy lady! You just said you’d write a book in three-and-a-half months!”
I did manage to write “Choosing Mercy, A Mother of Murder Victims Pleads to End the Death Penalty,” mainly because Mike polished and titled it.
In “Why Stay Catholic,” Mike tells how he met “stunning Vickie,” whom he married a year later.  That was more than 40 years ago, and now Vickie has early Alzheimer’s disease, but praises God, Mike writes, for the “miracles” in her life: her “sweetheart” and “wonderful boys.”  The book is full of love stories.
Mike also reminds Catholics that “Catholic social teaching is founded on the principle of solidarity: a spiritual awareness that each of us is responsible for the good of all of us.  It is knowing that when a family in Chicago gets food stamps, a city is richer; when a family in Maine receives health care, a state is healthier; when taxes from a corporation in Manhattan help provide shelter for a homeless family on the Gulf Coast, a country is stronger; and when a wealthy country sends AIDS medicine to families in Nigeria, the entire world is blessed.”

Antoinette Bosco writes a syndicated column for Catholic News Service.