I was honored to receive a copy of Matthew Kelly’s new book, The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic, and I can wholeheartedly recommend it.
Kelly researched what attributes faithful, dynamic Catholics had in common. (In Evangelical parlance, these would be those people who were “on fire” for Christ.) He came up with four main ones: prayer, study, generosity, and evangelization.
He spends the bulk of the book explaining what these attributes are and how anyone can start to do them. It’s a very quick read because Kelly writes in a straightforward style that includes lots of anecdotes, both from his own life and from people he has known.
With the section on prayer, instead of talking about all the different ways and modes of prayer–contemplative, meditative, lectio divina, spontaneous, memorized, and so on–he offers a simple formula for how to structure a prayer time with God. Then he offers practical advice for how to carve out a few minutes of your day for prayer.
I like Kelly because he’s an “a-b-c” kind of guy. He gets how most people operate. We tend to be lazy, to fall off the wagon, to never get started in the first place. And he targets his advice to helping us regular Joes overcome those obstacles so we can draw closer to our Lord.
The “study” chapter is similar: start small with just reading a few pages of a good Catholic book each day and go from there. As I read, I asked myself whether I was doing the prayer and studying he recommended, and I found that I was fairly lackluster with both. I read the Bible in the evenings…sometimes, when I feel like it, but not every night. I pray for more than a few minutes…when my wife suggests we pray the Rosary or I’ve already committed the time during a Holy Hour.
Generosity includes money and non-monetary aspects. And here, too, he has good tips. There’s a lot of Joe Biden Catholics out there who pitch a dollar or five in the collection plate. Who don’t see all that they have as God’s, who generously lets them keep 90%! Even so, I realized my tithing had fallen from 10% in the past few years, due to laziness in large part, and I needed to beef it up again.
Kelly’s approach at times can seem a bit mechanical, as if doing a bunch of research and quantifying data to develop “the program” for people to follow will lead to conversions to Christ. He doesn’t come out and say that but there’s an implication of it at times, even in the subtitle: “How engaging 1% of Catholics could change the world.” The idea is that, if we could just raise the number of active Catholics from 7% to 8%, the Church would be so much better at her mission, so let’s go for that (reachable) goal. Well, I’m not sure how such math translates into evangelization on the personal level, but okay.
That said, the book is perfect for cultural or nominal Catholics, and for people raised Catholic who no longer go to Church or even believe in God. I can see, by God’s grace, that many such people would take the book’s message to heart and turn to Christ again. He shared stories of this happening with his other book, Rediscover Catholicism. And I believe him. That book is another great one to hand out to Joe Whatever Catholic that could help him to truly see how great the Church is, in spite of the failures of many of her members.
Kelly is a great gift to the Church, focusing on re-evangelizing Catholics in the pews in the most simple, basic way possible.