First, and to the point: this is an excellent book, the new standard to give to the seeker, the RCIA participant, the college student, the non-Catholic spouse, the skeptical friend, even the lost Catholic. It is slender and readable, accessible, creative, and thorough. It is the fruit of both an accomplished scholar and a popular writer. I highly recommend it.
Barron’s book invites us to see the forest of Catholic faith rather than the individual trees, so to speak. His approach is deeply sacramental, by which I mean not only his interest in the fact that Catholics celebrate sacraments, but also his ability to use discreet images and examples as windows into the mystery of Catholic faith.
The key, for Barron, is beauty. He tips his hand near the end of the book, narrating his own experience as a student, of first seeing the great rose window in the cathedral in Paris,writing
I entered the cathedral, walked up the central aisle, turned left at the transept, and then stood fixed and mesmerized for twenty minutes by the sheer beauty of that window. Every single day that I was in Paris until I returned home for Christmas, I went to that spot and stared. (272)
Barron wants to elicit from the reader a sense of awe and wonder, that same sense that the world is beautiful and that Christ is at the center of it., he succeeds in doing beautifully. Through Barron you come to understand the Catholic faith in ways that you may not have before. You see the sheer beauty in each aspect of the faith. Catholics who have grown distant from their faith will be effectively evangelize. While it will also reach out to other Christians who want to understand more about a tradition which to them may seem complex and arcane. I found Catholicism to be not only a wonderful read but a great resource that allowed me to rediscover and understand my faith in ways I never have before.