Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

What does it mean to be Christian, in particular a Catholic Christian? How does that impact the way we relate to the world? Is it possible to begin with our common human experiences and extrapolate great truths about life? Will our experience lead us to God? A catechism offers the guiding principles of a religion. Usually, that means beginning with what the religion has to say and then fitting life experiences into that framework. Greeley takes the opposite approach. He begins with human experience and shows how it leads believers to the truth of the Catholic faith.

The Great Mysteries was written approximately a decade after the Second Vatican Council, popularly known as Vatican II (1962-1965). The period witnessed great upheaval in the Catholic Church. There had been a strong tendency toward legalism, which had existed since the Reformation in the 1500’s and 1600’s. In the 1960’s, those rules and regulations were being called into question. The Baltimore catechism, which was the means by which nearly all Catholics learned their faith, offered simple answers to complex questions. Children were expected to memorize it and obey; there was no room for discussion. In many ways, the Baltimore catechism had provided a very secure foundation for the faith. One always knew what to expect and how to live. Vatican II pulled the rug out from under many Catholics. It called the laity to greater participation in the Church. It encouraged conversation...

(The entire section is 417 words.)