The following story appeared in the August 11 Idaho Catholic Register.
By Gene Fadness
for the Idaho Catholic Register
It’s late summer, but recommended summer reading lists still come to our inboxes from a variety of sources, so why not some reading suggestions from the Idaho Catholic Register? Idaho has its share of Catholic authors who have recently published books or booklets that may provide spiritual nourishment and cool respite by the pool or near the air conditioner.
The books profiled here are by no means representative of all that has been written by Idaho Catholics, but will give the reader a glimpse into the talent of some of the state’s faithful Catholic authors. Those featured here include a very recent convert, a Catholic priest, an aspiring deacon, a current deacon, and a faithful lay Catholic.
“It’s About Time: Following Jesus Through the Seasons of the Church Year”
Readers of the Idaho Catholic Register may recall reading the inspiring conversion story of the Rev. Brook Thelander, who for 22 years, was the pastor at Epworth Chapel on the Green in Boise.
Thelander, after years of searching and prayer, was Confirmed in the Catholic Church by Bishop Peter Christensen last February.
Thelander’s former church on Boise’s Cole Road describes itself as a Wesleyan (Free Methodist) church with Anglican liturgy, thus with many similarities to a Catholic Mass. Thelander’s gradual shift to a more liturgical style of worship, significantly different than his early Christian years in the Church of the Nazarene, is due in part to his study of the Church year, as observed in more liturgical churches such as Catholic, Anglican
(Episcopalian), Lutheran and Methodist. That study of the Church year became the subject of his recently published book.
Thelander, who has a master’s degree from Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky and a doctorate from the Toronto School of Theology, began writing It’s About Time five years ago.
“After many years in pastoral ministry, I decided to take up a project where I could address issues that were important to me in my years of working with parishes. One issue was the importance of the liturgical year as a means of spiritual formation, both collectively and individually. I had many pastoral colleagues and other friends who were not familiar with the liturgical year and its grace-filled rhythms. I wanted to introduce them to the inner logic and theological coherence of the Church year.”
Many Protestants, especially evangelical Protestants, have little or no concept of the importance of the seasons on the liturgical calendar: Advent, Christmas and Epiphany (which Thelander calls “The Cycle of Light”); Lent, Easter and Pentecost (which Thelander calls “The Cycle of Life”); and finally, but not of less significance, Ordinary Time.
“I had come to believe that many of the struggles that Christians of all backgrounds face in the life of faith could be illumined when viewed through the lens of the liturgical year,” Thelander said. “I decided to use the Church year as an interpretive lens through which to look at some of those issues. The book thus took on the two-fold purpose of introducing people to the liturgical year, while also helping persons to grow as disciples of Jesus by examining specific hurdles that often confront us in the life of faith.”
Midway through the project, Thelander grew discouraged and quit writing. “My brother, Rod, offered me some wise counsel. He told me that I needed to finish the book for myself as part of my own spiritual formation, regardless of whether it would ever be published. So, I forged ahead.”
Readers will be glad he persisted. The book is a valuable tool not just for lay readers, but also for clergy as they develop homiletical themes through the Church year.
“The book is very Catholic, but not explicitly so, because I was attempting to reach a wide audience and minister to persons of all Christian traditions,” Thelander said. However, now that he is Catholic, he said he prays that “God will use the book to bless and inspire others, and to bring persons closer to Christ’s one, holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.”
In his introduction, Thelander writes that God, who stands outside space and time, entered both space and time in the person of Jesus. “The Incarnation … reveals to us not merely the earthliness and materiality of Christianity, but also the reality that Christianity involves experiencing life at the intersection of time and eternity.” The wisdom offered in Christianity is this lived experience at this intersection, Thelander writes. “It involves living, dying and rising again with Jesus. It is nothing less than the life of Jesus being manifested and reproduced in us.”
“My personal story finds its deepest meaning in relation to God’s purposes for me and for the world. Numbering my days – and gaining a heart of wisdom – involves submitting to Jesus and consciously stepping into His story. It involves having the shape and purpose of my life conformed to the shape and purpose of His.”
Thelander begins each section of the book with a brief history and summary of each of the major Church seasons. He then devotes individual chapters of the book to selected readings from each season. He includes stories from his own life, his pastorate, and selections from favorite Christian authors, saints and hymns that accompany each season.
In his forward to the book, Father Don Hughes, rector emeritus of St. John’s Anglican Church in Boerne, Texas, writes, “As a cradle Christian raised in a preacher’s home, I
somehow escaped learning that it was a good thing to number my days according to the rhythms of the Church year. I did not know there was a such a year and that it had a distinct rhythm. I came to the liturgical life late, but not too late for it to set me on a very different path.”
Father Hughes left his secular career of 33 years to pursue ministry and attributes much of his growth to Thelander. “At his first sermon, I knew I had found my mentor. Dr. Thelander is a skilled communicator. With an economy of words, he is able to make the complex not so difficult to understand. … I found my Christian home in the liturgy of the Church year.”
Copies of Thelander’s book, published by Wipf & Stock Publishers, are available at Reilly’s Church Supply in Boise, from Amazon, Wipf & Stock and Christian Book Publishers.
“The Mormons, The Catholics: A Tale of Two Cities” and “Mormon Missionaries Knocking At My Door: A Catholic Survival Kit.”
The first of these two books, by Father William Taylor, is an update of a book with a similar title written 45 years ago by Father Taylor when he was a campus minister at Idaho State University in Pocatello, a city with one Catholic parish and 17 Mormon wards. The book sold 40,000 copies.
“Many years have passed, but the need for this book remains,” Father Taylor writes in the preface to his update. However, his reason for writing the book has not changed during these 45 years. “I want to give an honest, respectful explanation of Mormonism. But, even more, I want to offer Catholics a vision of the Catholic Church at its best. I try to give Catholic and Mormon readers an understanding of a (Catholic) Church populated by its share of sinners, including me, many great saints, and legions of humble saints. This is the Church I know and love.”
Father Taylor, who now lives in Nampa, is a native of Pocatello. His maternal grandparents were LDS and many of his relatives to this day practice the LDS faith. “As I tell this story, I remember once again that I am the product of a most unlikely circumstance. Somehow, a sturdy ‘Catholic branch’ managed to sprout from a rugged ‘Mormon juniper’ story.”
That sturdy branch was his mother, who, while she was pregnant with Father Taylor and living in Kemmerer, Wyo., entered a Catholic Church “on a whim,” for her first experience of “sacred silence.” She converted, while her family members did not. “It was almost inevitable that I would try to bring the two legacies together,” Father Taylor writes about his blended spiritual heritage.
He does so respectfully, emphasizing early on and throughout his book the devotion of the Latter-day Saints, while, at the same time respectfully, explaining clear differences. “The law of love is written in every heart, even when the owner of the heart does not recognize the God who wrote it there,” he writes.
He begins by describing a typical Mormon family. Later chapters delve into the Catholic and LDS interpretations of “gospel,” and address the age-old question, “Are Mormons Christian?” Other chapters look into the Catholic view of who God is, who Christ is, and our experience of the Holy Spirit. He writes about the unique LDS view of revelation, and the LDS and Catholic views of scripture and Tradition.
He spends quite a bit of time discussing the tactics of erstwhile young Mormon missionaries, stressing the importance of Catholics leading the discussion when
Mormons call and even stepping up to the be the ones who pray, which will shock the missionaries. Father Taylor even suggests what to say in the prayer. By taking the lead in discussion and the prayer, the Catholic becomes the authoritative teacher rather than ceding that ground to the missionaries, he writes.
Father Taylor writes also about the importance of understanding the LDS concept of “giving testimony,” an extremely successful proselytizing tactic of both missionaries and LDS Church members. This concept of testimony is based on a strong feeling or spiritual impression Mormons believe they receive from God, by way of personal revelation, of the veracity of Mormon truth claims such as the calling of Joseph Smith as a prophet or the Book of Mormon as an inspired book of scripture. It is hard to refute such a “testimony” when the believer claims to have received it by revelation from God.
It is important, Father Taylor explains, for Christians to explain that they, too, believe their lived faith is the result of Spirit-inspired personal testimony. Trying to live our faith without asking the Holy Spirit for light and wisdom is “living a bone-dry religious life,” he writes.
But, he points out, testimony, to be valid, must also be accompanied by an examination of the evidence behind truth claimed through a study of scripture, of Tradition (the writings of Church fathers and saints) and Church history. Good feelings, he warns, can come from a variety of sources. “Good feelings do not come only from God, but a skilled manipulator can make it seem that way. That is why we need what St. Ignatius of Loyola calls ‘discernment of spirits.’ ”
In eloquent words, the author offers his own testimony on pages 98-100. He writes, in part, “As a Catholic, I feel the comforting presence of Jesus in my heart. God is my Father, and the Holy Ghost is the companion on my journey. I realize with joy that I live within the life of the Trinity, one God in three persons. I also know by the clear witness of the Holy Ghost that the true Church subsists in the Catholic Church, and that God will support and sustain that Church until the end of time. This is my peaceful, heartfelt witness, and I give thanks to God in the name of Jesus Christ.” (This writer attended hundreds of testimony meetings as a young Mormon. Words like these will resonate in the hearts of well-meaning LDS truth-seekers.) These few pages are a highlight, giving the reader a glimpse into Father Taylor’s deep faith and giving credence to his claim that “the space between Jesus and my heart is thinner than my two fingers pressed together.”
Father Taylor has also written a smaller book that offers guidance in how to witness to LDS missionaries. The book, “Mormon Missionaries Knocking At My Door: A Catholic Survival Kit,” is primarily directed to young Catholic readers who end up dating a Mormon or befriend young Mormons in high school or college. He acquaints the reader with the successful LDS missionary program and explains the life of a typical missionary. He takes the reader through the lessons taught by the missionaries and delves into the methods and Christian-like terminology employed by the missionaries. As in the larger book, he explains the key differences in the LDS and Catholic views of God, salvation and scripture.
Readers, initially, might be confused as to what Father Taylor recommends when the missionaries knock on the door. In some parts of the book, he recommends a firm “no,” while in other situations he writes about offering the missionaries cookies and milk. It’s a simple recognition that people will respond differently to the missionaries. To those brave enough to dialogue, he shares many useful tips.
Father Taylor self-published both books, available from Amazon.
“The Catholic Company Man: Collisions of Faith, Catechism and Company Meetings”
Eric Meyer was raised in a Catholic home in Moscow and attended Catholic schools. Church was a weekly ritual in the family “but I never thought that hard about it along the way,” he writes. He grew up in a post-Vatican II Church “marred by debate, and they lost my generation in the shuffle.”
His career in the corporate world of pharmaceutical sales took him on the road. Those trips had all the typical trappings of corporate travel, yet it was in these settings that he encountered God and a newfound appreciation for his faith.
He met plenty of Catholic men just like him on those work trips, struggling to find a Mass on a Sunday morning after late nights partying. Meyer describes his book, “The Catholic Company Man: Confessions of Faith, Catechism and Company Meetings,” as a “compilation of corporate stories, from 25 years on the road, each with related scripture and Catechism moments. … There are a whole lot of men who are in the trenches all week and then in the pews on Sundays. They are busy with work and family. They haven’t much expertise in the Catechism and, frankly, they are not ready to dive head-long into the depths of Aquinas or Augustine. My book, hopefully, is an on-ramp” to that deeper study and appreciation for the faith, Meyer told the Idaho Catholic Register.
Meyer is a natural storyteller. His writing is humorous, introspective and inspirational. The short, insightful chapters make for light, but worthwhile, reading.
When Meyer met his wife, Heather, she was Lutheran. “She wasn’t opposed to the notion of becoming Catholic, but nor was she impressed by my theological chops when I couldn’t even answer the most basic questions.” He credits his wife and four daughters for bringing him “back to life in the Church,” and counsels fellow Catholic dads to take the lead, along with mom, in raising children in the Church.
“Young Catholics need to be taught and challenged by their old man as well as by formal church education,” he writes. “It’s got to be more than Sunday Mass. Kids need to see the faith being wrestled with and figured out by their parents. Proverbs 22:6 lays it out crystal clear:
‘Train the young in the way they should go; even when old, they will not swerve from it.’ That puts me and you on the hook to know the faith and live it. If you are like me and thought Genesis was in the back of the Bible, it’s time to kick it into gear before your daughters are piercing their noses and your sons are vaping in the back lot of the Arby’s.”
Becoming a husband and father was key to leading him back to the Church, but also important were some providential encounters on the road; the first being part of the Super Bowl pregame show as a member of the “Up With People” song and dance troupe. That was followed by a performance tour in Australia where Meyer, waving a cowboy hat, took to the stage for an impromptu rendition of “Tie Me Kangaroo Down.” After two months in Australia, the flight home was delayed by two weeks “with nothing to do but party.” While on an early-morning jog – “all I wanted to do was sweat out the beer” – Meyer collided head-on with a “guy, my age, robed in a cassock.” Meyer asked him if a Mass was nearby. “The guy in the cassock may have grabbed me by the arm and pulled me along. I don’t remember. Either way, I complied.”
The next 90 minutes was “indescribable,” Meyer writes. The place where he jogged was a seminary. He was led into a morning Mass with 12 seminarians and “two other civilians.” Worried that he smelled like beer, Meyer grew especially anxious when
a seminarian led him up to the altar. “To this day, I don’t recall if I was smart enough to even remove my ball cap, but there I was at the altar, participating in the Eucharist in my Jimmy Z bro-tank and Ray-Bans. To coin a phrase from Genesis, I felt naked and afraid.”
He calls the experience a wake-up call. “God grabbed me at the precise point where I was the farthest from Him.” That seminarian may have saved his life, Meyer writes. “If he didn’t actually save me, he certainly catalyzed the slow turn away from what could have been a couple more decades of ridiculous behavior.”
He writes of other encounters, one with a Greek Orthodox cabdriver in Los Angeles who prays and makes the sign of the cross in his cab and gives Meyer a quick lesson about the split between the Catholic and Orthodox traditions while, at the same time, reminding Meyer that despite the centuries-old division, “We are brothers.”
Another encounter is with a sunny worker in an Alabama Waffle House and yet another happens on an early-morning walk in Billings, Mont. Visiting a darkened cathedral to see if Mass might be happening, he is greeted by an elderly woman who leads him to a small chapel, where, with a few other women, Meyer gets his first experience praying the Divine Office, or Liturgy of the Hours.
“That peaceful morning was another unscheduled moment of reckoning. … At this point, I hadn’t been to Confession in maybe 25 years, and it was time to listen up. ‘Get serious, I need you,’ was the message.”
Other men need to get serious as well, he urges. “The corporate world can be cynical, material and self-oriented. If we are to be the light for the world, we’re going to need
a few guys alongside us in the trenches.”
Meyer is taking his faith more seriously. He has completed his second year of study to be ordained a deacon.
Meyer’s book, published by Resource Publications, is available on most websites. He recommends bookshop.org.
“More Reasonable: A Reformation Comparison”
The small booklet, published by the Diocese of Boise, is adapted from an essay written by Eddie Trask, who is pursuing a master’s degree in theology from the Augustine Institute. Trask wrote the essay in 2022 for his “The Church and Modernity” course.
The essay compares two responses to the need for reform in the Catholic Church: One from St. Thomas More, the Chancellor to King Henry VIII, beheaded for refusing to acknowledge Henry as head of the Church of England; and the other response from Martin Luther, the Catholic monk, who was the catalyst for the Protestant Reformation.
Both More and Luther see the need to address the scandal, particularly among many Catholic clergy, at the time. The difference, Trask points out, is More’s efforts at reform from within and Luther’s from without. Trask points out that More wrote a pamphlet to respond to Luther, “Responsio ad Lutherum,” and quotes from the tract.
Trask looks briefly at Luther’s intense scrupulosity and his view that scripture, not the Church or Tradition, is the sole authority to determine truth. The result is one that not even Luther anticipated or wanted. Within 25 years of Luther’s break from Rome, Calvinists, Anglicans and some Anabaptists branched off from Lutheranism.
“Many of the quotes I cite were found in books I devoured when I returned to the Church in late 2019 and early 2020,” Trask said. Trask shared the essay with Bishop Peter Christensen who recommended that the essay be published in a booklet for the Diocese.
“Confluence of Spirit”
This book by Deacon Floyd Loomis of Donnelly is the final of a trilogy he has written about his life and eventual service to the Church.
Deacon Loomis describes his first volume, “Frankie Raven,” as an “exploration of natural revelation, death and beauty in rural 1950s Idaho.”
The second volume, “Raven’s Winter,” is about seeking God through beauty and morality, “but coming up short,” he writes. It covers his life experience through the Vietnam War period.
The recently completed third volume is about Frank’s discovery of the Church and service to Christ in a world he describes as “inclined to selfish immorality.”
A description of “Confluence of Spirit” on Amazon says the book “caps a Catholic trilogy with the introduction of the Church as an institution designed by God to be the custodian of service to all peoples … This volume picks up with Frank’s completion of graduate school, then takes him to work in New York City’s business and financial districts – a period of learning, skill, sobriety, philosophy, and reality therapy when he discovers that the modern world is practically devoid of faithful devotion to God. Pressing on, Frank traverses the country back to the Western mountains, rivers, and lakes of central Idaho where he gradually settles into an ever-greater tranquil life of service to family, community, and Church.”
Ordained in 2019, Deacon Loomis serves at St. Katherine Drexel in Cascade, Our Lady of the Lake in McCall, and St. Jerome’s in Riggins.
Deacon Loomis’ books are available from Amazon.
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