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on February 14, 2013
I converted to Catholicism 8 years ago and I've struggled to find my "place" in the Church since that Easter Vigil. I had too much faith to be any kind of progressive Catholic and I lacked those cradle bona fides to even remotely understand what compels Traditional Catholics. I was beginning to doubt that I could be a Catholic at all.

Thank you Mr. Weigel. I read your book and discovered that I've been right where I should be all along, in Christ, and in His Church. I am Catholic after all.
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on February 14, 2013
Great Book on 'Evangelical Catholicism' /'The New Evangelization'/ 'Vatican II Catholicism'

George Weigel is one of my favorite Catholic essayists, political and cultural commentators. In this book he doesnt disappoint and delivers a top notch book which for a great many Catholics will become a handbook or a guiding light. Al Kresta calls the book prophetic. Another reviewer(Archbishop) called it a 'blueprint for the re-evangelization of the West'. I couldnt agree more. I see in the author, and in this book, someone who has finally wrestled with and pinned down what the abstraction 'The New Evangelization' is all about. Although George Weigel rarely mentions the term 'The New Evangelization' in his book, it is implicit within the book and synonymous with 'Evangelical Catholic/Catholicism'. And, of course, all this starts with you and me.

George gives us a bit of a rundown of 'modernism' and 'post-modernism', its anti-religion posture and how as the predominant culture it has completely pummeled 'Counter Reformation Catholicism', also known as 'Council of Trent' Catholicism, and has left the Catholic Church in a shambles dominated by 'progressive' vs. 'traditional', 'liberal' vs. 'conservative' and 'pre vs. post Vatican II' fights and discussions which are not the essential fights, as the Church should be centered on neither but 'Evangelical Catholicism'. Although I am a conservative, surprisingly true to form this book delivers and enables one to focus on the future and perhaps finally unfurl some fingers on these fights and labels and move forward on a new transcendent realignment. Albeit a new realignment with a brighter and better label: 'Evangelical Catholicism'.

According to George Weigel, "Evangelical Catholics are fed by both Word and Sacrament--by a daily reading of the Bible and regular reception of the Eucharist and the sacrament of Penance--are men and women being formed by the obedience of faith into a genuine freedom." Whereas "Counter-Reformation Catholicism" like Evangelical Catholicism emphasized a rich devotional life centered on Mary, the saints, and the Sacred Heart. But it did not lay much stress on sanctification through a regular encounter with the Bible and frequent reception of holy communion. The author George details many differences between the two, but notes the strength of Counter-Reformation Catholicism was its ability to create culture, sometimes hunkered down culture with large walls around it--ghettos with religious and ethnic distinctions. Wherever Counter-Reformation Catholicism traveled around the world post 1500's, it created local and enduring Catholic cultures,resistant to erosion, until finally after 500 years the age of modernism came and deconstructed, subsumed and replaced all those Catholic cultures with itself. Hence, the sad state of our embittered and embattled Catholic Church.

What George Weigel does do is describe what a true to doctrine, biblical based, reform-oriented, culture-forming Evangelical Catholicism should be, properly formed by Vatican II. George further explains that Vatican II really started with Pope Leo XIII(Papacy: 1873-1903) and his confrontation with modernism. He further details that the linchpin document of Vatican II was 'Dei Verbum' and it lays the groundwork not only for deep reform but for the 'New Evengelization' and the new 'Evangelical Catholic'. In our society, in our culture, confronting a disbelieving world with the revelation that God has revealed himself and comes down to us to meet us with our belief, cannot be successful with statements like 'The Catholic Church teaches...'. This is met with by most unbelievers in this 'modern' or 'post-modern' world with anti-authoritarian alarm bells and is a non-starter. Catholic evangelism and consequently the 'Evangelical Catholic' must be biblically based confronting in all charity the world with the actions of your belief and with sayings like 'The Gospel reveals...'. A statement like 'The Gospel reveals...', might be met with initial hostility or skepticism, but Gods truth, the Word, cannot be met with indifference. In essence this book provides a template for the next 500 years for 'The New Evangelization--Vatican II--Evangelical' Catholicism.
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on August 15, 2013
Weigel is one of the few authors with the depth and experience to tackle such a vast topic and to do so credibly. For the last several years it seemed as if the choice for he future of the Church was between liberals and conservatives. Now, Weigel argues that neither of these are the likely future path for the Church. Liberals want us to join the liberal protestant camp which has already shown it is going nowhere and has a weak following. Conservatives who want us to return to the days of the counter-Reformation are living in a time warp which ignores present day circumstances. The third option of Evangelical Catholicism both returns the Church to its Gospel beginnings and prepares it to deal with contemporary issues in a neaningful way. A seriously good read.
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on May 12, 2013
In the immediate wake of the election of Pope Francis, George Weigel was asked what he would like readers to take from his book (which was completed less than a year ago). His reply, I think, is no different than what it would have been when the volume was published: "A sense of hope for a bright Catholic future, in which a purified and revivified Catholicism, meeting the Lord once again on the Emmaus roads of the 21st century, rediscovers the power that comes from a commitment to mission."

Weigel's vision of a properly executed "commitment to mission" is the thread that runs throughout the book. Part One lays out his vision for Evangelical Catholicism covering its roots (EC is not something that needs to begin but rather something that needs to continue to be implemented), what it means for the Church and the world, and what "deep reform" (note that the subtitle is not subtle) would look like.

Part Two looks at how these reforms would impact the episcopate, the priesthood, the liturgy, religious life, lay persons, Catholic intellectual life, the Church's public policy advocacy, and the papacy. Weigel is not hesitant to point out historical and current problems in each of these areas, the roots of these problems, and correctives needed. Every member of the Church is addressed and challenged here. When finished with it, lay persons may want to pass this along to a priest or religious, even if that person only has time to read the chapter dealing with his vocation, and then discuss it with him. This would be a great way to engage those with a special religious vocation.

Particularly impressive is that the author appeals to Scripture, the authentic letter and spirit of Vatican II, and many Church documents from Leo XIII's "Rerum Novarum" to the latest encyclical, Benedict's "Caritas in Veritate." John Paul II, with whom Weigel is intimately familiar, naturally receives significant treatment not only because of this familiarity but because of the length of his pontificate and his desire to properly implement the reforms of Vatican II. Weigel clearly shows that his own proposals for reform are based solidly in recent (at least in relation to the age of the Church) teaching, thus in continuity with them, yet, like them, solidly grounded in Biblical roots.

If you are on the fence regarding purchasing this book, I suggest using the "Look Inside" feature in Amazon to peruse the table of contents and to read the prologue. This will provide the overview a potential reader needs to get a good sense of what Weigel dives into in admirable detail (he says in the acknowledgments that the "book is the product of some thirty years of reflection on the future of the Catholic Church" and it shows). Weigel's broad knowledge of history, both of the Church and of the world, his understanding of the culture, and his deep faith are on display once again.

Heartily recommended to convict the convinced, spur to action the lukewarm or disengaged, and challenge the rest.
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on June 22, 2015
I am currently reading this as an audiobook. Often I buy a hardcover like this so that I can refer back to the text, if I want to read something over a few times or dwell on it (hard to do when the music player is running). I am about one-third into the book by now (I'll update as necessary!). However, right from the very first paragraphs to which I listened, was I impressed by the quality of Weigel's scholarship, knowledge, and his ability to teach "Church" and what that is! He knows the history. He refers to the official teaching. He knows the obstacles, like the ongoing tension that exists between the conservatives and progressives that seemingly have set up what looks like permanent camps from which they operate and produce their monologues. Actually, he sees things like this more as distractions or insignificant because they do not identify with the Church as it sees Itself. He masterfully cuts between these camps and other obstacles and brings forth an image of the Church that has permeated the centuries and can be readily seen now. I think it would be hard for anyone to read this seriously and not come to a picture of the Church that is at once beautiful, life-saving, wholesome, and Divine. That is not something easy to do by oneself in this day and age. This book lays a foundation for it. This does not preclude the need to reform. In fact, Weigel insists on it. It's part of the subtitle. We know all too well there's great need of that. Yet, he gives us the schema that we can follow. It's based on some basic principles: if this is something Divinely revealed, then it is True. If it is True then it means becoming a part of the Church as Mission and living out the Gospel as Jesus gave it to us. There's no middle-ground. If the Church can't claim this, then Jesus was the biggest liar to have lived on this earth.

Weigel traces where we and the Church are at this current time. Pope Francis was not elected when he wrote this. However, he forecasted some of what we could expect of the man who would be Pope Benedict XVI's successor. He traces who that Pope will be back to foundations that we set into place by Pope Leo XIII who came to office in 1878, one hundred years before Pope John Paul II. I was so impressed by this because I was able to see this partially when Francis became Pope and in writing a review for his The Church of Mercy, said this:

*** The phenomenon of Pope Francis did not occur in a vacuum. It is a matter of men who became pope who would then stand on the shoulders of their predecessors. For this review, we need not go back any further than Pope John XXIII who began what he called the "aggiornamento"--the "breath of fresh air" that the Church needed; literally, the "modernization" that was called for; which began the process of the calling of the Second Vatican Council, which came after his death. It was during the papacy of Pope Paul VI that the Council actually happened. It was from there that the modern teaching on "evangelization" sprung from the document Evangelii Nuntiandi / On Evangelization in the Modern World. It was there that the Church began the process which first resembles the Apostles staying fearfully in the Upper Room, but after receiving and being moved by the Holy Spirit went into the streets to proclaim the Good News, after which numbers of people were being added daily to the small Church at its beginning.

*** It was Pope John Paul II who oversaw much of the implementation of the Council, and the recommendations of its many the Documents: Constitutions, Decrees, Declarations and More Post-Conciliar Documents, who coined the term "New Evangelization" as the direction of the Church must travel. Although Pope John XXIII was the one who brought the Church into the spotlight of the modern media, Pope John Paul II solidified the Church's use of the media as part of its mission and the transmission of the Good News. With this, and being the most travelled pope in history, he succeeded in bringing the Church and the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Pope Benedict XVI followed much in the same suit, although not as extensively. Although much good was done and much was accomplished in these efforts, this might only have been groundwork, preparing the way for the papacy of Pope Francis.

*** From Day 1, he was able to capture the hearts and the minds of the people of the world through the deliberate use he made of the media, not only TV, but the Internet and things like Facebook and Twitter. Although implementation might be considered a thing of the past, Pope Francis has an approach that we can say is "where the rubber meets the road" or better, "where the Gospel meets the road" in search of the Lost Sheep. He shows us how to live the "aggiornamento" that was begun by Pope John XXIII. For example, last week at the annual Chrism Mass at which the Holy Oils are blessed, he told priests, "If you don't go out from yourself, the holy oil grows rancid and the anointing cannot be fruitful. Going out from ourselves presupposes self-denial; it means poverty." He challenges the members of the Church at every level in this way.

George Weigel speaks as we hear Pope Francis speaking, "about the message and the revolutionary nature of the Gospel with its power to transform, that can produce genuine joy, hope, and true courage with which to face obstacles." As stated in the Preface of this recent book The Church of Mercy, the pope's aim "is to let people understand that an authentic Christianity, faithful to the spirit of the Gospel, is not achievable if the people in Christian communities have a weary and half-asleep faith, without any thrill of excitement, a faith shut up within the walls of their hearts or church buildings. This is the danger that might materialise if the Church grows old and accustomed to caring only about itself rather than flinging open its doors and facing the challenges of the world." Or, to look at this from the other side of the coin, as Weigel quotes Karl Rahner, SJ in the front of the book, "Only when the message of the living God is preached in the churches with all the power of the Spirit, will the impression disappear that the Church is merely an odd relic from the age of a society doomed to die."

Weigel traces the roots of what we are witnessing back almost 140 years. I think that is very encouraging. Sometimes we wonder what God has been doing all of this time. If the Church is a Divine Institution, then God most certainly must have been at work. Weigel gives us an insight into what the Spirit has been doing, where it was leading, and how that applies to our current day Church, which sometimes does look very good and does not impress the world. Pope Francis tells us, it doesn't matter if the Church sometimes fails on the way. This is why he keeps sending out warnings that heavy-handedness, intransigence, hypocrisy and other shortcomings need to be abolished because they undermine Christian credibility. He is determined to reform and renew the Church so that it becomes better equipped to pursue its goals, with all that that involves," or maybe, what it simply involves. He says it's Mercy! Anyway you look at it, Weigel says it comes from the vision that Pope Leo began implementing decades ago.
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on December 27, 2013
George Weigel has done an excellent job of capturing the urgency of the New Evangelization within the Catholic Church. Solid references to scripture and the importance of reading scripture on a daily basis. Would recommend for anyone interested in learning more about the faith.
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on August 20, 2014
George Weigel is an important commentator on the Church today and I always think it is important to hear what he has to say. As a seminarian, I read "The Courage to be Catholic" and am indebted to Mr. Weigel for his insights there.

That said, I was disappointed at the quality of this book. Overall it might as well be titled "George Weigel has Opinions" or "George Weigel Rants about Stuff".

The first two chapters are rather useless and incoherent. Once things start picking up, I did not find Mr. Weigel's insights all that insightful. Accurate? Absolutely! Insightful? Not so much. Granted, I am a living part of the movement that Mr. Weigel is describing, so I suppose reading a description of myself was always going to be a letdown, but I was really hoping that Mr. Weigel could have given me something, somewhere to reflect upon. Further, there were a few topics where I did not think that they naturally followed from his thesis, leading me to believe that the author was simply describing his own spirituality, rather than a coherent movement.

For Catholics who don't know what we youth are up to: probably worth a read.
For Evangelical Catholics who do know what we're up to: you're really not going to learn anything here.
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on August 31, 2013
very well written, fairly easy read. Bit of a slow start but picks up. It is a blue print for the new evangelization. I highly recommend all Catholics to read this book, and those who are interested in who the Catholic Church really is...
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on February 5, 2014
George Weigel shows where the Holy Spirit may be blowing in the Church today to lead it in a somewhat different direction so that it is more effective in its mission in the world we live in. He shows that Catholics can no longer hide in bunkers, inside the traditional world of catechisms, devotions and elaborate churches. Important as they remain, above all, we must be rooted in friendship with Christ and bring Him into the world with an integrated faith. This friendship gives us confidence that Christ is the Truth, not just for us, but for all of mankind in his search for love, truth, beauty, and meaning in life. This friendship needs to be formed by prayer, more theological (less historical) study of the Word of God, better preaching from the pulpit, more effective celebration of the Sacraments, more effective education in Catholic schools, and a clearer public policy witness. Weigel shows us how we can reform each of those areas of the Church's life so that they serve the overall mission of fostering friendship with Christ in Her members, and those in the world to whom they are sent to evangelize.
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on October 15, 2013
First, to evaluate my notes below, you need to know my own viewpoint. My worldview is a philosophy of reason, not religion. My viewpoint shows up in my two books. The first is The Aristotle Adventure: A Guide to the Greek, Arabic, & Latin Scholars Who Transmitted Aristotle's Logic to the Renaissance. The second is The Power and the Glory: The Key Ideas and Crusading Lives of Eight Debaters of Reason vs. Faith. I am also collecting notes on my weblog, _The Main Event_, for my next book, a look at the war between reason and mysticism in the USA in our time.

George Weigel is a Catholic intellectual here writing to Catholics about Catholics. He writes clearly. He writes instructively, often explaining Catholic terms briefly because he knows that even many Catholics are not sure of the meaning of some terms. He overflows with ideas that are "radical," that is, he goes to the root (_radix_ in Latin) of problems, both historically and theologically. For example, he argues throughout the book that two values must guide the Catholic movement (the Church): the truths of Jesus and the mission Jesus gave to his followers, which is to go tell (evangelize) the whole world.

Weigel instructs as well as recommends. He explains clearly the major phases of recent Catholic history. He makes intelligible, for example, the great shift in the Church's relationship with the world after the split with Protestants in the 1500s, and then again in the late 1800s, as the Church began grappling with the modern (and postmodern) world.

Weigel is systematic and comprehensive. He examines every level and every area of the Church: popes, the curia, the cardinals, bishops, priests, consecrated Catholics (nuns, monks, etc.), and laymen in all their many activities in life. This is part of what "deep" means in the title; the other part of "deep" is Weigel's point that spreading the truths that Jesus revealed in the Bible is the guiding star for the Catholic movement.

One caution: secular readers trying to learn about today's Catholicism can benefit from this book but they should have a Catholic dictionary at hand. Though Weigel usually explains special terms briefly, fuller explanations will help some readers--including novice Catholics.

Do not expect a "fast read." Though the book is clearly written, readers--whether Catholics or not--need to read at a slow pace to absorb and integrate Weigel's many insights.
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