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Sense of the Faithful: How American Catholics Live Their Faith Hardcover – December 9, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (December 9, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195326954
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195326956
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 6.1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,768,662 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Baggett, an associate professor of religion and society at the Jesuit School of Theology, Berkeley, Calif., takes on the term cafeteria Catholic in this study of American Catholics. He dislikes the description, commonly applied to liberal Catholics who select which church teachings they will accept, because of the suggestion that such choices are made casually. His findings, based on interviews with 300 Catholics at six Bay Area parishes, show that most Catholics make similar selections and that they do so thoughtfully. He says Catholics live their faith by negotiating with the broader tradition, reframing it through use of evocative symbols to create religious truths and refreshing it by mingling Catholic symbols with cultural ones. Baggett quotes extensively from the interviews he and his team conducted and tallies the results in a series of charts, often comparing what he learned with the work of other researchers, especially sociologist Thomas O'Dea. His rather academic presentation will primarily interest other scholars and perhaps reform-minded church leaders, rather than the Catholic layperson. (Dec.)
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Review


"Jerome Baggett is now required reading for all of us seeking to understand the contemporary situation of the Catholic community in the United States...Go out and buy this book."--American Catholic Studies


"Cutting through clichés like 'cafeteria Catholics' and going beyond the false dichotomies like 'spiritual versus religious,' Jerome Baggett's sensitive probing yields great insights into the different ways of being Catholic in America-ways that manifest depth and richness, but which also show severe limitations. Essential reading for those who would understand rather than pontificate."--Charles Taylor, Northwestern University, author of A Secular Age


"As everything from extremist cults to right-wing religious crusaders occupies the attention of newscasters and many scholars, American Catholics remain understudied and poorly understood. Jerome Baggett's fine book changes that. Now at last we have an authoritative and engagingly written study of practicing Catholics at the grassroots and close up. Readers who thought religion was waning except on the margins will have their views challenged again and again." --Robert Wuthnow, Princeton University, author of After the Baby Boomers: How Twenty- and Thirty-Somethings Are Shaping the Future of American Religion


"American Catholicism is undergoing dramatic cultural and demographic changes. Yet we know far too little about what that looks, sounds, and feels like on the ground among ordinary Catholics -- much less what it all means. Sense of the Faithful helps to remedy this problem, offering a well-informed and enlightening view of Catholic faith viewed from the grassroots. It will stimulate important conversations." --Christian Smith, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, co-author of Passing the Plate: Why American Christians Don't Give Away More Money


"I highly recommend Jerome Baggetts Sense of the Faithful. It is a gem." --CatholicBooksReview.org


"Sense of the Faithful provides useful information, wise insights and a 'conversation piece' for pastoral ministers and parishioners." --The Evangelist


"Important and insightful...Sense of the Faithful is an innovative and probing work. Consider this a must read for those following the 'messiness' of post-Vatican II 'lived' Catholicism, and for scholars probing the complexities of America's ever-zany free market religious economy."--Sociology of Religion


"Important reading for those who are in parish ministry and planning."--The Catholic Review


"This is a fine book that stands at the end of a series of books about American Catholics and lived religioni." --Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion



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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By R. Vosburg on May 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is primarily a sociological study, so anyone looking for a discussion of the concept of Sensus Fidelii needs to be aware that it is provided obliquely via the author's study of parishes in the North Bay (CA) area. I found many of his fidnings to be reflective of views in Southern California also. Whether his findings hold up elsewhere in the nation would be an interesting read also - and a possible subject for another study. This is an excellent descriptive study - a little dry for those looking for a more expository approach and not inclined to study charts and data. It is an important study and one which every Bishop, priest and lay person ought to be familiar with.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By environ66 on March 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I think this is a fantastic book on American Catholics. First of all, it's beautifully written; I'm not used to sociology books being such a page-turner. Second, the author actually listened to real-life Catholics -- liberal and conservative, gay and straight, afluent and poor, people of different races and ethnicities -- and is very nuanced in his teasing out the trends in their thinking and ways of being religious. Finally, Baggett uses sociological theory to make some very sophisticated observations about how the people in the pews draw upon Catholic (and other) symbols and narratives to provide a sense of meaning to their lives. Honestly, I think as many Catholics as possible (as well as other people interested in the important changes in American religion more generally) should read this book in order to get beyond the stereotypes that keep people from really understanding one another. This is a wonderful book.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Thomas M. Loarie VINE VOICE on February 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Today's conventional wisdom is that American Catholics are less religious than their predecessors. Jerome Baggett, author and professor, in his landmark study, "Sense of the Faithful," set out to ascertain this perceived reality by studying how Catholics are practicing their faith today.

The author characterizes his book as a conversation piece..."the result of many conversations about present-day American Catholicism with students and colleagues at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley." He learned that there was very little known "about the people in the pews and how they find meaning in their two thousand year old religious tradition." And so he began his journey to find the "nonofficial" viewpoints expressed by the "rank and file."

"Sense of the Faithful" is based on conversations with nearly 300 active members of six Catholic parishes in the San Francisco Bay area:
* Saint Mary - Saint Francis de Sales, Oakland's first parish and one that celebrates cultural diversity with three distinct worship communities and fewer than 900 parishioners;
* Saint Louis Bertrand, an inner city parish in East Oakland, a 2500 member Initially, African-American and Latino parish few resources available and a focus on enhancing family life;
* St. Augustine, a growing "progressive" suburban 4000 family, mostly Anglo parish in Pleasanton with 64 innovative programs, focused on fostering a sense of community;
* St. Margaret Mary, a destination parish of "cultural resistance" in downtown Oakland where Missals are mostly in Latin with Latin Mass offered, where parish activities are mostly focused on liturgy...still done "correctly," and is not about meeting people's emotional, social or non-sacramental needs.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Richard Tulko on February 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I would have liked a wider base for the sampling including the Midwest and the East. I was also more interested in the 18 to 30 age membership of the Church. Otherwise the book has very useful information
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