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Swimming with Scapulars: True Confessions of a Young Catholic Hardcover – April 1, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. As personal faith stories go, Lickona's is a breath of fresh air, thoughtfully written and happily absent of platitudes and pious moralizing. A 30-year-old husband, father of four and writer for the San Diego Reader, an alternative weekly, Lickona lives a Catholicism that is orthodox, but also dynamic and relevant to modern culture. He reads Salon and the Onion and gleans life lessons from contemporary film and fiction even as he embraces beliefs and traditions rejected by his parents' generation. He admits to being a virgin when he married, and he and his wife practice natural family planning in keeping with their church's ban on artificial birth control. Lickona also wears a scapular, fasts during Lent and has a statue of St. Joseph in his front yard. In writing about these beliefs and practices, he explains how he came to accept them, often after a period of questioning. As he navigates the realm of Catholic faith in the 21st century, Lickona reflects candidly on his failures, foibles and doubts. He confesses to "parish-hopping" in search of a Mass that will not disturb his peace of soul, to personal struggles with "constant wanting" and anger and to his weakness in communicating his faith. Most readers will disagree with Lickona's assessment that he is a poor communicator and will find themselves captivated by this winsome story of a soul. (Apr.)
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Book Description

Dave Eggers meets G. K. Chesterton in this funny, wise, and acutely perceptive memoir by a precocious young Catholic.

For a wine connoisseur and fan of Nine Inch Nails, 30-year-old Matthew Lickona lives an unusual inner life. He is a Catholic of a decidedly traditional bent (“I believe the same things as my pious old grand-mother”). He wears a scapular, a medieval talisman believed to secure God’s protection. He fasts during Lent. He and his wife shun modern birth control—they waited four nights after their wedding to consummate their marriage. But he is also a writer of prodigious talent, which is on full display in Swimming with Scapulars, a story of a premodern faith lived with a postmodern sensibility.

Lickona knows it isn’t easy to abide by his orthodox Catholicism. His “true confessions” are his painfully honest chronicles of his fitful starts and ongoing efforts to live the faith he is so proud of. (“I believe my faith to be a gift, though the gift may sometimes feel like
a cross to be borne.”) Yet his life as a Catholic is one of great joy, particularly his joy in being intimately connected with God through the sacrament of the Eucharist.

Matthew Lickona is a staff writer and sometime cartoonist for the San Diego Reader, a weekly newspaper. Born and raised in upstate New York, he attended Thomas Aquinas College in California. He lives in La Mesa, California, with his wife Deirdre and their four children.



Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Loyola Press; English Language edition (April 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 082942072X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0829420722
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #591,840 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Matthew Lickona is a staff writer and film critic for the San Diego Reader, a weekly newspaper. He is also a member of The Korrektiv Kollektiv, a group of bad Catholics blogging at a time near the end of the world. He lives with his family in La Mesa, California.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Helena Burns on March 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Swimming with Scapulars-True Confessions of a Young Catholic is not a perfect book, but it is a worthy book. A story that needed to be told amidst all the spectacular conversions of our times: a thirtysomething Catholic who never left the Church, but who has struggled in his relationship with God and Catholicism.

Swimming with Scapulars, despite its humorous title and cover, is not a funny book, but it has its hilarious moments-a sort of divine comedy at times. What does "swimming with scapulars" mean? My Catholic friends-to whom I rave about this book-get it right away: "Ha ha! You keep your scapular on in the water because you might drown!" (The promise Our Lady made to St. Simon Stock regarding the scapular involved eternal salvation-assistance.) Unfortunately, the author leads with this image-story in the opening pages. I don't say unfortunately because it gives away a punch-line, but because it dredges up (in the non-Catholic or no-frills Catholic mind) what is deemed to be superstition in Catholic tradition before we even get to know Matthew Lickona. He even appears to be a scrupulous, fearful believer; but hold on, Matthew explains all on page 81, even his own initial misgivings about the sacramental. Actually, that's what's needed with this gem of a book: holding on.

Swimming with Scapulars can easily be put down for the first thirty pages, but after that, fugghedaboutit. The random reminiscences up to this point-even a candid tale of an encounter with an abusive priest-don't seem to coagulate, but then the author hits his stride.

Swimming with Scapulars is not about an extraordinary life. The author's life is a little droll even, except for his interior life.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful By N. Thomas on July 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Mr. Lickona is the paradigm of the growing but almost always ignored population of young men and women in the United States who harbor a deep devotion to the orthodox Roman Catholic Faith and all that she teaches. I consider myself a member of this "sub-set", being a year younger than the author, faithful to attendance at Holy Mass, and a staunch supporter of the Magesterium's teachings (all of them).

"Swimming With Scapulars" should be made required reading for every person who treats obedient followers of Rome with suspicion, contempt, or condemnation when informed that, indeed, young Catholics are out there who live according to even the least popular dictates of our Faith.

While St. Thomas Aquinas or C.S. Lewis would be far better "legitimate" apologists, replete with all magnificent theological thought that the faithful treasure as part of our spiritual heritage, Lickona is a living, breathing, "REAL" American human being. He is more educated, theologically speaking, than the average Catholic of any age, much less a 30-something [his alma mater is a small, traditional Catholic college actually named for Aquinas].

However, his academic background in the faith does not make him any less down-to-earth. If anything, he seems to make a real effort to take the tenets of Catholicism and put them to practice in everyday life. This memoir is really about that; the Little Flower is likely beaming on him, so good an example is he setting for believers and detractors alike with his own personal "Little Way".

Our society needs more witnesses to Rome such as the author to take up the pen and compose what I call the "layman's apologetics" -- it transmits the glorious Truth of Roman Catholicism in a simple yet deeply meaningful way. And to

Mr. Lickona -- ad multos annos!
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Michael Cooney on April 26, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This wonderful book brought me closer to my faith. Matthew Lickona writes a very personal and very contemporary set of reflections on his own struggles to live out in his moral life the commitments his faith demands of him.

Nothing I have read since Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man so captures the interior life of a practicing Catholic as this.

Lickona is not afraid to grow and change before our eyes during this book. It is as rigorous and self-examining as a good confession.

Sure it lacks a tight narrative structure and you'll tear through it a couple of days. Think of it as an epistle.

People who are close to a Catholic who they don't really understand would also benefit from reading this book. It might all make a little more sense after reading this.

Thanks, Matthew.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Jason MacFetters on April 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Now usually I am the last person to read any book that isn't at least halfway-decent, literary fiction. Walker Percy? Graham Greene? Yes. "Christian Inspiration?" I don't think so. But I stumbled across the author's McSweeney's-esque website, and later, the book's hip brown and blue binding wore me down. I read it in one sitting last Saturday. Lickona really lays it all out in the open. This is the story of his constant struggle to live according to his Catholic faith, including those teachings that to the modern eye are the faith's ostensibly most difficult dictates. And for the most part he pulls it off, and--squishy as it sounds--his story is inspiring. Lickona's an average thirty-something, and this is an intellectual look at his faith and all that it entails; at no point does the author preach to the reader. In fact, Lickona's own moments of doubt underscore his understanding of the toil faith requires.

As to the few negative comments in the review below, I'll have to respectfully disagree. I found nothing in the book disrespectful of anyone, and Lickona comes across not as a shrinking recluse ready to build a compound in the hills, but rather as a fully engaged member of society who leads an integrated life, rather than the seemingly more common secular/spiritual dual life. Nor does he simply "write any one off."

Overall, the book was well worth the time spent reading it; let's hope it's only the first of many more.
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