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Almost Catholic: An Appreciation of the History, Practice, and Mystery of Ancient Faith Hardcover – February 25, 2008

4.3 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Rosaries, rituals, crucifixes and canonized saints: Sweeney, an Episcopalian, enthusiastically embraces these trappings of the Catholic faith, even as many Protestants find them unbiblical and some Catholics have abandoned them. In his latest book, Sweeney talks about his chosen state of being almost Catholic, explaining how Catholicism's practices and outlook help connect him to the divine and expand his worldview. Raised as an evangelical Protestant, Sweeney tells how he grew up believing Catholics were going to hell unless they found our brand of true salvation. Later, as a church planter in the Philippines, his thinking started to shift when he stepped inside a Catholic church for the first time. Overwhelmed by the sensory experience, he came to love Catholicism as an approach to faith that lands in the heart and the body as well as in the head. He has stopped short of converting, however, saying that those who remain outside the institution can still access Catholic life. Although Sweeney's love of Catholic practice makes for interesting reading, he saves his best for describing the differences between Catholic and Protestant thought, providing a depth that goes beyond fascination with externals. (Feb.)
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Review

Rosaries, rituals, crucifixes and canonized saints: Sweeney, an Episcopalian, enthusiastically embraces these trappings of the Catholic faith, even as many Protestants find them unbiblical and some Catholics have abandoned them. In his latest book, Sweeney talks about his chosen state of being “almost Catholic,” explaining how Catholicism's practices and outlook help connect him to the divine and expand his worldview. Raised as an evangelical Protestant, Sweeney tells how he grew up believing “Catholics were going to hell unless they found our brand of true salvation.” Later, as a church planter in the Philippines, his thinking started to shift when he stepped inside a Catholic church for the first time. Overwhelmed by the sensory experience, he came to love Catholicism as an approach to faith that “lands in the heart and the body as well as in the head.” He has stopped short of converting, however, saying that those who remain outside the institution can still access Catholic life. Although Sweeney's love of Catholic practice makes for interesting reading, he saves his best for describing the differences between Catholic and Protestant thought, providing a depth that goes beyond fascination with externals. (Feb.) (Publishers Weekly, December 3, 2007)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (February 25, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0787994707
  • ISBN-13: 978-0787994709
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,436,510 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Eugene C. Cochran on April 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I thought this was a refreshing book about how an evangelical was enriched by the catholic tradition. Too often present day Christians think their tradition goes back to the founding of their particular group when in fact we share a longer tradition with others. If you read Richard Foster or many other spiritual writers they will consult both catholic and protestant writers and mystics. I an a United Methodist and I have been informed by Anglican and Catholic heritages as well as my own Wesleyan heritage. This writer communicates to Protestant readers the practices of Roman Catholics that we could learn from and benefit from ourselves.
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Format: Hardcover
Author John M. Sweeney has written an excellent book, "Almost Catholic," that should find a home with non-Catholics, lapsed Catholics, and Catholics "in good standing" alike. Sweeney's family was originally Roman Catholic but found it was not easy being Catholic in Kansas in the 1800s so they became evangelical Protestant. Today, Sweeney is an Episcopalian. He admits that his family's Catholic history may be haunting him.

The book is composed of six sections:
* Definitions and language which includes "The Eleven Steps to Becoming a Truly Catholic Christian."
* The Catholic Imagination" which explores a particular way of seeing the world - God is here in sacred places and spaces.
* What it means to be Catholic which is to fully embrace the Incarnate Christ - the Crucifix, the Stations of the Cross, and relics, "bones and bodies."
* Physical connections to spiritual reality which includes the Rosary, Novenas, Icons/Images, Confession, and the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
* A reflection by the author on his faith journey which includes chapters on Thomas Merton, St. Francis of Assisi, G.K. Chesterton, Flannery O'Connor, and the Roman Catholic Catechism.
* Practices that pull us together which include the Sacraments, Sacramentals, and Blessings, which are being rediscovered today by many outside the Catholic Church.

Sweeney, who has thought deeply about the Catholic tradition, wrote this with the hope others would learn as he did about the jewels that lie below the surface. Non-Catholic religious leaders have confused the matter by preaching that being Catholic is primarily about that outer crust of religious observance. As the reader will learn, there is much beauty to uncover and there are many elements of Catholicism that have the potency for non-Catholics and for uncommitted Catholics as well as for Catholics who believe they are well formed.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book I am most thankful for this year is the book I am reading right now. It's Almost Catholic and that's what I am. Almost Catholic, I mean. Today, in three and a half hours, I will stand before a huge church full of people and declare my intention to become Fully Catholic. So my reading of this book is quite timely, even divinely inspired.
Almost Catholic is written by a man raised as a Protestant who has a deep appreciation for the Catholic Church. He is my guide to All-Things-Catholic as, chapter by chapter, Sweeney lingers over them. One by one, Sweeney explores the crucifix, stations of the cross, rosary beads, contemplative living, confession, and the sacraments. You'd never believe that Sweeney wasn't born a Catholic or was in the process of becoming a Catholic, so wide is his love for the Church. Yet he does not feel compelled to become Catholic; I find that intriguing. I've got about ninety pages to go, and then I may reread it again, and I am definitely getting my own copy as soon as I can.
Very thankful for Almost Catholic.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is not quite what I was expecting. I picked it up anticipating a quasi-history of Roman Catholic spiritual traditions. In reality, it reads more like a self-help book (a la The Purpose Driven Life), with Jon Sweeney laying out his own opinions on Jesus and the Gospel and how he believes they should apply to everyday life. It might have helped had I known that Sweeney is some type of motivational speaker, and this book certainly employs the language I associate with those types of seminars (there's plenty of talk about your "true" vs. "false self").

I also found that in his infatuation with Catholicism, he was unfair with Protestant Christianity in many places. And I think I can judge this without bias - I'm not a Christian, just someone who's recently become interested in the matter, and reading lots of different texts lately on Jesus and those who follow Him. For instance, Sweeney criticizes Protestantism for its lack of imagination and its heavy focus on personal faith. For someone like myself, I can't help but simultaneously consider the many benefits of the Reformation. Luther's rejection of religious hierarchy paved the way for democracy, something I happen to like quite a bit. Also, for all the focus on Catholic mystery, I find that there's plenty among Protestants as well. What about Pentecostal charismatics, or the intense spiritual movements in African-American Baptist churches? I find them all equally fascinating.

The book has many chapters and each is intended to deal with a certain element of Catholicism, but they really don't. For instance, there's a chapter on the Rosary. But it's hard to explain what all of the chapters become. There is no history of the Rosary, or even any explanation of what it is.
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