Michael Leach is a personal friend of Father Greeley and has dedicated this book to him. It is another beautiful and moving work from an authors who is clearly in touch with everyday Catholics and his God.
As Catholics, we’ve had it. We’re beyond done with pedophilia and financial scandals, rubric-obsessed leadership and an imbecilic hierarchy that thinks, as Archbishop Dolan recently remarked, that all that needs to change in the church is people’s “perception” of it. So, why stay Catholic, indeed?
As the editor of a Catholic newspaper, whenever someone asking that question comes to me–and the number of Catholics asking that question has gone viral in recent years–what I tell them is, “You’re looking in the wrong direction. If you want to know why to stay, stop looking up (to the hierarchy) and start looking across (to the Catholics you know).” Michael Leach’s Why Stay Catholic is a book that celebrates, in incredibly heartening terms, what you will find when you look across.
Leach knows that those of us scrambling for the exit signs need to be reminded of what this Catholic Church of ours is really about. Wisely, he opens his book with a number of chapters that strip away the hierarchical nonsense and get us back to God–a God who is everywhere, a God in whom we “live and move and have our being.” And he asks with the Gospel, “Who can separate us from the love of God?” As Catholics, we know that nothing can, and yet, deafened by the arrogance and artifice and just plain manipulation that passes for direction from our church these days, it can be easy to forget that God is the very ground of our beings. Michael Leach brings us back to that knowledge so swiftly and deftly and with such great love that its awe inspiring. And this particular brace of chapters mark him as a truly gifted theologian of our church as well.
In his chapter on the Communion of saints, Leach writes of those considered by most to be saints by acclamation– Mother Teresa and Oscar Romero and the Late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin among them. “Many of us Catholics,’ writes Leach, `stay in the church because it has introduced us to people like these who are larger than life, but just like us.” And it is Leach’s genius for grounding God in everyday reality that gets through to you on every page of this book.
Leach brings us to the stories of some truly exceptional Catholics–Sister Miriam Therese Winter, Father Andrew Greeley, Dorothy Day, the late Bishop Raymond Lucker and others whose names you may not initially recognize, but whose stories will leave you with that “Ah!” of recognition. They are saints, who like Romero and Bernardin, are living this life with us as God is with us.
Reading Leach’s Why Stay Catholic? you will suddenly find that you’ve stopped wondering where the nearest exit sign is. Reading it, you will find how quickly you cease to care about what the hierarchy is doing–now and forever. Reading Why Stay Catholic? will, in fact, lead you to let go of the dross and drudgery of Catholicism and come back to its Heart: God is with us. All of us. Always.