Monday, June 18, 2012

Book Review: YOUCAT

I am naturally skeptical of the tendency to divide Catholic things (liturgy, books, prayers, etc.) into youth/teen/adult categories. While I appreciate the efforts to evangelize the youth and speak to them in a language they can understand, I also think that catering certain aspects of Catholicism (most notably, the Mass) to "special populations" like teenagers may strike some teens as condescending. It may also encourage unnecessary divisions between age groups. Even more important, it's easy to compromise important traditions and aspects of the Church's rich history when we try too hard to make Catholicism "relevant," to any group.

But that's another post. I only mention this to drive home the point that I was REALLY skeptical of the YOUCAT when it first came out, not only for that reason, but also due to several critical reviews I had already read. These criticisms made three basic arguments:
  1.  The YOUCAT's pictures are inappropriate.
  2.  The YOUCAT has quotes from questionable figures like Luther and other heretics/non-Catholics.
  3. The YOUCAT is downright heretical.
Suffice it to say that I was hesitant about this new text. I really only bought it because I belong to a  Catholic women's discussion group, and it was on the reading list. I'm very glad that I belong to said discussion group (and not just because of the good company). Reading the YOUCAT has been a refreshing reintroduction to Catholic teaching. I've found it to be a clear, concise, and engaging exposition of the basic tenets of our Faith, with quotes from Catholics and non-Catholics alike to bring those tenets to life. Personally, I like reading quotes from Luther and other figures, some of whom were not even Catholic. Take this one from Peter Sellers: "The closest thing to a father confessor is probably a bartender." If reading lines "like that" from people "like that" in a work of catechesis is offensive to you, the YOUCAT might not be the best choice for spiritual reading. Personally, I like it.

"They quoted me in the YOUCAT??!!"
 That being said, I don't like everything about the YOUCAT. The photos bring back horrible memories of those "GOD LOVES YOU" religion books from third grade. And the stick figure at the bottom corner of the page is perhaps not in the best taste (although he is entertaining). On a more general level, I do wish that the YOUCAT was not strictly marketed to youth, since I think adults could benefit from reading it just as much as teens and young adults - particularly Catholic adults who are in a period of religious struggle.

I haven't read the whole thing yet, and I certainly haven't dissected every theological argument presented. However, halfway in I can say that reading the YOUCAT has been a pleasant surprise, cheesy photos aside.

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