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Books offer practical guidance on living the Catholic faith
"As Faith Matures: Beyond the Sunday God" by Mary Beth Werdel. Liguori Publications (Liguori, Mo., 2012). 100 pp., $12.99. "Answer Your Call: Reclaim God's Purpose for Faith, Family and Work" by Dick & Martha Lyles. Servant Books (Cincinnati, 2013). 174 pp., $16.99. "Louder Than Words: The Art of Living as a Catholic" by Matthew Leonard. Our Sunday Visitor Publishing (Huntington, Ind., 2013). 160 pp., $14.95.
Catholic News Service

"As Faith Matures" by Mary Beth Werdel, "Answer Your Call" by Dick and Martha Lyles and "Louder Than Words" by Matthew Leonard all address first-half-of-life issues and practical ways to live the Catholic faith.

Werdel specializes in pastoral care, counseling and campus ministry. "As Faith Matures" explains the problems involved in relying on a child's concept of the divine -- a "Sunday God" -- when facing adult experiences of tragedy, mystery and mortality. The author's loss of her brother on an Arctic expedition propelled her to seek God on a deeper level.

Her book provides suggestions and practices to develop a mature spirituality, which the author describes as having "the wonder of a child, the understanding of a sage and the voice of a prophet."

"Answer Your Call" is written by Dick Lyles, host of the Eternal Word Television Network's "The Catholic Business Hour," and his wife, Martha, who is a religious educator and retreat director. The call to be answered refers to the path to sainthood. The authors delineate a clear plan of achieving sanctity by making use of our natural gifts of aptitude, skill and motivation in combination with God's grace to fulfill our unique purpose in life and to leave a "legacy" for others.

The Lyles suggest that we each need to arrive at a faith purpose, a family purpose and a work purpose for our lives. They provide an "Answer Your Call" novena as well as a process for setting family and individual goals yearly, which may be helpful for family organization.

However, individuals of the view and temperament of G. K. Chesterton may need different approaches to Catholic family life, as evidenced in Chesterton's statement, "A family will really do without rules exactly in proportion as it is a successful family. The real family is sometimes as wild and elemental as a cabbage."

"Louder than Words" by Matthew Leonard emphasizes the call to perfection and the need to "practice Spirit-driven virtue" daily, striving for sainthood. Leonard advocates receiving the Eucharist as often as possible and calls prayer "one of the many ways we get our faces on those laminated holy cards."

The author presents Christianity in a triumphal light, calling this religion "an economist's dream ... our happiness and satisfaction actually create a market because the rest of the world wants what we have." Leonard explains the power of prayer by relating an instance when a Catholic bowling team won the game through the invocation of Hail Marys.

He also shares the memory of Pope John Paul II, who publically "traded a rosary for the most recognizable shades in the world and turned it into an evangelical home run."

Leonard, who became a Catholic late in life and subsequently studied theology, describes sharing the "giddy delight of fellow students in graduate school (who believed they) ... "would skip through the daisies gathering lost souls." Instead, he later encountered a world in which the church had lost its influence to people "stuck in the mire of sin, yet ... setting the agenda and dictating the culture."

The religious concepts in the book parallel those of a mid-20th-century secondary text, and the language seems most appropriate for young male students.

Leonard suggests that evangelists should "avoid rolling up to someone and saying, 'Dude, want me to hook you up with a brown scapular?'" He describes St. John of the Cross by writing "this cat was one of the holiest." The author explains how to "score an indulgence" remarking, "I'm all about the fastest elevator possible out of purgatory." He describes prayer as being "shrouded in mystery like the ingredients of a hot dog."

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