Sunday, November 16, 2014

Book Review: Praying Made Me Catholic

By Justin S. Steele, Imprimatur: Most Rev. Michael O. Jackels, released April 5, 2013, 260 pages, Light of Christ Press, Available in paperback ($14.95.) from Light of Christ Press.

Justin S. Steele graduated in 2012 with a Masters degree in Theology from Newman University in Wichita, KS. He serves as a full-time Youth Minister. He and his wife have four children and one on the way.

Reviewed by JEAN M. HEIMANN, M. A. Theology, author of Seven Saints for Seven Virtues, freelance writer, psychologist, and oblate with the Community of St. John.

Praying Made Me Catholic: With the Biblical and Historical Reasons Why I Must Remain Catholic is Justin S. Steele’s captivating conversion story. Raised as a non-denominational Christian, Steele was taught many Protestant and Seventh-day Adventist misconceptions about the Catholic Church, which distorted his perceptions of Catholicism. However, that did not prevent him from learning the truth.

Thirteen family moves (due to dad’s work) during Justin’s twelve years of education prevented the family from rooting themselves in a specific Christian church because they never rooted themselves in a specific home. As a teenager growing up in the nineties, Steele found himself heavily involved in the secular culture of “sex, drugs, and gangsta rap.” He desired to be a “thug” in imitation of his gangsta rap musician idols and to do so; he had to live a hard life. During this period of adolescent rebellion, Steele states that he “didn't care about anything or anybody,” showing a lack of respect for the dignity of women, and “suffocating from the weight of paranoia and anxiety due to a mixture of marijuana haze and anti-conscience behavior.” He confesses: “Rap music began stealing my mind while sinful behaviors began stealing my soul.”  He cites peer pressure as well as the “liberal media” as the culprits for his rebellious behavior. Consistently acting contrary to his well-formed conscience caused Justin to enter into a state of depression and to entertain thoughts of suicide.

Then, turning to God for help, he had a vision which changed everything and dramatically drew him back to God. This vision enabled him to see things more clearly from a spiritual viewpoint. Instantly, he immediately understood: the problem of sin, the need of a Savior to free him from sin, and the process of sanctification. Consequently, his depression dissolved and he began to experience a newfound hope in God’s purposes for his life. This metanoia experience led him down the path of examination of the truths of Christianity and onto discovering, to his amazement, the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

Steele tells his story in an articulate and highly adept manner, lucidly and insightfully describing the circumstances of his life, the reasons for his behavior, and the consequences, which attest to God’s merciful love and guidance on his faith journey. However, this is only the first section of the book (Part One).

In Part Two and Part Three of Praying Made Me Catholic, Steele clearly and comprehensively conveys the reasons why he is a Catholic and the biblical and historical reasons why he must remain Catholic. These sections not only contain Catholic apologetics, but delve into a compelling discussion of the most common Christian controversies that exist regarding Catholicism. Steele masterfully explains and defends Catholicism, coherently presenting the true teachings of the Faith.

Praying Made Me Catholic is a spiritually and intellectually enlightening book that the Catholic reader will find inspiring and uplifting. It challenges the reader to enter into the deeper meaning of his beliefs and to appreciate the authentic gift he has been given. For those who are considering entering the Church, this book is a must-read. It serves as a comprehensive handbook of Catholic apologetics and as a guidebook for moving from the Protestant faith to the Catholic faith. Thus, it would serve as a useful supplemental teaching tool in RCIA programs as well as a great gift for RCIA candidates. It is also an excellent book for use in theology classes and with parish youth groups. It is an essential resource/reference book for church and high school/college libraries. I highly recommend it.

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