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New book provides answers to Catholic questions

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Dec. 2, 2010

By Eileen Connelly, OSU

ARCHDIOCESE — Franciscan Father Pat McCloskey has been responding to peoples’ questions about Catholic faith and practices in his column “Ask a Franciscan,” featured in St. Anthony Messenger magazine, for years.
A new book, Ask a Franciscan: Answers to Catholic Questions (St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2010), offers a collection of the questions in one volume, along with Father McCloskey’s wise and understandable answers.

“It seemed that certain questions kept recurring and the book department here determined it was time to do this,” said Father McCloskey, who has been writing the column since 1999 and is currently the editor of St. Anthony Messenger.

Father McCloskey holds master’s degrees in theology, divinity and Franciscan studies and has written books on Franciscan saints, anger with God and growing in one’s mental images of God. He contributed to the original Saint of the Day (St. Anthony Messenger Press) and has updated its last three editions.

His predecessor, Franciscan Father Norman Perry wrote the column for 33 years under various names, and Father McCloskey praises the late priest’s “knowledge and pastoral sensitivity” in the book’s introduction. It collects 97 questions and Father McCloskey’s responses from the almost 600 that have appeared in St. Anthony Messenger between September 1999 and January 2010.

Questions in the book are grouped into categories by chapter: how we understand God; how we relate to Mary and the other saints; how we read Scripture, how we celebrate the sacraments; how we pray; how we grow morally, how we grow in faith and practice; and how we experience forgiveness and redemption.

Some questions were consolidated and revised for the book to avoid repetition, Father McCloskey said. For example, inquiries about having a wedding in a locale such as a beach or national forest were combined into one, which asks, “Why celebrate weddings in churches?”

The questions came from various sources over the years, Father McCloskey, with many from local Catholics. “Why should Christians read the Bible?” for instance, was posed by an area Catholic high school student. His father forwarded the question to Father McCloskey, who then responded.

Other questions cover a wide variety of topics and include “Do saints hear our prayers?” “Does TV Mass count?” “Which sin is the worst?” “How can I balance my moral and professional obligations?” and “What does the church teach about reincarnation?”     

In the book’s introduction, Father McCloskey notes that many entries cite articles, editorials or columns from St. Anthony Messenger’s electronic archive at www.AmericanCatholic.org, the website for St. Anthony Messenger Press. Several entries also refer to issues of “Catholic Update,” an educational newsletter started in 1973. Many issues published since 1996 can be found in the electronic archive at the same website. A resource page at the end of the book also provides websites and toll-free numbers.

Father McCloskey hopes readers see the connection between their faith and their spiritual growth as disciples of Jesus Christ and will realize that asking questions “does not indicate a lack of faith. I would suggest that it’s really the opposite,” he said. “If a person asks questions sincerely, it’s an indication that he or she is open to growing in faith.”

A book signing is schedule for Dec. 4, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at InnerVisions Religious Books and Gifts, 8556 Beechmont Ave, Cincinnati, 513-474-5972, www.innervisionsbooks.com. Ask a Franciscan can also be ordered at http://catalog.americancatholic.org/product.aspx?prodid=B16970.

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