The journey to Catholicism can be a winding one. Some sharp stones have been pressed in by years of habit, and some gems are waiting just around the next bend. It can be tricky to navigate the path. Sometimes you want a companion on the journey. Sometimes you just want a simple road map. Waking Up Catholic: A Guide to Catholic Beliefs for Converts, Reverts, and Anyone Becoming Catholic, by Chad R. Torgerson, seeks to provide a brief, conversational overview of Catholicism with elements of the author’s personal journey into the Church. In attempting to strike that balance between theology and memoir, though, it doesn’t manage a compelling account of either.
Torgerson’s guiding image is one I readily understand. I attended a national conference put on by FOCUS when I was in undergrad, and I heard a speaker describe the new evangelization with one of the best images I’d ever encountered. The old style of evangelization introduced people to someone they’d never met, Christ, and invited them into a lifelong relationship with him and his Church not entirely unlike a marriage. The new evangelization’s primary focus is people who are already in relationship with Christ by sacrament but not by practice or belief; it’s like reintroducing someone to their own spouse. The conversion of the new evangelization is like waking up married to God. The experience of waking up reopens the world to us. Will it be just as it was when we fell asleep, or will we find a whole new world waiting? Will we wake up human, zombie, or saint? As a child, Torgerson dreamt of waking up a soldier or a hero, but waking up Catholic came as the real shock.
Torgerson’s personal journey has minimal presence in this book, however. He offers details of overcoming common obstacles to Catholicism that many former Protestants and evangelicals face: first tradition, the Magisterium, and the priesthood, then the Holy Trinity, Mary, the saints, the Eucharist, and Reconciliation. Finally, he offers some practical advice on how to actually become a Catholic, Catholic prayer, how to live as a Catholic, and evangelization. All in all, it’s a good basic introduction and, as the subtitle indicates, would make a useful guide for someone considering RCIA.
That said, as an active Catholic, I didn’t take much from this book. It was very basic, so it didn’t have much depth or any surprises. I wanted to know more about Togerson’s experience. He seemed not to have quite enough personal story or theological insight for a whole book on either, which may have led to the combination. As a writer, I saw the dire need for a good round of editing and fact-checking. It’s a decent first book, and I look forward to seeing how Torgerson and his new imprint, Assisi Media, grow in the future.
Many thanks to Chad R. Torgerson and Assisi Media for providing a free copy of Waking Up Catholic for me to review. I received no other compensation in exchange for my review.
Up next: The Returned, modern secular fiction about the dead who mysteriously return to Earth