“Oh, so that’s what a scapular is!”
Growing up in a north Toronto neighbourhood, I’ve gone to an Anglican church all my life—a small church, full of the feeling of being tucked away in safety and quiet. Anglicanism occupies a nebulous middle ground between Catholicism and Protestantism that baffled me as a little kid. I remember asking our priest “Why do we pray for the one holy catholic church [in the Apostles’ Creed] when we’re not Catholic?” He explained that ‘catholic’ really meant all of Christianity around the world, and I wandered off scratching my head again.
I’m used to the Agnus Dei, the Kyrie Eleison, how to cross in front of the altar and bow and which way to light the candles. But I’ve never sat down in a confessional booth, and I wouldn’t know where to start with a rosary.
Reading the PDF of Dr. Glenn Byers’s new book, Like Spokes on a Wheel, was enlightening. Glenn has always been a ready source of information about everything Catholic. When the news came up at work that Pope Francis would be happy to baptize alien visitors, he sent the following email:
“You might like to know that there is an obelisk in the centre of St. Peter’s square – it had the largest relic of the true cross at its apex.
Around the obelisk are the 8 winds – north, northeast, east, and so on – so the cross is the centre of the world…
Going out from the obelisk are the signs of the Zodiac. Now Christians aren’t supposed to believe in augury, so these signs function as a calendar, and the cross in fact is the centre of time, but also the centre of the universe, since the cross is the centre of the constellations of the night sky.
It is good to hear this, to know that Francis is part of that part of the Tradition.”
Going through Like Spokes on a Wheel, I was surprised—and pleased—to find how much I was learning. The book is written to explain the most basic Catholic traditions, such as the Hail Mary, relics and holy days. Glenn has a simple, informative style of writing, well suited to his teaching, and guides his audience through the real-life experiences of praying and going on pilgrimages. Like Spokes on a Wheel is a handy guide for Catholics and non-Catholics, and I found myself wanting to print it out and keep it by my desk for the next time I had a question.
It is also full of the author’s own warmth and depth of belief. One phrase in the book that particularly stood out for me was on page 7, “Grace and mercy are given with a bucket, not an eyedropper”—something simple that lies at the heart of all Christian faith, to be done in our daily lives no matter what form or language our prayers take. The title of the book refers to how all prayers and rituals in the Catholic faith stem from the Eucharist, like spokes on a bicycle wheel: in the same way, different beliefs come back to the same center of giving more than is asked for or imagined.
While it sits on my desk (behind a stack of papers and review copies), I would also recommend it to Catholics everywhere: priests and parish leaders looking to help new parishioners, teachers to help their students, or even lay people with questions about medals and labyrinths. Like Spokes on a Wheel answers all these questions, and more.
-Gillian Robinson, Sales and Marketing Assistant