What is this book about?
The Joy of Keeping the Faith was written to assist new Catholics as they begin to live as fully initiated members of the Church. (Although, a few people who have read the book have told me that they think every Catholic should read it. Maybe I need to write a similar version for the cradle Catholics!) In the book, I celebrate the incredible wealth of wisdom and traditions that the Roman Catholic Church offers to support the life of faith. I argue that there is something for every personality type, age, and cultural background. Believers can choose those practices which appeal to them from within this diversity of practices and traditions. I also argue that there are a few things that no matter who you are, are non-negotiable. Without them, the practice of faith is likely to fizzle rather than flourish.
How did this book come about?
Typically, after Pentecost, new Catholics find themselves leaving a small, tightly connected group of companions and being immersed into a large group of people who may or may not even notice their presence. Over the years of being a director of Christian Initiation, I have noticed patterns of practice that make all the difference to new believers. The book was written in response to a need to provide encouragement and advice for new members of the church after their formal mystagogical period has ended. It is a mini-manual of what to do to ensure that they can sustain their faith for a lifetime.
What has been the greatest reward of writing this book?
This book practically wrote itself. It is full of stories and includes snippets of advice from many of the people who have joined the church in various parishes where I have worked. It was delightful to read the wisdom of people who had navigated the path of becoming full, conscious, and active members of the Church. It was also rewarding to reflect back on all the people that I had encountered over the almost thirty years of ministry in initiation, to think about the lessons they had taught me, the laughter and tears we had experienced and to recall the many years of witnessing the incredible joy they experienced in encountering Christ in Word, Sacrament and People of God.
What has been the greatest challenge?
This book came out just before this pandemic. We were planning a book launch in the parish at which I had hoped to invite all those who had joined the Catholic Christian community over the past twenty years that I have been here – including, of course, those who had contributed advice to the book. I was greatly anticipating the “reunion” and the chance to express my gratitude for all that I had learned from those with whom and to whom I had ministered. Instead, I was able to write some personal letters of gratitude and send copies of the book to those who contributed.
Are there any lessons in there to take away for our current covid-19 living?
Certainly… one of the non-negotiables I propose is the need to have an image of God who is large enough to embrace all our greatest joys and sorrows – on whom we can truly lay our burdens. In this pandemic, the burdens for some of us are greater than we have ever had to bear. Knowing we have a God who is our loving companion in our suffering is essential.
I also propose that folks avail themselves of the vast wealth of prayer practices, intellectual traditions, stories and wisdom that the Church offers. In this most extraordinary of times, when we cannot gather as the Body of Christ to receive the Body of Christ, we still have so many ways to connect with our Loving God and with one another in prayer. We need these now, more than ever.
–Christine Way Skinner is a Lay Pastoral Associate at St. John Chrysostom Parish in Newmarket, ON. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Theology degree from St. Francis Xavier University and a Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School. Christine is the author of the Catholic Kid’s Library Series, What Catholics Believe, There Must be a Pony in Here Somewhere, and the newly released, The Joy of Keeping the Faith.