Book club is in session. The first meeting of the new OC Catholic Book Club took place at Christ Cathedral’s Freed Theater recently—where all were invited to learn and discuss the legacy of Pope Benedict XVI, just over a week after his 90th birthday.
“How can we take what we discuss here back to our communities, families, and parishes? That’s the goal of this inaugural book club session,” said theologian Dr. Pia de Solenni in her opening remarks. “It’s a way to develop the intellectual life of the diocese, here together. It’s a time to really enter into the book world.”
That night, the inaugural book discussed was “Father Benedict: The Spiritual and Intellectual Legacy of Pope Benedict XVI.”
The author, James Day, is operations manager of EWTN Studios at the Tower of Hope. Day’s aim in his debut work is to bring people to the understanding and knowledge of the former Pope—who admitted to wanting to be called “Father Benedict” after his resignation in 2013—and his devotion to the faith, to knowing the face of Jesus Christ.
“The book is intense, because Joseph Ratzinger is intense…he challenges you as an intellect to become better than you are,” Day told the audience at the Freed Theater. “So if you’re up for the transformation of intellect; it will transform you as he transformed me.”
At the event, Day gave a compelling presentation on Father Benedict, highlighting his major works and accomplishments throughout history, even before he became Pope in 2005.
He also shared his personal discovery of the words and theology of Father Benedict, all of which eventually led him to write his book—from stumbling upon his Light of the World interview in 2011, to reading through his Jesus of Nazareth series; and later, penning an article for Catholic Exchange that talked about his five must-reads from Benedict’s anthology.
“Benedict brings it back down to the basics, [of] going down into the smallness of faith, in order to renew it. I chose him because he’s seen as a regal figure, but he’s a priest at the end of the day…and what is a Pontiff but a bridge-builder,” Day said.
Panelists joined Day onstage to continue discussing the book, personal musings and anecdotes, and the overall legacy of Father Benedict: a man whose entire life was founded on the theme that God is love.
Moderated by Dr. de Solenni, the panelists included Katie Dawson, director of Parish Faith Formation in the Diocese of Orange; radio personality (and former Catholic Answers Live host) Patrick Coffin; and Fr. Robert Spitzer, head of the Magis Institute.
The speakers shared a lively discussion on the catechesis of Benedict—his emphasis on fighting relativism, understanding of the joy of the Gospel, and forming a good Catholic education for today’s youth.
“Benedict really articulated the truth of Christianity and the core teachings of the faith. While the secular world tries to reduce us to rules and regulations; saying ‘no’ to fun is in fact saying yes to love. And [Father Benedict] was really emblematic of that message,” said Dawson.
Added Fr. Spitzer, “James Day gives the portrait of a man [Benedict] who is deeply in love with the faith, with the core reality of who people could be…to bring them to the very heart of Christ, whom he loved in such a poetic and theological way.”
A lively Q&A followed the panel discussion. Audience members also had a chance to get their books signed, and the evening concluded with cake to celebrate Pope Benedict XVI’s birthday.
“I was particularly struck by how prophetic [Benedict] is—with his intellect, he saw what was to come, with relativism and so much of our culture stepping away from faith,” shared Deborah Faris, a book club member and parishioner at St. Anne’s in Seal Beach. “I feel like he is sandwiched between two figures that the secular world has put on a pedestal, and [the media] has vilified him. And this book does a great job of bringing him out to the light as the person he really is.”
The next book in the book club meeting will feature “When Women Pray: Eleven Catholic Women on the Power of Prayer,” by Kathleen Beckman.
Each quarter, members of the OC Catholic Book Club will receive a faith-themed book that has been read, reviewed and hand selected by Bishop Kevin Vann and Dr. de Solenni.
With this inaugural meeting, the Diocese of Orange hopes to form theological, formative and inspiring readings to help support parishioners’ journeys of faith, and their overall relationship with Christ.
Each quarter, there will also be an opportunity to meet the author and discuss the book in a forum setting—cultivating a real “book club” community, where all are welcome to discuss findings and share stories.
Membership costs $80, and includes the quarterly books and panel-style open forum at Christ Cathedral.
“There are so many people who are looking for more than going to Sunday masses. With technology, we don’t take time to just be together anymore,” Faris added. “We need to be able to communicate with one another, as one church family…and how wonderful and important this [book club] is, under the umbrella of our diocese and our faith. It’s educational, fun, and a great value!”