Book Review: Rediscover Catholicism
With a 2002 publication date, Matthew Kelly’s Rediscover Catholicism as well as aspects of its message is already familiar to many Catholics. To give an example, I recently read Kentucky Basketball Coach John Calipari’s Players First where I discovered Coach Cal uses the expression “the best version of yourself” in his program with his players as a motivator and guiding principle. This same expression is central to Kelly’s message in the book and is encountered frequently in his speaking. While Calipari does not reference Kelly as the source of this mantra, he reveals he is Catholic and a daily attender of mass. I am willing to make the plausible jump to the conclusion this is not merely a coincidence, but rather a connection between his Catholicism and a familiarity with Kelly’s ideas and thereby a sign of their influence among other Catholics.
In my opinion, this influence is merited. Kelly has a unique ability to take principles of the faith and explain them with contemporary language and analogies to make them relevant to those of us who, affected by a secular worldview, find the vocabulary of the Church at times distant or off-putting. Kelly’s use of the principle that it is God’s plan for each of us to become “the-best-version-of-yourself” provides a good case in point. It calls to mind the familiar cultural imperative for self-improvement. Yet, his use of this expression is very specific to Catholic doctrine. He makes the case that if we are striving to know God and his mission for us, we will become more virtuous and active in answering His call over time, in other words, to become the-best-version-of-ourselves. By keeping this guiding principle in view, we will commence on a journey to a life focused on serving God and others rather than a self-absorbed and self-serving one. Kelly admits he is simply restating Vatican II’s emphasis on answering the universal call to holiness, that we are all called to be saints. However, it reveals this in a way that keeps in mind our unique gifts for service and the insight we don’t have to be saints now to become holy by the end of our life’s journey.
Kelly explains this central theme in this way:
Once we are aware of our yearning for happiness and the world’s inability to satisfy it, the adventure of salvation begins. Our yearning for happiness is one way God invites us to join this adventure. God has a dream for you and a plan for your life. He wants to deliver you from everything that stands in the way of becoming the-best-version-of-yourself… With this term I am not suggesting a narcissistic, self-seeking approach to life. Rather, I am inviting you to a dynamic collaboration with God. It is in and through this collaboration that we become the-best-version-of-ourselves, in which the loving nature of God is most present. God has a plan of salvation for each of us. Your adventure of salvation is unique and different from mine.
He uses this concept to create a context to discuss the practical usefulness of what he refers to as the “Seven Pillars of Catholic Spirituality:” confession, daily prayer, the mass, bible reading, fasting, spiritual reading, and the rosary. Drawing on the model of the saints, Kelly elucidates how each of these time-honored practices are highly effective methods to help us in our journeys to our personal Christian missions and vocations, ergo the-best-versions-of-ourselves, helping us recognize and live the genius of Catholicism.
For this review, I had re-read Rediscover Catholicism two years after my first reading motivated me to renew my own faith. I found it as insightful, engaging, and compelling as the first time. I think it is an appealing book for anyone interested in Catholicism including the unfamiliar, the fallen-away, and the devout as a source of both inspiration and practical advice.
 Although this is a book review, I will insert a plug for Kelly’s CD “Becoming the Best Version of Yourself” and his other CDs and DVDs as well. They are another great way to hear his message. His Australian accent is mesmerizing and, along with his sense of humor, brilliantly enhances his message. Visit dynamiccatholic.com to learn more.