Amidst the divisions and frustrations that mark the Church of our time, there are, quietly dispersed throughout the Mystical Body, clergy and laymen striving for the recovery and promotion of the Apostolic Faith. Their good work—and the renaissance it will bring about—is easily obscured, as it is rarely offered a proper place in the tired and failing evangelical efforts of the established Church bureaucracy. But such work is real, and a sign of the continued activity of the Holy Ghost within the Church.
David Bonagura, Jr., makes a worthy contribution to these efforts in his new book Steadfast in Faith: Catholicism and the Challenges of Secularism (published by Cluny Media LLC). Bonagura is a fellow alumnus of the Jesuit’s gem, Regis High School in New York City, where he now teaches. He also lectures as an adjunct professor at St. Joseph Seminary, the seminary that now serves the Archdiocese of New York and the Dioceses of Brooklyn and Rockville Centre.
His book is a clearly and simply written comprehensive primer that acts as both a catechism and an apology for the Faith, but is free from polemical diatribes and political-style criticism. As such, it is ideal reading for those ignorant of the Faith and the lightly-catechized who may be skeptical or confused about the actual nature and content of the Christian religion as held and taught by the Church.
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The book’s ten chapters are divided into two sections: the “Preliminaries to Faith” and “The Nature of Faith.” Bonagura walks the reader through the basics of what it means to have faith in God, and then presents the implications of true faith for the believer as he lives out his life. His purpose is not only to explain, but also to answer the common objections of those who paint religious faith as mere superstition unsuited to modernity’s rational and science-based understanding of the world. In so doing, Bonagura sets out his own well-crafted rebuttals to the prevailing atheistic rationalism that is so often proffered as the ultimate challenge to believers, while also sprinkling throughout the book citations to the magisterium of the recent popes and, never fear, the Second Vatican Council.
In fact, the over-arching theme of Steadfast in Faith is the “reasonableness” of faith in God. Bonagura uses classical Catholic reasoning and logic to gently dismantle the presumptions, and attendant arguments, of the secular, rationalist worldview in order to demonstrate, once more, that religious faith is based in reason, and rests upon assumptions that are far more logically coherent than those undergirding the view that God does not exist or that revealed religion as taught by the Church is unintelligible or mythic nonsense from another age.
To this end, Bonagura succinctly and clear defines the concepts that constitute the foundations of Christian faith. In a Church where too many no longer grasp such basic notions as what it means to “have faith” and how such faith is to be lived both intellectually and practically, this book serves as a sort of modern Baltimore Catechism, elucidating the bases of the Faith and their implications for each and every believer. It is, therefore, an excellent teaching tool for presenting the Faith to high school, college, and adult students who need the intellectual grounding to understand the Faith in the mind, so that it can subsequently penetrate the heart.
Steadfast in Faith is a remedy for the evangelical and catechetical poverty that continues to afflict the Church. These failings not only manifest themselves in the decline of parishes, schools, and vocations, but have contributed mightily to a great and widely noticed evil of our time: the sense, even if inchoate or unarticulated, that life is pointless, boring, and banal. The decline of religious practice is bad, but the eradication of religious knowledge is even worse. The lack of knowing in turn ruins the ability of a person to understand the trials and tribulations of life, to endure suffering and hardships, and to discern a purpose in the daily tasks of life.
In such a state, the problems of life can easily overwhelm a person, who will either be crushed by them or resort to various forms of mindless escapism. Those who are not subject to direct or substantial suffering will nonetheless drift about, bored, restless, and unable to comprehend why they find no satisfaction in the things that are routine parts of life: going to work, making money, or attending children’s sporting events.
Bonagura’s book opens the way to another worldview. Steadfast in Faith is rooted in the tradition of “faith seeking understanding.” It presents the reader with a notion that he has forgotten, or perhaps never knew: the Christian faith is reasonable and intelligible, if lived, it imbues every aspect of life with meaning and offers a way for man to understand matters of the head and of the heart.
Indeed, the book’s final chapter, “Faith, Evil and Suffering,” should be read by anyone struggling to understand the misfortunes and hardships of life, as Bonagura does a fine job of connecting our sufferings to those of Christ, proving that only Christianity is equipped to explain the true nature of the human condition, both in joy and in sorrow.
In short, following the unbroken tradition of all great teachers of the Christian religion, Bonagura proceeds from the simple premise that the Church has and teaches the Truth. The Truth is knowable and must be presented to all people, and not hidden, denied or rendered irrelevant to daily life. For those who wish to catechize, or to be catechized, Steadfast in Faith is a valuable resource and sorely needed. It ought to be used liberally, as part of the great project of restoring and re-presenting our Faith—above which there is no greater gift and without which we have nothing.
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