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Almost Catholic: An Appreciation of the History, Practice, and Mystery of Ancient Faith

ISBN: 978-0-7879-9470-9
240 pages
February 2008, Jossey-Bass
Almost Catholic: An Appreciation of the History, Practice, and Mystery of Ancient Faith (0787994707) cover image


Jon Sweeney, a self-described “evolved Protestant” and noted religious writer, has long been fascinated by the Catholic Church. However, it wasn’t until he was a young missionary in the Philippines that he truly began to understand the Church’s traditions, mysteries, and religious beliefs and its hold on those who follow the tradition. As he explains, Catholic spirituality is all about responding to the fundamental mystery of Jesus, the incarnation, and what it all meant in the beginning as well as what it means today.

In Almost Catholic, Sweeney offers an appreciation of Catholicism, weaving in the story of his own explorations with those of others who have also been attracted to this tradition. He finds himself drawn to the Church’s ancient and medieval traditions out of a desire to connect with the deepest and widest paths on the way. Two millennia of saints and practices and teachings and mystery form a connection for him to the very beginnings of Christianity.

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Table of Contents


SECTION ONE: The Language and the Spirit.

Forget What You Thought You Knew.


Forget About Conversion.

Doubters and Believers, Atheists and Agnostics.

Eleven Steps to Becoming a Truly Catholic Christian.

SECTION TWO: The Catholic Imagination.

God Is Here.

Sacred Spaces and Places.

Privy to a Revealed Secret.

But It’s Too Easy.

Taking Vows.

Becoming a Saint.

SECTION THREE: Faith with Flesh.

He Loved His Own Flesh.

The Sensuousness of Jesus.

The Crucifix.

Stations of the Cross.

Bones and Bodies.

Something Good About Hell.

SECTION FOUR: Much More Than Kitsch and Jesus Junk.

Rosary Beads.

Little Books.

Images That Speak.

Novenas for Heathens and Outcasts.

Going to Confession.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus.

SECTION FIVE: My Own Cloud of Witnesses.

Thomas Merton.

Saint Francis of Assisi.

Every Idealist Who Has Ever Tried.

G. K. Chesterton.

Flannery O’Connor.

The Catechism as a Mystical Novel.

SECTION SIX: Together with Others.

Take Me to the River.

Sacraments and Sacramentals.

Contemplative Living.

Eating and Kissing.

Millions of Blessings.


Appendix: Defining a Few Terms.


Suggestions for Further Reading.


The Author.

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Author Information

Jon M. Sweeney is a prolific author who wrote Born Again and Again, named one of the Best Books of 2005 by Spirituality & Health magazine and honored with an Award of Merit by Christianity Today, and Light in the Dark Ages: The Friendship of Francis and Clare of Assisi, a selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club. He writes for the website www.explorefaith.org, and his articles have been published in a variety of magazines including Catholic Digest, The Lutheran, The Merton Seasonal, and Spirituality & Health.
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Rosaries, rituals, crucifixes and canonized saints: Sweeney, an Episcopalian, enthusiastically embraces these trappings of the Catholic faith, even as many Protestants find them unbiblical and some Catholics have abandoned them. In his latest book, Sweeney talks about his chosen state of being “almost Catholic,” explaining how Catholicism's practices and outlook help connect him to the divine and expand his worldview. Raised as an evangelical Protestant, Sweeney tells how he grew up believing “Catholics were going to hell unless they found our brand of true salvation.” Later, as a church planter in the Philippines, his thinking started to shift when he stepped inside a Catholic church for the first time. Overwhelmed by the sensory experience, he came to love Catholicism as an approach to faith that “lands in the heart and the body as well as in the head.” He has stopped short of converting, however, saying that those who remain outside the institution can still access Catholic life. Although Sweeney's love of Catholic practice makes for interesting reading, he saves his best for describing the differences between Catholic and Protestant thought, providing a depth that goes beyond fascination with externals. (Feb.) (Publishers Weekly, December 3, 2007)
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