Thursday, April 24, 2008

Pg. 99: James M. O'Toole's "The Faithful"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: James M. O'Toole's The Faithful: A History of Catholics in America.

About the book, from the publisher:
Shaken by the ongoing clergy sexual abuse scandal, and challenged from within by social and theological division, Catholics in America are at a crossroads. But is today’s situation unique? And where will Catholicism go from here? With the belief that we understand our present by studying our past, James O’Toole offers a bold and panoramic history of the American Catholic laity.

O’Toole tells the story of this ancient church from the perspective of ordinary Americans, the lay believers who have kept their faith despite persecution from without and clergy abuse from within. It is an epic tale, from the first settlements of Catholics in the colonies to the turmoil of the scandal-ridden present, and through the church’s many American incarnations in between. We see Catholics’ complex relationship to Rome and to their own American nation. O’Toole brings to life both the grand sweep of institutional change and the daily practice that sustained believers. The Faithful pays particular attention to the intricacies of prayer and ritual—the ways men and women have found to express their faith as Catholics over the centuries.

With an intimate knowledge of the dilemmas and hopes of today’s church, O’Toole presents a new vision and offers a glimpse into the possible future of the church and its parishioners. Moving past the pulpit and into the pews, The Faithful is an unmatched look at the American Catholic laity. Today’s Catholics will find much to educate and inspire them in these pages, and non-Catholics will gain a newfound understanding of their religious brethren.
Among the early praise for The Faithful:
"O'Toole's history, focusing especially on personal narratives, makes for captivating reading... A history worth reading."
--Kirkus Reviews

"For readers who are familiar with the church, the primary joy of this book will be found in checking their own experiences against those described by O'Toole. Still, the genial style of writing together with a plentiful amount of fascinating tidbits will keep all but the most jaded expert going."
--Publishers Weekly

"O'Toole deftly tells the history of lay Catholics in America. Beginning with the priestless church of the Colonial period, he goes on to explore the church in the democratic republic, the immigrant church, the church of Catholic Action, the church of Vatican II, and the church in the 21st century."
--Augustine J. Curley, Library Journal

"The Faithful is a truly original and mature work that gives us a rich history of American Catholics. There is simply no comparable book."
--David O'Brien, Holy Cross

"An ambitious narrative history of American Catholicism, written with great historical range and attention to lived experience. It has profound contemporary resonance. This courageous book, unafraid to explore the story's darker moments, is destined to become the new standard text on American Catholicism."
--Robert Orsi, Northwestern University

"Solidly researched, engagingly told and insightfully interpreted, The Faithful is the first comprehensive history of lay Catholic prayer, politics and creative fidelity to church teaching, even in times of crisis such as the present. It could not come at a better time, as American Catholics struggle to reclaim a legacy of moral leadership and stalwart service to the nation."
--R. Scott Appleby, University of Notre Dame

"O'Toole surveys the lay Catholic experience in America with remarkable breadth and mastery. Lively and accessible, this book provides a valuable introduction to American Catholic history."
--Leslie Tentler, Catholic University of America
Read an excerpt from The Faithful, and learn more about the book at the Harvard University Press website.

Visit James O'Toole's faculty webpage.

The Page 99 Test: The Faithful.

--Marshal Zeringue