In writing the book “What Does It Mean to Be Catholic?,” Dr. Jack Mulder Jr. of the Hope College philosophy faculty has lived a variation of the Golden Rule, providing others with a resource that he wishes had been available to him.
Writing in the first-person and a conversational tone, Mulder provides an overview of several core tenets of the Catholic Church. He was motivated by his own faith journey. Mulder was raised a Protestant, and converted to Catholicism 11 years ago, shortly before joining the Hope faculty in 2004. He seeks to provide answers to the sorts of questions that he had along the way.
“I wrote it because it’s a question that I asked,” said Mulder, who is an associate professor of philosophy and chairperson of the department at Hope, and co-founder of the Saint Benedict Forum. “If I had a book of this sort when I was becoming Catholic, it would have been very useful to me.”
“This book is really for three groups, namely, new Catholics who want to know more about their faith; non-Catholics who want to understand Catholic distinctives better; and lifelong Catholics who would like to be reacquainted with what they believe,” he said.
“What Does It Mean to Be Catholic?” was published earlier this month by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. of Grand Rapids and Cambridge, United Kingdom. Importantly, it has received the imprimatur of the Most. Rev. David J. Walkowiak, bishop of Grand Rapids, to help readers know that it is an accurate source of information.
“It doesn’t mean that the bishop necessarily agrees with what you say,” Mulder said. “It means that nothing that you say is a doctrinal or moral error.”
The book’s eight chapters cover “Scripture and Tradition,” “The Church and Her Magisterium,” “God and Humanity,” “The Person and Work of Christ,” “Mary and the Communion of Saints,” “The Seven Sacraments,” “Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory,” and “The Human Person.” Throughout, Mulder not only discusses Catholic teaching and tradition, but weaves in viewpoints from other religions and includes anecdotes based on his experiences as he has explored his faith.
Mulder emphasizes that the book is not intended as a comprehensive encyclopedia of Catholicism—that would require much more space than the softcover volume’s 238 pages. In addition, even though he loves the Catholic faith, he’s not seeking to convert others.
“The purpose of this book is to describe and explain a Catholic worldview to a contemporary audience,” he said. “My purpose is not to convert the reader, but I do want lay Catholics and especially other Christians to consider what a coherent Catholic faith could look like.”
In the end, as any good philosopher and teacher might, he instead hopes to inform and invite dialogue. “I hope that it leaves people to be in a better position to have a conversation about the distinctive claims of the Catholic Church,” said Mulder, whose publications also include the book “Kierkegaard and the Catholic Tradition: Conflict and Dialogue.”
Copies of “What Does It Mean to Be Catholic?” are available for $20 at the college’s Hope-Geneva Bookstore. The bookstore is located on the ground level of the DeWitt Center, 141 E. 12th St., and can be called at 800-946-4673 or 616-395-7833. Additional ordering information may be obtained by emailing the Hope-Geneva Bookstore at firstname.lastname@example.org.