Convergence of two happy things: The Catholic Writers Conference is coming around again, and I’m putting together an index of my writing on discipleship and evangelization. In trolling my posts at New Evangelizers, I came across this one that is apropos of the conference season. And yes, if you’re a Catholic who likes to write (fiction or otherwise), you should give the Catholic Writers Guild a good looking over. More on that soon.
Evangelization and the Case for Catholic Fiction
Why bother with Catholic fiction? As I write this, I’ve just returned from the Catholic Writers Guild’s annual live conference (our online conference is held in early spring), and once again I’ve met dozens of great Catholic authors eager to reach a Catholic audience.
I’ve also had a few discouraging conversations with publishers. “We’re really only able to sell retellings of saints stories. We’d like to do other fiction, but we can’t.” “We love that children’s fiction series, but we can’t break even on it, so we had to cancel further installments.” “We want to do fiction, but . . .”
It’s a hard market. Over the past 50 years, Catholics in the pew have taken the notion that anything true, good, and beautiful is indeed “Catholic”, and run with it . . . right out of the Catholic market, and into the secular bookshelves.
And there’s something to that. After all, we Catholics don’t need to decorate every story we read with a crucifix and a Hail Mary in order to be edified. Reviewers like Julie Davis at Happy Catholic mine the treasures to be found in all kinds of strange corners. The Catholic faith truly is universal, and so it’s no surprise that all good literature evangelizes, regardless of the label that goes with it.
Still, there’s a place for explicitly Catholic stories of every genre. Why?
Our faith is not just a cultural identity, but yes, we’re human, so it does matter to us that we aren’t the only Catholics out there. My daughter is a big fan of the Anna Mei series from Pauline Books & Media. These stories are your basic middle school coming-of-age stuff, and the Catholic faith is part of the fabric, but not the crux of the plot. Still, I love that my daughter can see a Catholic character turn out for Mass on Sundays, or say grace with her family. We all need to know we aren’t the only ones doing this religion thing.
Solid answers to hard questions
John McNichol is a house favorite at our place, since we have that middle school boy sci-fi / alien-attack demographic sewn up tight. McNichol gets criticized for putting religious conversations in his dialog.
Well, guess what? That’s what teens really talk about. McNichol is a veteran middle school teacher and father of 10 bazillion teens, so he knows that, and he puts real questions teens ponder into the mouths of his teen characters.
But here’s the rub: unless it’s Catholic fiction, those questions aren’t going to get a Catholic answer.
Catholicism is not generic
You know what irritates me on Facebook? Vague “spiritual” feel-good platitudes being spouted by people who should know better.
Oh, I know, I need to lighten up a little. And I’m the first in line to be ecumenical when ecumenical is possible. But sooner or later we need for Catholics to claim their faith as the one and only.
Catholic fiction lays down the gauntlet: our faith is not one choice among many. It’s not just a “flavor” or a “style” of religion. A sincere faith means we’re going to have an awful lot of explicitly Catholic stories to tell, because our faith offers something you can’t find anywhere else.
Are you with me on this? If so, here’s what I propose we do next:
1. Talk about it.
There are lots of folks in the pews for whom this idea is absolutely radical. It’s just not on their brain. At all. So mention it. Drop a line in conversation like, “I love being able to find good Catholic novels for my kids.” Or, “It’s so refreshing to read something that isn’t trashy for a change.”
2. Start buying Catholic fiction.
If you have a local Catholic bookstore, ask them to stock it. Print out the book info for the title that interests you, and ask them to order it. If you have a parish library, donate good Catholic fiction to their collection.
3. When you read a good Catholic book, leave a review . . .
. . . at Goodreads, Amazon, and the publisher’s website. Then mention it to your friends – online and in real life.
People want to be able to practice their faith. Reading good Catholic fiction is a way that many people can be encouraged, inspired, and yes, even catechized at times, in a way that comes so naturally to story-loving humans.
Read any good books lately?
What titles would you recommend for the Catholic reader looking for a good story to curl up with on a lazy Sunday afternoon?
(Psst! FYI for new readers – the blog discussion forum is here.)