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Sense of the Faithful: How American Catholics Live Their Faith
Oxford University Press, 2008
The image of the "cafeteria Catholic" -- one who blithely picks and chooses those doctrines that suit him -- is a staple of American culture. But are American Catholics really so nonchalant about how they integrate the ancient devotional practices of Catholicism with the everyday struggles of the modern world?
For Sense of the Faithful, Jerome Baggett conducted 300 intensive interviews with members of six parishes to explore all aspects of this question. The book is an act of listening that allows ordinary Catholics to speak for themselves about how they understand their faith and how they draw upon it to find purpose in their lives.
Many American Catholics, Baggett shows, do indeed have an uneasy relationship with the official teachings of the Church and struggle to live faithfully amidst the challenges of the modern world. But Baggett finds that it is a genuine struggle, one that reveals a dynamic and self-aware relationship to the Church's teachings. Moving beyond the simplistic categories of national surveys and the politically motivated pronouncements of pundits, Sense of the Faithful ultimately paints a more complex -- and more accurate -- portrait of what it is like to be Catholic in America today.