Apr 9, 2010
Tobin, Thomas J. Seraphina Press, Minneapolis, 2009. $13.95 ISBN 978-0979824692
Taking the pastoral and pedagogical role of being a bishop to a new level, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island has published the pick of his weekly columns in an accessible book. Well-known for his recent media appearance as he caught flack for warning Rep. Patrick Kennedy of the dichotomy between being a pro-abortion Catholic in the public sphere, Bishop Tobin has also been quietly publishing a weekly column, “Without a Doubt,” in his diocesan newspaper for over a decade. The column, perhaps, has proven to be an even more effective way of shepherding his flock.
“Effective Faith” isn’t a bombshell to the faithful, or even to the once-faithful or the not-so-faithful. Instead, it’s a nuts and bolts approach to being a Catholic. Bishop Tobin isn’t trying to scare his readers into going back to church. He’s not leaving a trail of cake crumbs leading towards heaven either. What each of his columns does is give a basic explanation of the Church’s teaching on a particular issue or a personal insight into daily life from the eyes of a real, live Catholic bishop.
The book is arranged into a series of logical categories pertaining to faith: Everyday Faith, Faith and My Life, Faith through the Season, and Faith through the Life of the Church. For those used to reading the prose of a very direct and doctrinal writer such as Archbishop of Denver Charles Chaput, Bishop Tobin’s prose, as well as the categories in his book, are neither so blunt nor so involved. That is not to say however, that he doesn’t know his faith, his doctrine, or what it means to be a human being facing very real human choices.