Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Spokane author’s new book reaches out to non-practicing Catholics

Story and photo by Bonita Lawhead, Inland Register staff

(From the April 10, 2003 edition of the Inland Register)

Spokane author Mitch Finley’s latest book is titled It’s Not the Same Without You – Coming Home to the Catholic Church. (IR photo)

Spokane author Mitch Finley’s latest book is titled It’s Not the Same Without You — Coming Home to the Catholic Church. It addresses the question of lapsed Catholics and will touch a tender place in many Catholic hearts.

The book was written for non-practicing Catholics (who number about 9 million) and for those who care about them.

The book’s title came out of a conversation Finley had with a Catholic woman who no longer attends church. As they talked, Finley warmly invited her to come back to the church, saying “It’s not the same without you.”

In the first part of the book, Finley offers true stories of non-practicing Catholics. He writes sensitively about what for many was a painful decision. While the reasons people leave the church can be broadly categorized, each story is unique and Finley stresses how important it is to listen to their stories.

Why do people leave the church? Sometimes they leave because of divorce and remarriage. Sometimes it’s a disagreement with Church teaching. For many people, the Second Vatican Council changed the church in ways they couldn’t understand or accept.

Sometimes the issue is as simple as indifference. Leaving home for college or military service can often lead Catholics to neglect their faith. Sometimes the reason for leaving is a bad experience with priest or nun, a much more complex situation that needs healing and forgiveness.

Just as the reasons for leaving the church are complex, so are the reasons people return. Finley once again uses true stories to show how people find their way back to the church. Sometimes it’s nothing more than listening to a person’s story and then being welcoming and inviting. Often it’s a matter of education and of getting up-to-date information. One of the book’s chapters is titled “Discovering That the Church Changed While You Were Away” and many times, people who left the church long years before find a much more welcoming presence.

One common thread in this second group of personal stories is the involvement of another person or personal experience in the Catholic’s return – sometimes a spouse, the birth of a child, a death in the family, an understanding friend or neighbor.

One of the book’s chapters explains current church efforts to address the issue.

Finley does not believe that, overall, the Church meets the needs of Catholics who no longer attend Church. There are some good programs but more could be done. “We should have billboards up (inviting them back),” he said.

Of particular note is that many lapsed Catholics use the Internet to look for information about the Church. One woman spent several months in a web forum, getting her questions answered about God and the Church.

There is a web site designed specifically for inactive Catholics considering a return to the church.

Author Finley had no thought of being a writer growing up. He recalled that his first writing class was in his freshman year in college in the late 1960s. His college writing led to publication of one of his articles and he has been writing professionally ever since.

Finley’s book career began in 1984. He said has written “about 35 books,” nearly all of which are aimed at a Catholic audience. The books have addressed a wide range of topics: Mary; the joy of being Catholic; heavenly helpers, such as Sts. Anthony and Jude; and even Santa Claus. One of his particular favorites is For Men Only, Strategies for Living Catholic.

Finley loves his church deeply, “but in a realistic way,” he said. He knows the church has flaws and makes mistakes, but in spite of that, it has been important to his spirituality his whole life, he said.

The book’s Afterword is titled “Why Be Catholic?” Finley writes that “basic to this book is the assumption that the Church is worth returning to.”

“...(I)mperfect as it is, mistaken as it sometimes is and sinful and insensitive as its members sometimes are, the Catholic Church carries the potential to be the widest, deepest and most complete path to human meaning and fulfillment in this world and the next.”

Catholics who have “fallen away” in their lives can buy the book to educate themselves or to give as a gift to a lapsed Catholic. Whatever the reason, they will find hope in this book.

(It’s Not the Same Without You — Coming Home to the Catholic Church is published in softcover at $12.95 by Image Books, a division of Doubleday. Finley will read from the book at Kaufer’s on Friday, May 16, at 7 p.m. The reading is free and open to the public.)

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