Colorado native Anna Keating was raised in a home where Catholicism was lived and breathed: Communal meals expressed the liturgical seasons and the feast of the Epiphany was anticipated for its use of indoor candles and holy water. Now, she and her mom, Melissa Musick, run The Catholic Catalogue to share the beauty of Catholicism as a life lived.
The project currently exists as a website at thecatholiccatalogue.com. A book is forthcoming and scheduled to be released in spring 2016 by Image Books.
The project highlights the cultural practice of Catholics and is aimed at those who are looking to live a more meaningful life but don’t know where to start. The inspiration for the project came from a similar book for cultural Jews, according to Keating. “There was a book in the ’70s called ‘Jewish Catalogue,’” she said. “It was a guide for people who were Jewish but didn’t know what it meant. That was a jumping-off point, because there are so many people who grew up Catholic but don’t practice. So much of Catholic media is for the choir, so we thought it would be cool to do a field guide.”
The rich content of the site varies from book, music and movie recommendations, to how to celebrate the feast of St. Isidore the Farmer in May. The upcoming book will include chapters such as “How to Name a Baby” and “How to do Eucharistic Adoration.”
‘Come and see’
|The Catholic Catalogue web site
The project grew out of discussions between mother and daughter beginning in 2011, and the website was launched in March 2013. Currently, it serves thousands of daily viewers and has more than 60,000 followers on Facebook.
The creators’ emphasis is on Catholic practices, rather than politics, debates or even points of doctrine. “Catholicism is a life,” Musick explained. “We wanted to do something that affirms and celebrates that. Prior to any discussion, prior to any catechism or encyclical, there were these practices.”
The duo highlights practices that are applicable at different life stages. Keating said she appreciates this aspect of the project. “It’s been really fun to work with my mom,” she said. “She’s older and brings a different perspective; she’s a grandma, she’s caring for my grandma, and I’m starting my family. It’s birth to death, baptism to funeral.”
Throughout these stages, a vibrant, rich life is what is being offered to us by God. It’s also central to evangelization. “I think a lot about the apostle Philip,” Musick said. “He goes with Jesus, he comes back to tell his friends, ‘I found the Messiah,’ and they say, ‘What does that mean?’ He says, ‘Come and see.’ He doesn’t argue or make a formal apology, he just says, ‘come and see,’ and says [confidently] that if you come and see, you’ll follow in love. That is what we are hoping here, too: Just come and see.”
Through the Internet, the project provides a way for people to “come and see” with a presence on Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest and Twitter, in addition to its own website.
Both Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI have emphasized the importance of utilizing social media for evangelization, which has encouraged Keating with the project despite an initial prejudice against social media.
“I had to learn Twitter. It’s an awesome way to reach people all over the world. I have to get over my snobbery and say if someone wants to read a book about Julian of Norwich, and they go to the library, it’s probably not there, but I can tell them about it and how to find it,” she said.
Pope Francis most recently expressed the importance of learning these mediums on the feast of St. Francis de Sales in January. “We are called to show that the Church is the home of all. Communication is a means of expressing the missionary vocation of the entire Church; today the social networks are one way to experience this call to discover the beauty of faith, the beauty of encountering Christ. In the area of communications, too, we need a Church capable of bringing warmth and of stirring hearts,” he said.
The Catholic Catalogue aims to stir hearts by presenting the beauty of the Church, because beauty “speaks of who God is,” Musick explained. The project uses Chau Nguyen’s original illustrations to help convey this beauty. A Houston-based artist, Nguyen reads through the book chapters as Keating sends them, brainstorming imagery. Then she does pencil sketches followed by watercolors, with an aim to keep “the illustrations loose and imperfect, to add a little more whimsy to everything,” Nguyen said.
Keating, who asked Nguyen to provide illustrations, appreciates her insight and skill: “I always feel like her illustrations bring a fresh perspective and say it better than I could say it. It’s really fresh, but not sentimental, and it’s reverent.”
The illustrations complement the written content to encourage readers to participate in a small act of prayer. Musick explained how important these small acts are to our lives.
“It’s very easy to think marriage is being partners in an unsuccessful plumbing venture; or easy to believe that you’re a worker, or laundry doer, or carpool driver,” she said. “But the Mass remembers us to our true nature as sons and daughters of God. These daily acts do these same things, so it’s not just one thing after another.”
“The Angelus at noon is to remember that you’re not an ox, you’re a human being, and Mary is your mother,” she said. “That is the whole work of this project: to remember.”
Anamaria Scaperlanda Biddick writes from Oklahoma.