Interview with author, Mary DeTurris Poust
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Catholic Catechism
I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Mary DeTurris Poust about her new book, The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Catholic Catechism to be released in only a couple of days!
First, from the inside back cover of Mary’s book:
"Mary DeTurris Poust is an award-winning columnist, journalist, and author whose work has appeared in both Catholic and secular magazines and newspapers across the country for more than two decades. She is a contributing editor for Our Sunday Visitor, a national Catholic news weekly, and the author of Parenting a Grieving Child: Helping Children Find Faith, Hope, and Healing After the Loss of a Loved One (Loyola Press, 2002). Her column Life Lines, which focuses on parenting and family life from a faith perspective, appears monthly in Catholic New York and other regional and national newspapers and frequently in the Times Union of Albany, N.Y.
Mary is the former managing editor of Manhattan-based Catholic New York and the former associate editor of The Catholic Spirit in Austin, Texas. She has also worked for the Diocese of Metuchen, N.J., and the Diocese of Albany, N.Y. In addition, she writes behind the scenes for a number of religious communities and organizations.
A graduate of Pace University, Mary has been honored by the Catholic Press Association numerous times for her news writing, feature writing, investigative reporting, and for her column.
Mary, her husband, Dennis, and their three children live in upstate New York."
Donna: Mary, it’s very exciting that you are releasing your second book, titled, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Catholic Catechism in just two days! Would you please tell us a little bit about the book
Mary: I guess the first thing people need to know is that this book is completely faithful to the full Catechism of the Catholic Church and, in fact, can and should be used as a study guide. It certainly can be read on its own as a stand-alone book, but it would be especially effective to have the full catechism on hand when you read my book. Except for an introductory section that explains the history of catechisms and how they should be used, my book shadows the structure of the full catechism so that people can use the two side-by-side. Where the catechism is almost 1,000 pages and is written in theological language, mine clocks in at 336 pages and is written in popular language with lots of definitions and explanations along the way.
Donna: To write about the Catechism of the Catholic Church seems like it would be an overwhelming experience to say the very least. Would you please tell us about your experience and journey writing this book and perhaps even why you decided to write about the Catechism?
Mary: When I first accepted this project, I was a little intimidated. I had never read the catechism cover to cover; I had used it only as a reference tool. My publisher gave me only three months to write the entire manuscript, so that made it all the more challenging. Still, it turned out to be not only a wonderful professional experience but an amazing spiritual experience for me. I found myself hearing the prayers of the Mass as if for the first time. Everything sounded new because I was spending so much time reading and reflecting on these beliefs that I had been professing my whole life. It is my hope that my readers will experience some of that as well. I think we can get so used to our faith that we often take elements of it for granted. When you have to sit with these teachings and put them into context and really think about them in a different way, it can have a profound impact, at least it did for me.
Donna: That’s wonderful! Do you plan to speak or write about the Catechism and its implications on Catholics after the publication of your book?
Mary: Yes, I will be writing about the book for Our Sunday Visitor, and I will be posting daily doses of catechism on my own blog every day. Beyond that, I will speak and write on this subject as opportunities come up. I think it’s so important to remind people that the catechism is not something reserved for bishops or priests or those working for the Church. I’m hoping my book will make the beauty of the larger catechism more accessible to everyday Catholics as well as non-Catholics who simply want to better understand the Catholic faith.
Donna: I hope that you do post about it on at least a semi-regular basis. I think people will be interested and I agree that it’s important to help the average Catholic understand that the Catechism is not reserved for the clergy but is for all of us. What part or parts of the Catechism do you feel most Catholics may have trouble understanding? In reading your book, do you think they will be more able to understand?
Mary: I think a lot of people hear catechism and think of rules and regulations; they don’t realize that so much of the catechism focuses on spiritual teachings and prayers. For me the most beautiful part of the catechism is its focus on basic Catholic beliefs, specifically the things outlined in the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds. I wrote seven chapters on the creeds alone. Line by line, I go through these prayers and break down what we’re professing to believe. I hope that my book will do for others what writing this book did for me: Bring those professions of faith alive in new ways. I also hope people will come away with a much deeper understanding of where our teachings come from, that they don’t exist in a vacuum and weren’t created out of nothing. They all grow out of Scripture and Tradition, and it’s incredibly beautiful to watch that unfold.
Donna: That sounds incredible, I loved how you expressed the way this all came alive for you and your hopes for others who read your book. Do you feel that your book, The Complete Idiots Guide to the Catholic Catechism will help the average Catholic in their understanding of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Church teachings?
Mary: I absolutely think this book can help Catholics, future Catholics, even non-Catholics who want to try to understand what Catholics believe. That’s not because I’ve come up with anything new and inventive. I simply took what the Church has taught for thousands of years and rewrote it in an easier-to-understand, popular style -- with some elements of humor thrown in when appropriate. In addition to following all the basics of the catechism, I’ve added in some extra “sidebars” to deal with definitions of difficult terms, explanations of especially confusing teachings, and myths that need to be debunked. It was actually really fun to write.
Donna: I personally can’t wait to get my hands on this book! The added sidebars sound interesting and a great way to enhance the book. Will your book bear a Nihil Obstat or an Imprimatur?
Mary: Yes, the book has both. The imprimatur was given by Bishop Paul G. Bootkoski of the Diocese of Metuchen, N.J. It was very important to me to get an imprimatur on this book because of the subject matter. I want people to know that they can trust that this popular translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is completely true to Church teaching.
That was also why it was so important to have a theological advisor on this book. Every page I wrote was sent to Msgr. David Fulton, a brilliant theologian and professor at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore. He would send back reams of notes, comments and suggestions, which I then incorporated into my manuscript.
Donna: That’s great that you had his help and support. Still, I imagine that taking on such a task as you have in explaining the Catholic Catechism must have been a bit daunting. Was this your experience? Please tell us a little bit about the process.
Mary: In one sense it was daunting, and in another it was easier than I expected because the full catechism is so well structured. Once I got into a groove, I was moving through sections pretty quickly. I took it in chunks: For example, I would read the section on the creeds and then write. Read the section on the sacraments and write, and so on with the sections on the commandments and prayer.
On top of that, the fact that I felt like I was moving deeper into my own faith experience with every page made it much more bearable than if I had been writing about something that didn’t mean that much to me. I feel I was meant to write this book. Not because I was the only writer who could do it – obviously that’s not the case – but because I needed to write this book. In the “Dear Reader” letter at the start of the book, I wrote that I needed to become “an eager explorer in the familiar territory of my own faith.” That made what could have been an overwhelming professional venture into a profound spiritual mission.
Donna: Thank you for explaining your process and experience of going deeper in your own faith experience. Mary, would you please tell us a little bit about your background and your family life?
Mary: I was raised a Catholic and was very active in the Church as a child and teen-ager. My mother had a tremendous influence on my faith. Through her I came to see Church and faith as something intricately intertwined with the rest of my life. When I graduated from college, I took an internship at Catholic New York, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of New York. From there I went to the Diocese of Metuchen, N.J., and then back to Catholic New York as a reporter. After a brief stint in Austin, Texas, that included the beginnings of my free-lance career in the Catholic press, I returned to Catholic New York as managing editor. I’m still writing for Catholic New York; they publish my monthly column, Life Lines, which focuses on family life and how we live out our faith in the world.
My first book, Parenting a Grieving Child: Helping Children Find Faith, Hope and Healing After the Loss of a Loved One, was published by Loyola Press in 2002. Currently I am a contributing editor for Our Sunday Visitor and a contributor to various other Catholic and secular publications. In addition, I do a lot of behind-the-scenes writing for religious congregations. I also just recently jumped into the world of blogging, which is a daily adventure.
Donna:What actually inspired you to write this book?
Mary: Actually, I had no intention of writing this book. In fact, I didn’t really think I was going to write a second book at all. But, as I say now, this book found me. When the job came up, I sat with it and prayed on it and really tried to decide if this was something I wanted to write about. Having written one book before this, I’m of the mind that you’d better really believe in your subject if you’re going to spend that many days and nights wrapped up in it. I knew this was something I believed in on the most profound level, so I figured I’d step off the ledge and God would take care of the rest.
Donna: I’m so glad you did decide to “step off the ledge” and let God take care of the rest and I am sure that the readers of your new book will feel the same way. On a personal note, may I ask how your family feels about the fact that you are an author?
Mary: My family is very supportive; my dad and step-mom and brother and aunts are coming from hours away for my book release party, which is beyond the call of duty, I think. My husband is a tremendous support because he’s the one who bears the burden when I decide to write a book, especially in a three-month time frame. There were lots of weekends and nights when I was completely absent and he was running the show. I couldn’t have done it without him.
My children think it’s cool that I write books and articles and columns, but not nearly as cool as if I was writing Magic Tree House books. It used to be that whenever they saw a column of mine in a paper with my photo on it, they’d say, “Mom’s famous.” Finally they realized that the columns weren’t exactly translating into fame. Now I think they’ve finally realize that this is not just my job, this is my life. I cannot separate the writer in me from the rest of my life, any more than I could separate out the Catholic part of me. The fact that I’ve managed to combine these two key elements of my personality is just a mind-boggling blessing to me.
Donna: Is there something you’d like to add that I have forgotten to ask you?
Mary: I think I’ve said more than enough. :)
Donna: Well, you certainly did not say “More than enough.” I enjoyed every minute of our interview and I am sure that our visitors will, as well. I think you had better rest up your signing hand to get ready to autograph all of those books!
Thank you very much Mary for your time to answer so many questions when you are getting ready to launch your new book. May God bless you and everyone who reads your book and bring them ever deeper into the fullness of the faith!
You may purchase this book at Mary's website: Mary De Turris Poust.Com or Amazon.Com by clicking on her book in my right column in "My Media Library"
Visit Mary's website at Mary DeTurris Poust.Com
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