At a time when the Catholic Church in the U.S. was most racked by scandal, just over a decade ago, Matthew Kelly was one of the leading laymen showing the way forward to regaining the Church’s strength and credibility with the faithful.
It was in 2002 that he released the book “Rediscover Catholicism,” a fresh primer on the Catholic faith that served as a bedrock of support for many in America who were shaken by the priestly sex-abuse scandals and became a huge bestseller as a result.
Now, he’s released a follow up book, “Rediscover Jesus,” which helps draw Catholics into a more personal connection with Christ while guiding them in an orthodox way that doesn’t risk leading them into Protestant practices and beliefs.
It’s the next big step for Kelly after founding the Dynamic Catholic Institute, a Cincinnati based nonprofit organization whose mission is to re-energize the Catholic Church in America by developing world-class resources that inspire people to rediscover “the genius of Catholicism.”
“‘Rediscover Catholicism’ has been a phenomenal success, but there are a lot of factors that conspired to make it so,” says Kelly. “First, it was published just months before the Boston Globe broke the sexual abuse story that has tragically become one of the most significant moments in the history of Catholicism in America. So it was published at a time when many people’s faith was being rocked to its foundation.
“Beyond that, I think it contained the right message at the right time,” he continues. “A message that resonated with the average Catholic and inspired him or her to move beyond being an average Catholic. At the same time, the book answered so many of the questions that Catholics had about their faith.”
A native of Sydney, Australia, Kelly began speaking and writing in his late teens while still attending business school. He quickly found success on the self-improvement circuit, eventually extending his message to help organizations improve their structures, but always made sure his message was rooted in the values of his beloved faith in Catholicism.
As such, his inspiring message has helped him sell more than 15 million copies throughout his career in writing books and as a business consultant with more than 50 Fortune 500 companies including Pepsi, FedEx and McDonalds. In “Rediscover Jesus,” he adopts a 40-day approach in which readers are encouraged to read and pray over the ideas in the book each day for 40 days — a timeframe that is heavily utilized throughout Scripture — as in Christ’s 40 days in the desert, for instance.
“When I write I am constantly trying to find ways to personalize it for the reader, so that the ideas can come to life in a person’s life,” explains Kelly, a married father of four. “The Church understands that our lives change when our habits change, and 40 days is the perfect time to form new habits.”
In researching the book, Kelly also explored studies of Catholics in America, which found that the difference between highly engaged Catholics and those who only nominally participate lies in the quality of their prayer lives. He believes that we could all attain great improvements on that front by being open to quiet moments — something that the age of the smartphone and its constant social-media and musical distractions is making ever harder for people to achieve.
He also believes that we can find a deeper relationship with Christ and the Church by finding opportunities to serve others. Looking for volunteering opportunities on a regular basis, in addition to looking for the little moments daily that can make a difference in others’ lives, takes us out of our “self-centered comfort-seeking” and transforms our spirits.
“What it all comes down to is what I like to call ‘The Jesus Question.’ Toward the end of his public life, Jesus asks His disciples two questions: ‘Who do people say that I am?’ and ‘Who do you say that I am?’
“The second question I call the Jesus Question,” says Kelly. “It is a deeply personal question that requires, and in fact demands, a deeply personal response. And yes, it is a question that will re-emerge at various times in our lives as we grow spiritually.”
“Rediscover Jesus” is available at bookstores nationwide, and on bookselling websites such as Amazon.com and BN.com.