November 17, 2006

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Viewing Catholic and evangelical landscapes

Shirley Vogler MeisterA New York public relations specialist, Meryl Zegarek, sent me information about a book that caused me to raise my eyebrows in a quizzical manner when I heard about it a few weeks ago.

How could I not wonder about something titled Holy Land USA: A Catholic Ride through America’s Evangelical Landscape? How could a five-time winner of Catholic Press Awards—author Peter Feuerherd—tackle such a touchy topic?

Through the years, my husband and I have had our faith challenged by evangelicals. The strangest situation was when someone sent handprinted notes and religious tracts to Paul, insisting that he get on his knees and accept Jesus Christ as his Savior because only in this way could he be “saved.”

Did this anonymous person not realize that Paul and I regularly acknowledge our Christian beliefs on our knees every time we attend Mass? Did this person not realize that Catholics are Christians from the moment of baptism? No! Nor did we ever learn the source of those evangelistic missives, nor were we upset by them. We are confident in our faith.

I read aloud most of Feuerherd’s book to my husband as he drove north so we could celebrate a daughter’s birthday. We were engrossed in this Catholic Ride through America’s Evangelical Landscape, often taking time for comments or discussion.

The author took us to previously unknown places and situations. Twice, he writes about Orlando, Fla., where we get a revealing view of Holy Land USA, basically an evangelical theme park that in many ways spoke to Feuerherd, who is a “cradle Catholic.”

Surprisingly, this “replica” of Christ’s “stomping grounds” was developed by Marv Rosenthal, a native of Philadelphia who was born a Jew but is now an ordained minister and “a proud Hebrew Christian.” Nearly a quarter of a million believers visit Holy Land USA annually.

The press release for the book posed some challenging questions: “Why do some Catholics choose evangelical Churches, and why have some evangelicals made the leap to Rome? Why, transforming centuries of bitter divides, are Catholics becoming more evangelical and evangelicals more Catholic?”

I’m not going to answer those questions because the reasons are comprehensively and wonderfully explained by Feuerherd, who is a former reporter for The Criterion. He and his family now live in New York. His work has been published in many Catholic markets, and he is now editor of American Catholic. He also serves as the communications consultant for the New York province of the Jesuits.

While reading Holy Land USA, published by Crossroad Publishing Company, I marked pages with countless Post-it® Notes to remind me to share more than this with readers, but space limitations prevent that. The book can be ordered at

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.) †

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