When I think about The Catholic Hipster Handbook by Tommy Tighe (Ave Maria Press 2017), two words come to mind: “rich,” and “fun.” As it talks about the lives and practices of Catholic hipsters, this manual explores the rich treasures of the Catholic Church: beautiful prayers, incredible saints, and fantastic devotions. Yet this is not a dry history book. Instead, it’s an encouragement, one that anyone could benefit from reading, hipster or not. Tighe and his fellow contributors remind us that even though our lives of faith entail suffering and hardship, this whole business of following Christ and embracing our heritage is a lot of fun.
Fifteen witty Catholics fill the pages of this book with their unique perspectives on everything from brewing beer to scapulars. Each chapter is compact, and set up in clear sections: a reflection on some aspect of Catholicism, a saint, a “forgotten prayer,” and an activity. I appreciate the diversity in writing styles and in personal experiences that these men and women offered as ordained, consecrated, or lay people. Reading about fantastic saints I had never heard of, like St. Natalia and St. Maria Domenica Mazzarello, was wonderful, especially because they are presented in such personal and relevant ways. I also really enjoyed looking at the “activity” section in each chapter, because there are so many great ways included that will help all readers to grow from reading this book.
While this book included a lot of great elements, there are a few more aspects I would have loved to see. First, I think an index would have made it simple to find specific saints or devotions when I looked them up (while there is a Table of Contents, it only lists the broad sections of the book). Second, there was one practice which sadly isn’t mentioned: the practice of veiling in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. I realize that there is such a wide variety of traditions in the Catholic Church that it would have been impossible to include every obscure or forgotten tradition in this handbook. Yet since there is so much division and misinformation surrounding this devotion in particular, I would have really enjoyed a short chapter that explained a little bit of background and why many millennial women are choosing to wear the once-cast aside veils of old. I have done copious amounts of research to learn more about the practice of veiling, and I’ve learned that many people enjoy learning about this devotion, even if they do not choose to practice it themselves.
Even with my few quibbles, I find The Catholic Hipster Handbook to be a marvelous resource. Take this book to Mass and reflect on the prayers inside its pages as you sit with our Lord. Keep this book by your bedside, so that when you can’t fall asleep in the middle of the night because you’ve forgotten how to pronounce “Cuauhtlatoatzin,” you can look it up. Bring it along to the farmer’s market so you can use the “Catholic hipster farmer’s market scorecard.” The Catholic Hipster Handbook contains many gems, and reminds us that as Catholics, we have a vibrant and rich tradition. Furthermore, as we go through our Catholic lives, we can—and should—embrace all of our quirkiness and have a lot of fun while we’re at it.
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Copyright 2017 AnneMarie Miller