One of the gripes academia has with Catholic teaching around the turn of the last century was that it was too structured. The content of the Faith tended to be reduced to outlines and manuals instead of a synthesis of material. That may be true, but something should be said in favor of manuals. True, they are not the most exciting read and they present the Faith in bits and pieces. However, they are extremely useful at least as a starting point for research and at providing summaries of Catholic doctrines and beliefs.
I have a large library (over a thousand books) and one of the first resources I pick up whenever I want to study a doctrine of the Faith is a manual. I would like to share with you one of my favorites. It is Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine: A Course of Religious Instruction for Schools and Colleges by Archbishop M. Sheehan D.D.. (M.H. Gill and Son / Ireland), 1949. I like it because it is compact and readable. The footnotes contain a lot of information and Rev. Sheehan gives concise solid arguments spanning all three areas of apologetics (Natural, Christian and Catholic). Although the book is out of print, it can be had easily from on on-line used book seller.
I try to make it an annual tasks to read through a manual, such as Sheehan’s work, every year just to keep things fresh. If you are an apologist, perhaps working through a manual once a year may make a good New Years resolution for 2007.
Happy New Years Everybody!