How to Change the World

I thought Matthew Kelly’s book, “The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic,” was so good–so simple and yet so profound. It truly moved me and, I expect, will change me for the better over time (if I stick with the plan).

That said, I did find myself wishing Kelly’s research and hypotheses weren’t limited to a Catholic audience. Why could his “four signs” not be applied to all communities of faith? I think they can be. But this book, clearly, is focused on Catholics, who perhaps need to hear these particular words more than others; we’ve strayed so far over the past few decades.

Kelly builds on a 14th century concept of Catherine of Siena: “If you are what you should be, you will set the world ablaze.”

“The world only changes for the better when men and women grow in virtue and character,” Kelly insists. “Less character will never lead to a better world. Our lives will genuinely improve only when we become better people today than we were yesterday; the destiny of the world is wrapped up in this deeply personal quest.”

In just 217 pages, he makes his case brilliantly and provides the inspiration and the tools to go about making the change you want to see—in yourself. (Kelly convincingly argues change in the world will follow.)

By the way, the four signs of a “dynamic Catholic” are prayer, study, generosity and evangelization. That last one is perhaps the most off-putting for most Catholics, and perhaps people generally. Few of us enjoy preaching or imposing our beliefs on others. Kelly gets this. He helps us come to terms with the idea and embrace it. It’s easy, natural…”like sunshine feedin’ daisies,” as John Prine would say.

The best thing: Kelly doesn’t present lofty ideals and leave you scratching your head. He makes you want to be a better person by proving you can have a huge impact. And then he gives you easy, actionable ideas for getting started. He likens the process or journey to a space shuttle, which uses 96 percent of all its fuel at takeoff. “The hardest part of doing anything is getting started.” It takes a plan and daily intentionality, he emphasizes. “You don’t stumble into great things.”

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