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Theology and Sanity

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Vatican II issued an urgent call for the laity to take a more active role in the life of the Church. What should the life of the Christian believer be like? How are average lay Christians called to help save the world? How does theology fit into the picture? One of Frank Sheed's most popular books, this ideal volume for the layman shows the practical aspects of theology in the life of a Christian believer. Logic, clarity, and simplicity permeate this eminently readable book. Drawing from his fifty years of street-corner preaching, as well as his long career as an author, lecturer and publisher, Sheed understands and communicates better than anyone the importance of theology and its relationship to living sanely in today's world. A brilliant synthesis of the Catholic view of life.

471 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1946

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About the author

Frank Sheed

69 books106 followers
Frank Sheed was a Catholic apologist and street-corner speaker originally from Australia. He lived in London from 1926 onward. Unlike many of the other prominent Catholic writers in England at that time Sheed was not a convert, but raised Catholic and of Irish descent. Along with his wife, Maisie Ward, he founded Sheed & Ward. The couple tend to be linked together in accomplishments. The couple have sometimes been cited as a modern Catholic example of street preaching. His son Wilfrid Sheed is also a writer.

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5 stars
635 (68%)
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192 (20%)
3 stars
75 (8%)
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12 (1%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 61 reviews
Profile Image for Jeff Miller.
1,110 reviews169 followers
June 3, 2018
I can't give this book the reviews it deserves. Whatever feeble effort I provide will be lacking.

I remember loving this the first time i read it. Having such a clear thinker and a clear teacher at the same time seems so rare. How often can you read a major section on the Trinity and not be left dumbfounded or feeling the explanation was just not very good. You dive into the mystery wanting to dive farther.

“Sanity, remember, does not mean living in the same world as everyone else; it means living in the real world. But some of the most important elements in the real world can be known only by the revelation of God, which it is theology’s business to study.”

This theme is found in his books and he really makes the point here. So you get a solid explanation of theology along with some very sharp observations.

If you don't have this buy it and right now the Kindle version is $.99.
Profile Image for Wanda.
99 reviews
December 17, 2008
I think I'm going to love this book! Actually I already do, lol. so far its been a great book for a knowledge-seeker like myself. From p. 7:

"We can be saved and even holy without a great deal of knowledge; for holiness is in the will, and we are saved by what we love, not by how much we know. But knowledge of the truth matters enormously all the same. It matters for the reason we have already stated, namely, that every new thing known about God is a new reason for loving Him. It matters also for a reason that may not at first sight appear: that, in the appallingly difficult struggle to be good, the will is helped immeasurably by the intellect's clear vision of the real Universe. Unless our minds have made that kind of study, then the position is that the church is living in one world (which happens to be the real world) and we are living in another. One practical consequence is that the laws of right living promulgated by the Church, moral laws generally, are the natural and obvious laws of that real world and would seem so to us if we were mentally living in it; whereas in the twilight world we are living in, they often seem odd and unreasonable, which does not make obedience any easier. Thus, the whole burden of right living is cast upon the will -- do it because the Church says it -- with no aid from the intellect, or rather with active hindrance from the intellect, which naturally tends to judge by the half-reality it sees. And this is sheer cruelty."


I have now finished this amazing book!! I learned so much, my head is still spinning. I must study and absorb this book!

A favorite quote:

"It can never be intelligent to take lightly anything that God takes seriously. And God takes the Devil very seriously indeed." (p. 273)

August 10, 2012
Sheed offers an intense, cohesive, accessible, and altogether spectacular narrative summary of Catholic theology, for him the sole medium for understanding the reality of man, man's relationship with the Infinite, and the Infinite's role in the finite universe. His goal is to guide man toward sanity -- toward an understanding of Reality, and toward an ability to engage that Reality; he finds this sanity within Catholicism: "This Church, more rigid than any in dogma and law, is, as no other Church ever has been, the home of every type of human being, of every nation and of every sort of peson within every nation. Because only in the Church is man fully himself." Covered are: human and salvation histories, the nature of man, opposing philosophies, dogma, suffering, grace, eschatology, and more. I most appreciated his ability to engage the question of God on multiple levels: natural evidence, Catholicism's historicity, Scripture, pop psychology and science, specific teachings and practices, etc. Contained within is one of the clearest definitions of the Trinity I've ever read, along with compelling answers to major questions posed to the Church (infallibility, sacramental life, etc.).
Profile Image for Jon.
25 reviews1 follower
May 28, 2008
This is a great book by an amazingly gifted author. He tackles issues of the faith and how it is necessary to have a sound theology in order to see reality properly. He doesn't allow people to take the easy way out, but forces them to logically think through the proponents of the faith. A great read!!!
859 reviews
Want to read
January 7, 2010
Recommended by James Schall in Another Sort of Learning, Chapter 15, as one of Twelve Collections of Lectures and Reflections.

Included in the "Spiritual Reading" section of Fr. John McCloskey's 100-book Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan.

Listed by Patrick Madrid in the Reading Plan of Search and Rescue in Phase 2 (Intermediate).
Profile Image for Beth.
92 reviews
June 10, 2012
The more things change. The more they stay the same. This book could have been written last year instead of 70 years ago. Frank Sheed explains how being Catholic is the most rational approach to life and discovering your place in it
Profile Image for Kenneth.
91 reviews
August 12, 2016
Recommended to me by a Monsignor who rightly thought that the book represented the best from basic theological introductions to Roman Catholic thought.

Sheed is an excellent explainer of Catholic doctrines. Organized with an excellent presentation, the author writes the subject in a way that is both understandable as well as engaging. There is a romantic element to Catholic theology that Sheed spells out here with depth of clarity.

In the beginning, God is conceptually outlined with regard to the traditional beliefs or deductions of essence or existence. Infinitude in the Godhead, creation ex nihilo, the Trinity, have brilliant explanations that when first introduced to the subject I found spell-binding.

Important to note is that this is one of the first books on the subject that I read. I have since read many others. The Monsignor was right, this book stands the test of time.

The second part is filled with compact descriptions that chart the economy of Salvation from Adam to Jesus and Mary. The book ends with systematic ecclesiology on the constitution or mission of the mystical body of Christ.

Very dense, but a pleasure to read. Contemplative thoughts that provoke deep consideration of “What is Truth?”.
22 reviews
September 11, 2007
This book is not necessarily for beginners but it's maybe the second or third theology book you should read. He has wonderful analogies. The end of the book isn't that great but it's definitely worth reading the first 4/5 of the book. His explanation of the Holy Trinity can't be beat.
5 reviews
February 2, 2009
One of my favorite books ever.
I have been reading it for decades Ha Ha
It really is a refreshingly sane space in a
mad world.
I recommend it to anyone who loves God or
wants to know Him better.
Profile Image for Brett Salkeld.
43 reviews16 followers
August 2, 2011
Necessary reading for anyone with an interest in the Catholic view of the world. All the basics are covered with depth and clarity. A good start to properly catechizing the faithful would be to get all of them to read this book. Engaging. Essential.
117 reviews2 followers
November 28, 2014
Not a book that draws deep passion but one that gnaws at your soul. Deepest thoughts placed in clearest light. A slow read because you realize you fall short on each note. It drives me to want to be a better person.
Author 2 books1 follower
February 4, 2016
I took my time with this book and savored it because it is such a tonic and antidote to the insanity that prevails in the wider culture. A brilliant beacon of truth to those who have eyes to see. Highest recommendation.
28 reviews5 followers
May 31, 2007
A more expanded, "meatier" version of Sheed's other fine work, "Theology for Beginners." A great resource for developing one's theological understanding.
7 reviews1 follower
September 10, 2008
An excellent primer that turns Catholic theology into common sense.
March 7, 2010
thought this books was going to get down to the nitty-gritty and get some answers, but left me with asking more questions. maybe i didn't read it close enough. but it definitely got me thinking.
Profile Image for Susi.
77 reviews
July 16, 2010
Good book on theology.
Has a few inconsistencies.
Profile Image for J Victor Tomaszek.
25 reviews1 follower
January 12, 2013
What else can I say about a book I've read cover to cover five times over the years and am still amazed at the truth I find in it.
Profile Image for David.
44 reviews
July 19, 2016
Not bad. Chapter 7, "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" is worth reading twice.
Profile Image for Monika.
115 reviews15 followers
June 11, 2021
Absolute essential reading for The Catholic (or anyone).

Sheed's approach to sanity and intellectual pursuit of truth, especially in the context of the Universe as we perceive it, or the Universe as has been revealed to us is refreshing and clear. I must admit that there was a moment as I read about God, Existence, and The Trinity that I became a little disillusioned, and a feeling of isolation gripped me as though I had lost a family member. For a little time God seemed too remote, too abstract, too impersonal. A break in reading was what I needed to let my human emotions settle and get over myself.

Sheed's 2nd section of the book was sparkling and brilliant. His clear and beautiful explanation of The Fall, The Redemption, Other Beings in Creation, and Jesus as we find him in scripture was the best I've come across.


Each soul is made up of two facets the intellect and the world the world is what leads us to salvation it’s how we choose how we decide how we act. But without the intellect we can never attain a maximum love of God we can never attain a maximum functioning of the will. It does matter and it is too neglected. We cannot choose to be ignorant or to be blind in our faith

I’m thinking about Satre - reading him at the same time. Really existentialism can marry with Sheen’s view of the world. As Catholics we are not just following what the church says but we also see what this church sees. This is the way in which we choose to understand the world and how our world comes to have meaning.
Profile Image for Alexis.
168 reviews16 followers
April 15, 2020
One of the best books I've read in a long time. I found it in the bibliography addition to Fundamentalism and Catholicism by Karl Keating and it was well worth tracking down. An introduction to theology that's both accessible for a beginner, like myself, and challenging enough to take time to read and understand. Could not recommend more.
Profile Image for Matthew.
245 reviews2 followers
January 30, 2019
Page 327 : By our re-birth in Baptism, we are cells in Christ's Body and so we are in His life stream. But to what degree that stream flows into us and makes us supernaturally alive depends upon our will. If we will to open our being wholly, then the life flows into it and vivifies it wholly. If we will to open our being, yet not wholly but reserving this or that small element un-given to God, then the life will still flow to us: but whatever element in ourselves we have kept as our own will remain as our own, un-vivified. We shall be alive but not wholly alive.

I can see myself picking this book up again throughout my life and God pointing to different things in this book that I have not picked up on before. I enjoy the writing style of Frank Sheed and I appreciate the time he took to go into each topic. It makes me feel not as crazy to believe in what Catholicism teaches. The world does a great job (and the devil) making me doubt or feel weird or insane to believe in a God we do not see in an instant of request. I feel confident and ready to continue my journey towards our maker each day.
Profile Image for Charles Lewis.
266 reviews8 followers
September 10, 2018
I first read Frank Sheed's "Theology for Beginners." I'loved that back and have recommended it to many people trying to understand Catholic teaching. I still think it's the best book for those entering the Church or for those needing a solid reminder of Church teaching. "Theology and Sanity" takes that first book and expands it greatly. Yet, it retains the plain, non-technical language of the first book. It's still amazing to me that Sheed, who started life as a street-corner preacher (a very unCatholic thing to be) can take the most complicated subjects - the Trinity, the Incarnation etc. - and make them utterly understandable. But this is not an easy book. It's not a quick read. Sheed encourages you to reread, not because he lacks clarity but because the subject matter is really about God. I think that every Catholic should read at least one of these books but better to read them both.
10 reviews1 follower
April 25, 2022
This is a must read for anyone wanting to understand the Catholic faith. I keep multiple copies to give away to friends and relatives who have questions. As a fairly recent convert, this was one of the most important books to my understanding of the Holy Trinity. Sheed has a gift for explaining unfamiliar and seemingly esoteric ideas in a clear and succinct way. It is a must-read for all Catholics, cradle and convert alike.
261 reviews6 followers
April 11, 2019
I seem to click a lot more with Frank Sheed's writing than some other popular Catholic theologians, possibly because he starts this book where he says he thought about dedicating this book "To All That Know Less Theology Than I" - I certainly am in that category and appreciate works that are accessible to me. I intend to re-read this at some point, as I feel there is much more I can gain from this work.
Profile Image for James.
8 reviews
January 24, 2015

A beautifully deep, thorough, and yet concise insight into the Catholic vision of reality. This book is packed with wisdom, definitions, revealing analogies, and wonderfully explained doctrine. If you want to know how Catholics view reality as a whole (as a Catholic or not), this is it.
5 reviews
February 24, 2015
I highly, highly recommand this book. Frank Sheed is a fanastic writer whose depth of knowledge and ability to write clearly and understandably make this book so good. He gave answers to many things that I have always wondered about or not fully understood. I ended up with a deeper understand and appreciation for the Catholic Faith and a clear picture that Catholicism is Sanity.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 61 reviews

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