While I appreciate the concern that other reviewers have shown about this book's accuracy toward doctrine and catechisis, I believe the purpose of the work is well met.
Unless there are glaring historical inaccuracies that I am unaware of, the effort to explain the development of Catholic traditions and practices as a function of society and the evolution of the Church is well founded and useful - not as a spiritual or doctrinal education, but as a refresher in the many public and private devotions, traditions, and customs that may be unfamiliar to modern Catholics.
Certainly, reducing all Catholic practices to "Tradition" encourages the devaluation of the Sacramental experience. But there is a large arena in which the explanation of cultural and temporal impact is relevant and instructive (the evolution of "Santa Clause" as one example).
Overall, I quite enjoyed the structure of the book. The various topics were pretty well detailed. The full richness of Catholic tradition can hardly be encompassed in 200 pages, but there is clearly a lot of ground that wasn't covered (I searched and searched for an explanation of the tenebrae, for example, but found it absent).
In summary, I tend to agree that other than some historical reference, the sections concerning Sacraments are best ignored in favor of a doctrinally authoritative text. But in calling to mind many things forgotten, or hinting at many things unlearned, this book serves a worthwhile and educational purpose.
This book attempts to explain Catholic customs and traditions from a historical or anthropological perspective. The author is trying to educate the catholic who has been raised devoid of any traditions or devotions and with minimal understanding of our customs. The author makes it clear that he finds traditions very useful in a person's spiritual life and wants this book to
promote an emphasis back to traditions.
I found many sections explaining cultural practices within the church and their origins useful. However, the author makes no distinctions between "traditions" (cultural innovations created by man) and "Sacred Tradition" (teachings handed down by the apostles). Not having made this distinction, a catholic looking for guidance in these matters will begin to equate the two!
The section concerning the sacraments were totally lacking in any catechetical foundation. In the section on the Eucharist, a poorly catechized catholic would come away thinking that the Blessed Sacrament is a symbol of the unity of the members of the church. The book describes how devotion to the Blessed Sacrament came about by an over emphasis on the sacramental priesthood while the laity were regulated to a subservient posture during the mass in the middle ages. The author states that the Eucharist is primarily a liturgical event and refers to the Body and Blood of our lord as simply bread and wine after consecration!
I found this book to be a spiritual wasteland. I will pray for those poor souls, who while looking to educate themselves on the faith, find this book and fall into error. Anyone looking for education on Catholic Customs and Traditions should buy a book called "Why Do Catholics Do That?" by Kevin Orlin Johnson, Ph.D. published by Ballantine Books. You will find a book alive in the faith and filled with relevant information about what to do and why to do it, in the practice of our faith.