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Fall Books: Bookshelf


The Spirituality of the Diocesan Priest (Liturgical Press, 192 pages, $14.95 paperback), is edited by Fr. Donald B. Cozzens, a pastoral psychologist and president-rector of St. Mary's Seminary in Cleveland. This is an important and timely book. In it, Msgr. Frank McNulty, recently retired from the Newark archdiocese, remarks, "No one explicitly taught it, but somehow we picked up the false notion that to be holy meant to stop being human."

Fr. Robert M. Schwartz, a pastor in the St. Paul and Minneapolis archdiocese, observes that "often, nothing happens while I am praying." He is confident, however, that "sensitivity to God's self-revelation in daily life would not happen without a major commitment to quiet pondering of the word each day in prayer." He rather inelegantly refers to this pondering as "putting the readings into the crock pot of my heart," so that they "stew there throughout the week." He knows, though, that "personal prayer is the place where I become pregnant with the word." And "ministry is the place where God's word comes to birth in the midst of human realities." Interaction brings a new call to conversion in daily life.

There is much in this volume for those who are or would be enflamed, and for those who are burned or burning out as well. Look here for redirection to grace and McNulty's guide to a newly kindled heart. This book and the next two texts, I think, will make a fine ordination gift (at least that's where my copies are going).

The Gospel of Matthew, by Fr. Donald Senior (Interpreting Biblical Texts, Abingdon Press, 205 pages, $18.95), focuses on modern biblical scholarship and the interpretation of Matthew, discusses the sources and structure of the gospel, its use of the Old Testament, its understanding of Jewish law, its Christology, its understanding of discipleship and the community in which the gospel originated.

Those familiar with Senior's past work will be glad to have this volume. Those who do not yet know this professor from Chicago's Catholic Theological Union will be pleased with the discovery.

Jesuit Fr. William Johnston, who lives in Japan, is an Irish participant in the Christian-Buddhist dialogue. In his Silent Music: The Science of Meditation (Fordham University Press, 190 pages, $30 hardbound, $17 paperback), he points out that meditation is the area in which the great religions find themselves most united. He explores meditation, providing glossary and index, in a practical and inspiring manner.

In preparing couples for marriage as a pastor, I was always astonished at the number of them who would assert, in one of the questions on the premarital inventory, their belief that having children would not change their life together. I know that love can be blind, but in these cases it seemed rather inattentive to the obvious as well. Couples who give similar answers, and those who attend to children in hope, might be directed to Families Valued: Parenting and Politics for the Good of All Children, by Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer (Friendship Press, PO Box 37844, Cincinnati OH 45222-0844, 276 pages, $9.95).

This book is a father's reflection on how the needs of children should change personal and social priorities. He offers creative insights about changing our lives as well as the world in which we live.

When one of my favorite brides quit coming to Mass sometime after the wedding, I used to say, "See you in church!" whenever we met. "Sit by the window!" she would reply. If I see her again, I should hand over my copy of Could You Ever Come Back to the Catholic Church?, by Lorene Hanley Duquin (Alba House, 204 pages, $9.95 paperback).

Duquin points out that coming back to the church is not so much an event as a process. She targets the 16 million Catholics who feel separated from the church over issues of divorce, doubt, painful memories. She addresses concerns, problems about doctrinal matters and anger both toward God and the church. This little book is nicely done and written in a friendly and readable manner; it ought to be a welcome resource for those whom the title targets as well as for those who would assist them.

A Church at Risk: The Challenge of Spiritually Hungry Adults, by Michael J. Dumestre (Crossroad, 174 pages, $19.95 paperback), could be a follow-up volume to the above. It is written for those who might not be regular worshipers, as well as for those who are but worry about religion's relevance to those who live in a spiritually hungry culture.

The author is dean of City College at Loyola University in New Orleans as well as general editor of Crossroad's Adult Christian Formation Program. Those who agree that there is afoot a crisis of religion but not of faith will appreciate his insights.

Christian Perspectives on Bioethics: Religious Values and Public Policy in a Pluralistic Society, by John R. Williams (Novalis, 223 Main St., Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1S 1C4, 143 pages, $21.95 paperback), is the first volume in the new St. Paul University Series in Ethics. It addresses questions about AIDS, abortion, organ transplants and euthanasia, and considers whether Christians in a pluralistic society should use religious language, citing traditional and scriptural arguments at the risk of alienating nonbelievers. On the other hand, should secular terms be used, which might diminish the source and force of ethical and moral beliefs? Interestingly considered here.

Religion & Society: The Role of Compassion, Selfless Service & Social Justice in Five Major Faith Traditions (The Council for Religion in Independent Schools, 4405 East-West Highway, #506, Bethesda MD 20814-4536, 207 pages, $23.50 paperback) is an anthology compiled by Lucinda Allen Mosher. The text was designed for use in a private high school in a course that would combine community service with a consideration of how such service is motivated by the religions of the world. Excerpts of the sacred literature of Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam are included, as well as chapters on the practical application of religious teachings. The editor admits that the anthology is not exhaustive, but how could it be? It is an interesting beginning for the kind of course for which it was designed.

The Antigay Agenda: Orthodox Vision and the Christian Right (University of Chicago Press, 242 pages, $24.95 hardbound) is by Didi Herman, a senior lecturer in the department of law at Keele University in Britain. She asserts that the Christian right wants the state to play an important role in people's lives, but "not the liberal role it is playing now." The right, she contends, wants the state to act as a conservative moral leader both by example and by edict. This stance, according to Herman, leads to a clash between the right and "less orthodox conservatives," which she sees most noticeably and publicly in Republican Party politics.

Herman sees the Christian right demonizing gays in the same way as Jews and communists. She draws on research and interviews to show what she considers a political movement torn apart by tension and contradiction.

"Many people will find these prayers helpful and down-to-earth," Rosemary Haughton remarks of Jean Maalouf's Bold Prayers from the Heart (Sheed & Ward, 89 pages, $9.95 paperback). For sure. And some may have old and warm memories of Michael Quoist's Prayers rekindled as they read and pray. I sent my copy off to a recent high school graduate to carry to college.

"Paul Knitter, for instance, holds that it is disastrous for dialogue to insist on the finality and superiority of God's revelation in Christ," reported Jesuit Fr. Avery Dulles in his November 1996 Laurence J. McGinley Lecture at Fordham. Most any Christian who heard that comment, or read it later, might wonder what's up with that fellow Knitter.

A look at The Uniqueness of Jesus: A Dialogue with Paul F. Knitter, edited by Leonard Swidler and Paul Mojzes (Orbis, Faith Meets Faith Series, 189 pages, paperback), could very well be in order for those who have so wondered.

History and Legends of the Alamo and Other Missions in and around San Antonio, by Adina de Zavala, edited by Richard Flores (Arte Publico Press, University of Houston, Houston, TX 77204-2090, 215 pages, $12.95 paperback), was first published in 1917. The author, one of the founders of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, was granddaughter of the first vice president of that republic.

Including maps, diary accounts and other records, this book is an attempt to rewrite the construction of Texas history by a woman whose vision, according to editor Flores, led to the preservation of the Alamo. He reads her critical discourse as a reminder that "keeping Mexico in line has been a central plot of the Alamo all along."

Precious Blood Fr. Robert J. Schreiter looks at the changed world and tracks some of the issues that are reshaping theology today in The New Catholicity: Theology Between the Global and the Local (Orbis, 140 pages, paperback). He reports that theology must find ways of embracing both the global and the local if it is to be a faithful and credible voice for belief.

He surveys the changed world and "its meaning for contextualized theologies." He examines "elements of an intercultural hermeneutical theory that might undergird a theology that must live constantly in a multicultural context." Goodness!

A Time to Live: Seven Tasks of Creative Aging, by Robert Raines (Dutton, published by Penguin, 205 pages, $20.95 hardbound), is a look at the author's personal life and ministry ("As mentioned earlier, I have noticed in myself and each of my siblings, an increased desire to connect, to heal whatever wounds there may be and to support one another in family sorrows and joys"). Raines' perspectives and reflections may be helpful and interesting to those who favor stories over theory or theory through stories. My copy goes to a couple celebrating 50 years of marriage.

There are not yet available many resources targeting religion, feminism and the family simultaneously. Religion, Feminism & the Family, edited by Anne Carr and Mary Stewart Van Leeuwenby (Westminster John Knox, The Family, Religion and Culture Series, 398 pages, $14.95 paperback), draws on history, theology and the social sciences to analyze the impact of feminism on the structure and function of family, examining whether there is an inherent conflict between families as traditionally defined and the current goals of feminism.

The authors set out to show feminist insights as an asset rather than a threat to the healthy development of the core religious norms of justice and reconciliation. This nicely done volume ought to engender (a carefully chosen verb!) significant discussion.

The many friends and fans of Anthony de Mello may want to consider the practical approach in Praying Body and Soul: Methods and Practices of Anthony de Mello, adapted and enlarged by Jesuit Fr. Gabriel Galache (Crossroad, 144 pages, $12.95 paperback). These exercises, mental focus techniques and parables draw on the Ignatian exercises and are sure to be helpful to those who will undertake them.

People on the Prowl (Latin American Literary Review Press, 121 Edgewood Ave., Pittsburgh 15218, 156 pages, $13.95 paperback) is a collection of short stories by Chilean author Jaime Collyer, translated by Lillian Lorca de Tagle. Readers can encounter cannibals and military dictators, Freud and a world chess champion. Some consider Collyer, who is widely read in his native Chile, a new Borges.

Facing AIDS: The Challenge, the Churches' Response, a World Council of Churches Study Document (WCC, 475 Riverside Dr., Rm. 915, New York City 10115-0050, 116 pages, $10.90 paperback), addresses questions about the latest scientific findings, theological and ethical issues, the response of churches to members affected by AIDS, prevention of its spread and issues of human rights related to the global dimensions of this modern scourge. This book may be an important resource to those who are or ought to be involved.

I found Thomas Merton, Brother Monk: The Quest for True Freedom, by Cistercian Fr. Basil M. Pennington (Continuum, 205 pages, $16.95 paperback), an interesting read. Pennington, as Merton's fellow Cistercian, has insight that others might not, and as a scholar is not afraid to consider the issues involved in freedom of the spirit and the growth of individuals.

Fr. William C. Graham is an associate professor of religious studies at Caldwell College in New Jersey where he directs the Caldwell Pastoral Ministry Institute.

National Catholic Reporter, September 5, 1997