Late Summer Reading

Late summer reading collage

Unity in the Church or The Principle of Catholicism. By Johann Adam Möhler. (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America, 1996). 487 pages. $34.95. ISBN: 978-0-8132-2876-1.

Commentary on Thomas Aquinas’s Treatise on Law. By J. Budziszewski (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 475 pp.

Living the Truth in Love: Pastoral Approaches to Same Sex Attraction. Edited by Janet E. Smith and Father Paul Check (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2015) 360 pages; ISBN 1621640604

Finding True Happiness: Satisfying our Restless Hearts By Robert Spitzer, (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2015).


Unity in the Church or The Principle of Catholicism. By Johann Adam Möhler. (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America, 1996). 487 pages. $34.95. ISBN: 978-0-8132-2876-1.

Johann Adam Möhler’s masterpiece, Symbolik, was first published in 1832. Fifteen years later, its English translation (Symbolism) appeared. It remains a great theological synthesis reflecting the sane Catholic balance of polar opposites (Gegensätze) which influenced such thinkers as E. Przywara, R. Guardini, and Y. Congar. But Möhler’s first publication of genius, Die Einheit in der Kirche, had to wait 171 years for an English translation. Although it lacks Symbolism’s majestic synthetic overview of Catholic theology, this work rewards reading. Writing on the cresting spring tide of Romantism, Möhler did not spare Enlightenment theology and its Baroque predecessor. He attacked dry, theological abstractions which fail to capture the dynamic spiritual vitality engendered in the Church by the Spirit. This study of patristic theology, especially the first three centuries, led him to stress the experiential, historical reality which is the Church, a unity of love in the Spirit. The Church’s faith lives from the Spirit who animates her throughout history, unites all believers, and guides her development. Authority is primarily the experienced life of the Spirit, not imposed from without. The Church’s hierarchical institution is the external expression of her interior life. Seeds planted at her origin germinated and fructified as she confronted heresies and the vicissitudes of history. In this way, Möhler answered Protestant claims that Scripture does not support Christ’s establishment of the hierarchical Church. Indeed, Scripture alone fails to provide the full truth of Christian revelation. Tradition existed before Scripture, produced Scripture, and authenticated Scripture. Consequently Scripture cannot be legitimately understood apart from tradition, the living gospel, which remains Scripture’s interpretative norm. While studying the early Church’s unity in diversity, Möhler implicitly maintained an anti-Protestant polemic since the major sin against faith is the revolt of the individual that lacerates Christ’s Body.

Möhler anticipated by 20 years Newman’s essay on doctrinal development, and by 34 years Darwin’s Origin of the Species. Historical evolution permeated the intellectual ambient of the early 1800s as a result of the French Revolution, Romanticism, Herder, and Hegel. Kant so perfectly formulated the Enlightenment project that its glaring inadequacy instigated multiple attempts to escape the prison of static, finite rationality. A startling similarity exists between Romantic theology’s catchwords and slogans of the post-Vatican II transcendental theology; both called for a vital, dynamic, experiential, pastoral theology from below. Symbols and sacraments manifest the Church’s inner life, just as the body manifests the soul. Especially in Christ “symbol and context, signifier and signified, belong together as sacrament” (200, 212). Yet Möhler’s theology did not devolve into chaotic pluralism. Whereas transcendental Thomism starts with the individual’s desire for truth that the beatific vision alone satisfies, Möhler’s turn to history, and his enthusiasm for the early Fathers, led him to realize that the Church, as a living, organic whole, precedes all individuals. Hence, the norm of faith and Christian life is not individual experience, but the whole Church’s life and testimony. The Church bears witness to the divine life and love within her. Similarly, although the problem of establishing norms for dogmatic development is implicit in Möhler’s attack on abstract theological propositions —dogma is “always defective” (111)—and his claim that knowledge of God is only attained in Christ (not by abstract arguments: 168-73), he avoided today’s intellectual relativism because he referred always to the Church’s preaching and the necessity of dogma to explain her interior life. The Church experienced Christ and His Spirit and passed on a message about them. Furthermore, his later mature reflections in Symbolism recognized the need for balance between dynamic and static elements, between individuals and concrete universal, between nature and grace, sin and redemption. This insight saved him from one-sided exaggerations, and led him to acknowledge the complexity of the Christian message with all its vital, polar tensions. Symbolism likewise revealed a greater appreciation of Scholastic theology and its categories. The two works do not contradict each other since Unity already referred to various contraries (translated “antitheses” by Erb), as between tradition and Scripture, worship and dogma, which should be held in dynamic tension (194-98). Where the earlier work reveals the dynamic life manifesting itself in the Christian message, the later masterpiece identifies the ongoing polar structure that perdures through historical change.

Although Möhler’s romantic impetus led to a somewhat naïve appreciation of the early Church as a community of love, gradually articulating her faith, and structuring herself hierarchically, he recognized that Christ appointed disciples who in turn established successors to maintain His revelation and life: “Without a determined, ordered, and continual teaching office, one could not in any way think of a continuing tradition” (214). So his grounding in history prevented a complete idealization of ecclesial existence, and he recognized that to those not fully imbibing the interior life, the ecclesial office must appear as law (221). Thus, the Catholic Church resists the tyranny of egoistic individualism, and all attempts to “discover Christianity by mere thought” (123), all the while calling people to conversion.

Erb’s translation includes Möhler addenda, relevant selections from his class lectures 1823-27, and a scholarly bibliography. Following Geiselmann’s critical edition, Erb also refers throughout to Unity’s first draft, noting all variations. Though the multiplication of endnote numbers at first distracts from the text’s trajectory, he assists future students of Möhler’s developing thought. His introductory essay also locates well the greatest of the Tübingen theologians within his times. On the whole, his translation reads accurately and easily, no easy feat, given the complexities of theological German. Our main criticism touches his decision to employ “inclusive” language (which paradoxically excludes women from mankind). This results in the neutering of the Holy Spirit (although Möhler clearly confessed Him to be personal, and both German and NT Greek refer to Him as masculine); yet the Church (die Kirche-ecclesia) usually retains her femininity. The major problem concerns the allergy to translating Mensch as “man,” and the avoidance of “he” for indefinite references. Circumlocutions are employed at times, and it is also translated “person.” That invites theological obfuscation or ambiguity. Basic to Catholic theology is the distinction between person and nature. So der Gott-Mensch (the God-man) is mistakenly translated “the divine-human person” (120) whereas, properly speaking, Jesus is a divine person possessing and expressing Himself through a human nature: cp. 271: “the divinity belongs to Jesus’ person” (slight correction of translation).   That may be a small point since Unity rarely discusses Christological doctrine explicitly. But confusion enters when Erb translates “Christ’s mediation between God and the human person, and thus the uniting of the divine with the human” (154) where Möhler’s German refers to Christ’s “mediatorial office between God and man, and, therefore, the uniting of divinity with humanity”—and this is in a section discussing the new creation of humanity as a community of one life. Humanity is not an abstraction for Möhler; “man” refers to the entirety of the species. His thought stressed mankind’s organic unity, just in German Romanticism, the Volk produced all individuals, as well as cultural artifacts, including language. What happened in Christ was not just the union of a singular human nature with a divine person, but the union of God with the redeemed whole of mankind, the Body of Christ, over Christ’s individual nature: not “the uniting of the divine with the human in Jesus” (157), but “the uniting of the divinity with the man of Jesus” or even “the uniting of God with Jesus’ human nature” (also in 271; Germans often use abstraction for concrete entities: e.g., Gottheit {divinity} for “God” and Menschheit {humanity} for “man.”) This flexible understanding of human nature, as a whole embracing a multiplicity of men, is easily lost through Mensch’s imprecise translation. Ideology distorts historical truth, and Möhler’s understanding of Catholic faith. Instead of history broadening current theology, which tends to understand human nature in terms of individual instances, history’s lessons are missed because language is twisted into an ideological straightjacket.

Other mistakes should be noted: on p. 158, Erb mistakenly identifies the finite with evil, whereas Möhler wrote: “As through evil the good first comes to awareness for us, finite {beings},…” Second, Gott was Gottes ist (215) should be translated not “What is of God is God,” but “To God what is of God” (cf. Mk. 12:17). Third, on p. 302, lines 4-5 should read: “they let them {various schools} prate on and believed the voice of the God revealing Himself in men’s interiors.” Smaller errors include: on p. 149, line 6, John 10:70 should be John 10:30 (error in German); p. 231, line 4 from bottom skips the phrase “apostolic time. Petrus de Marca extends this claim too …” On p. 210, line 5, “who” or “which” is lacking. On p. 212, line 4 “Spirit” should be miniscule. Rather than the Church “alone can worthily stand in the place of Christ” one might better translate “alone can worthily represent Christ” (Christi Stelle vertreten: 251). Despite these problems, the translation of Die Einheit should be greeted—at long last. Möhler deserves a revival.

Fr. John M. McDermott, S.J., is Professor of Theology at Sacred Heart Seminary, Detroit, MI.


Commentary on Thomas Aquinas’s Treatise on Law, by J. Budziszewski (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 475 pp.
Budziszewski’s Commentary on Thomas Aquinas’s Treatise on Law is an insightful, understandable, and engaging complement to his other works expounding and propagating the natural law. While his other works have drawn on Thomas Aquinas’s account of law in general, and natural law in particular, they are largely unencumbered by extensive textual discussion. Now in this commentary, however, he turns to the text of the Treatise itself in such a way as to benefit legal scholars while not losing his usual appealing style and clear exposition. As he explains at the outset, this work is intended “to be worthy of the attention and use of scholars in a number of fields” while remaining accessible to “students, general readers, and other serious amateurs{.}” (xxiii) This is certainly no mean task, but one Budziszewski well accomplishes.

The Treatise on Law is an intricate text, addressing many issues about law itself, and the role of law within human life and society. A temptation to excise this treatise from its context, and treat it in isolation from the rest of the Thomistic corpus adds to the difficulty of exposition. As Budziszewski strongly warns, in “the aggressively secular milieu of contemporary scholarship, that is not surprising” but he staunchly maintains that “anything that obscures the theological context of the St. Thomas’s great work, will obscure the work itself, because St. Thomas views not only Divine law, but also natural law, in the context of the history of salvation.” (xli) To this end, he begins the Commentary by explaining the style and purpose of Thomas’s Summa, in which is found the Treatise on Law, as well as Thomism itself. Counter to those who would treat this as a perhaps historically interesting movement of thought, but one now outmoded, and with little to say to modern problems, Budziszewski adopts and works within Thomism in such a way that it is not “just a dusty episode in the history of ideas, or a set of formulae written down in a book, but a living, unfolding tradition that continues to develop.” (xix) Among those who investigate the Treatise there is also a related propensity to focus on the opening questions (which treat the essence, kinds, and effects of law) at the loss of a discussion of the old and new law, and the precepts contained therein. Budziszewski also focuses on these opening questions of the Commentary, but he fights this tendency by providing an additional online Companion, which among other things allows an investigation of questions beyond the ones typically considered.

Neophytes might find the style of the Treatise forbidding or unwelcoming at first, but Budziszewski takes care from the outset to explain clearly Thomas’s manner of presentation. Because of these possible initial difficulties, the Commentary contains the text of the question with a paraphrase of the passage in facing columns. There is also introduction to the text under consideration before the linear commentary on issues contained therein. In this way, the reader is prepared to enter and then be guided through the intricacies of Thomas’s text. As Budziszewski explains, “one might say that the ‘Before Reading’ sections prepare us to enter the forest; the paraphrase helps us walk among the trees; the line-by-line analysis helps study each tree closely; and the Companion helps us to step back and consider the grove in its setting.” (xlii) As a scholarly and instructive caretaker, Budziszewski prunes away possible distractions, and confusions of the text, allowing Thomas’s account of law to sink deeply into the hearts of his readers and take root.

Of perhaps particular value is Budziszewski’s view of Thomistic legal theory as a viable and, indeed, appealing alternative to positivism. That is, law is shown as ultimately grounded in rationality and nature, such that it is not primarily an external imposition but rather a guide to human flourishing accessible to every man and woman. In this way, Budziszewski’s commentary should also be of interest to legal scholars.

Thomas himself treated the human law but, like the tendency to ignore the broader context of the treatise itself, human law is often isolated from its roots in the natural law. Budziszewski issues a stern warning to this, as well: “Those with a practical cast of mind may be tempted to begin reading the Treatise on Law … in the section on human law. To these I say: Resist. The Treatise needs to be studied in the context of the rest of the Summa, and the discussion of human law in the context of the rest of the Treatise on Law.” (299) By drawing his reader to consider the sources of natural and human law, Budziszewski shows not only the richness of Thomas’s account but also its continual value and relevance.

Budziszewski once again provides in his Commentary on Thomas Aquinas’s Treatise on Law an enlightening and appealing explanation of Thomistic law. Instructive to a broad audience encompassing specialists, students, and interested lay persons, the printed Commentary and online Companion are valuable contributions not only to the corpus of Thomistic scholarship, but are also of great assistance and service to anyone seeking to grasp Thomas Aquinas’s understanding of the nature and purpose of law.

Catherine Peters is a doctoral student at The Center for Thomistic Studies at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, TX.


Living the Truth in Love: Pastoral Approaches to Same Sex Attraction, edited by Janet E. Smith and Father Paul Check (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2015) 360 pages; ISBN 1621640604

After the Obergefell v. Hodges decision by the Supreme Court in June of 2015 made same-sex marriage the law of the land throughout the U.S., the stakes were ratcheted up a notch for anyone who would continue to declare Christ’s truth regarding the nature of marriage and human sexuality. Great courage would be needed.

Editors, Prof. Janet Smith, Father Paul Check, and the contributors to Living the Truth in Love, have shown just such courage—along with sincere compassion toward those experiencing same-sex attraction. An essential work of interdisciplinary dialogue in the fields of theological and philosophical anthropology, as well as psychology and counseling, the book includes moving testimonies from persons suffering from same-sex attraction, as well as from compassionate authors and professionals who reach out to them.

The book is divided into theoretical, testimonial, and pastoral sections. From the outset, it must be admitted that it will not be possible to present a comprehensive review of each article in a limited amount of space. So I have selected two from the theoretical section which lay the theological and philosophical groundwork for the other contributions. Both merit some unpacking.

The Perspective of Theological Anthropology: Livio Melina
Msgr. Livio Melina provides tightly-knit reflections of theological anthropology in order to solidly ground the complementarity of the sexes, and the authentic nature of human love between man and woman. In so doing, he arrives to the inescapable conclusion that the homosexual inclination “though not in itself a sin” is, in itself, “objectively disordered” (CCC §2358; see also, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons,” October 1, 1986, no. 3).

The truth that the homosexual orientation is objectively disordered cannot be relinquished. Otherwise, false compassion and respect can easily arise, leading to the toleration of homosexual acts, which arise from an orientation many would claim is “natural,” “unchangeable,” and even “part of personal identity” (130). A common thread uniting Melina’s article with most of those in the theoretical section is a firm rejection of the assertion that same-sex attraction constitutes part of one’s personal identity. As John Paul II boldly affirmed: “We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son” (17th World Youth Day, Solemn Mass: Homily of the Holy Father John Paul II, Toronto, July 28, 2002).

The reason, then, that the homosexual inclination is objectively disordered comes down to a question of theological anthropology: our nature as created beings in the image of Christ and of the Trinity, and the purpose of human sexuality within that wise ordering of things by the Creator. Each of us exists either as man or woman. The difference between the sexes is a sign of our finite nature as creatures. “No individual human being is ever capable of exhausting by himself the whole of man: the other mode of being man (in respect to his own) is always before him” (134, citing A. Scola, Hans Urs von Balthasar: A Theological Style (Grand Rapid: Eerdman’s, 1995, 92).

So the body, male or female, clearly expresses a limit. But a vocation is also revealed in the body. It is the call to transcend oneself, to make a gift of self to the other, who is different. This inner meaning of our masculinity and femininity St. John Paul II calls the “spousal meaning” of the body (see Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, trans. Michael Waldstein, (Boston: Pauline Books, 2006), 183).

Even though men and women are called to make a mutual gift of self to one another through the conjugal act within marriage, the difference between man and woman can never be completely overcome due to the very structure of our being. “Desire never rests in completely satisfied enjoyment” (135). But the very fact that there can be no completely satisfying fusion with the other sets into motion a new dynamism. It gives sexuality a new openness, “in that it orients the lovers to a completion lying beyond themselves. By its very nature love is oriented to produce a fruit that transcends it. In order to avoid self-absorption and self-consumption, love must be open to a further fruitfulness, whose most obvious dimension is procreation. The procreative meaning, then, is not added extrinsically or biologistically to the unitive dimension of sexuality. On the contrary, procreation is the completed form of union” (135).

Why is the homosexual orientation intrinsically disordered? It closes human sexuality to the complete gift of self to the other, who is different, as well as closing it to procreation, the natural fruit of love.

Melina closes with some reflections on the theological dimensions of homosexuality as a deliberately chosen lifestyle, and an actively promoted ideology. Following Gaston Fessard, he concludes that “the result is a perversion of the creature’s original attitude of feminine receptivity to the Creator” (138). Thus, even though it is necessary to strive against unjust discriminatory practices toward persons with homosexual tendencies, show solidarity to them as persons, and help them live in chastity, this must not lead us “to neglect the cultural, indeed, spiritual dimensions of the struggle for the truth and authenticity of love” (139).

The Perspective of Lived Experience according to St. John Paul II: Deborah Savage
Deborah Savage makes a compelling case that the battle to win people over to the truth of who they are as persons in Christ, including those suffering from same-sex attraction, begins with lived experience. She affirms, “We simply cannot cede the territory of experience to those for whom there is no objective moral order. If we allow that, we may not only lose the battle; we may lose the war—for it is the language of our times” (90).

Due to the anthropological dualism introduced by Rene Descartes in the seventeenth century, as persons we are reduced to a “thinking thing” (res cogitans), while our body (res extensa) is no longer an essential part of our identity as persons. We can arbitrarily determine our identity through our own consciousness. That fact, combined with “the hypersexualization of our culture, arguably underway now for over 150 years, … has led us to confuse sexual impulses and desires with our identities as persons” (93).

To be very concrete, “if I have a male body, but feel myself to be a woman, I am perfectly justified in assuming that the physical reality of my body is irrelevant to the identity I wish to claim as my own” (95). It is simply a matter of conscious choice.

As a response to this alarming panorama, Savage turns to St. John Paul II’s appeal to lived experience, which is grounded in his earlier philosophical work. But in taking as a point of departure someone’s subjective, lived experience and concentrating on the subjectivity of the person, does Wojtyla not risk a slide into subjectivism and relativism? After all, one of the constitutive elements of today’s culture is “the widespread view that the only ‘truth’ that exists is the ‘truth’ of one’s own experience” (104).

Wojtyla argues that the danger of subjectivism can be avoided, provided that in considering any individual experience, we always maintain a connection to the integral experience of the human being (see Karol Wojtyla, “Subjectivity and the Irreducible in the Human Being,” in Person and Community (New York: Peter Lang, 1993), 213). No individual experience, including that of SSA, can define us as persons, can constitute the whole of the person. “To claim that is to reduce the human person to a single aspect of his experience; it is to deny the full reality of who he is—a creature made in the image of God, endowed with intellect, will, and freedom, and ordered toward the true and the good” (106).

Once persons have learned to interpret their concrete experiences in the light of the whole truth of their reality as persons, they can come to realize that even desires arising from SSA represent at their core a longing for true and authentic friendship. The sexual urge is something that “happens in man” it is not an “I act,” not an act in which the person experiences himself as the efficient cause of his action. Only “I acts” or “man-acts” constitute authentically human acts, an act of the person as such, actus personae (107). As persons, we are called to master what “happens” within us through our intellect and will. “And in exercising mastery over himself, the person both transcends himself, and determines who he will become” (109). Thus, genuine Christian friendship offers great hope to those suffering from SSA. “In our very essence, we are made for relationship; true and authentic friendship is, therefore, essential to our happiness” (111).

If one common thread were to be detected in the articles of this volume, it would be the compassionate reaching out toward those suffering from SSA, without sacrificing the truth of our dignity as persons. That combination holds out great hope in the continued pastoral ministry to our brothers and sisters in need. It is regrettable that I have space only to cover two theoretical articles. Let me urge you to get the book and read the many rich offerings from a wide range of perspectives. You will almost certainly grow in your understanding of the phenomenon of same sex attraction, and learn new ways to reach out with love to persons experiencing SSA. I eagerly look forward to the publication of volume two.

By Father Walter Schu, LC, S.T.L. is the author of  The Splendor of Love, an international speaker on John Paul II’s theology of the body, national chaplain of the Cana Family Institute, and teacher at the Legionary of Christ seminary in Connecticut. He can be reached at


Robert Spitzer, Finding True Happiness: Satisfying our Restless Hearts (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2015).

The first of a four volume series, Finding True Happiness, by Fr. Robert Spitzer S.J., could be thought of as a contemporary parallel for Aristotle’s discussions of happiness and human flourishing at the beginning of the Nicomachean Ethics, or Aquinas’s similar discussions in ST I-II qq.1-5. Spitzer’s text does not slavishly follow these models. Nevertheless, they provide apt parallel examples of what he is trying to accomplish in this edifying text.

Finding True Happiness is written as a kind of path from natural wisdom to supernatural wisdom concerning human happiness. Instead of presenting a full theological apologetics for a Christian outlook, Spitzer aims in this text to open vistas—to provide a kind of philosophical/apologetic therapy for the reader, one ultimately enabling him to speak of Christ as the fulfillment of what had (at first) appeared to be merely a natural human desire for meaning and fulfillment. Without question, Spitzer’s vocabulary is that of a Catholic priest. Nevertheless, his aims in this volume are to speak to believer and non-believer alike. Above all, the goal is to enflame a sense for the grandeur of the human vocation to deep and abiding happiness. The path proceeds upward—rooted in the basic human experiences of meaning (and meaninglessness), always following the transcendent aspirations that lead the human person beyond even the most grand of intra-historical achievements.

Thus, a good deal of Spitzer’s text is devoted to parsing out the various transitions that we make in our own orientations toward what we take to be the good life. He discusses the ways that humans articulate their self-image in terms of pleasure, interpersonal competitoin, the value (or disvalue) of love and commitment, the importance of morality, and the desire for commitment that extends even beyond the laudable attainments on behalf of family and community. To the cynical reader, this might sound like a kind of psychological self-help program. While a superficial reading may seem to justify this, Spitzer’s point is much more profound. Walking step-by-step through a kind of dialectic of our self-understanding, he helps to provide pointers toward the kind of self-transcendence that provides the deepest fulfillment of our urges.

From this perspective, therefore, his particular remarks as a Catholic priest take on a markedly “human” aspect. He emphasizes that a true devotion to transcendent values and, ultimately, to the transcendent God, must imply a true overcoming of the egocentrism that would think of happiness merely as the fulfillment of human desires. A kind of self-relativizing must occur in order that the creature may acknowledge with gratitude its place vis-à-vis the Divine. However, Spitzer’s text approaches this matter “from the ground up.” That is, he emphasizes that the very movement of the human person toward the most deeply fulfilling kinds of activities, goals, and loves points upward toward God. The reader always has a sense of this inner élan. Above all, Spitzer wants to show that, in a real way, love of God fulfills the deepest aspirations of what it means to live a truly happy human existence.

On this point, it should be noted that Spitzer does not undertake a careful parsing of the orders of the natural and the supernatural. For a non-technical text such as this, it is not overly worrisome. However, the reader should be aware of this to some degree. As can be surmised from remarks made in the text itself, Spitzer’s dominant perspective is the true existential situation of the human person—i.e., as existing with a supernatural call, and always immersed in the solicitations of grace. From such a perspective, even that which is natural has a kind of “supernatural vibration” running through its warp and woof.   Hence, one is not surprised to find Spitzer implicitly citing Rahner’s discussion of the “supernatural existential.” The current reviewer prefers the more traditional, Dominican-Thomistic account such as one might find in various works of Maritain, whose thought is also influential for Spitzer. Though not equivalent, much of what Spitzer says could be harmonized with Maritain’s own approach to the question of the human natural and supernatural ends.

Granted, as he transitions from what could be called a “contributive” outlook (i.e., the sort of self-identity that places service at the center of life’s meaning) to a transcendent outlook (i.e., one that ultimately has its fundamental axis in the Divine Itself), his tone does markedly change. Hence, his concerns become more taken up with how living in accord with one’s commitment to the Transcendent God are related to our active lives in religious community, as well as in the life of prayer. Thus, also, a lengthy discussion of Ignatian methods of discernment and contemplation provide an entrée for those who may well be touched by Spitzer’s narrative, feeling invited into a deeper relationship with Christ. Yes, the perspective of the book, on the whole, attempts to reach both believer and non-believer. However, by the end, the reader is led to reflect on the meaning of friendship with Christ—all in a clearly Catholic tone.

I would be remiss if I did not add that Spitzer’s text self-consciously discusses these topics from the perspective of his other three books, namely (Volume 2) The Soul’s Upward Yearning: Clues to Our Transcendent Nature from Experience and Reason, (Volume 3) God So Loved the World: Clues to Our Transcendent Destiny from the Revelation of Jesus, and the still-to-be-published final volume, The Light Shines on in the Darkness: Contending with Suffering and Evil through Faith. Clearly, Spitzer sees his first volume as handing off more detailed discussions of various matters to the other volumes. Thus, the more purely philosophical topics concerning human nature’s natural “upward thrust” to the Divine are discussed in the second volume. On the other hand, the answer of revelation about our transcendent (and ultimately supernatural) destiny are found in the third and fourth volumes.

Thus, the reader should be aware that the first volume is a kind of introduction vis-à-vis this broader project. In all honestly, I do not think that an inveterate skeptic will be converted by Spitzer’s book by itself. It is a bit broad and ecclectic, leaving many entrance points for negative assessments by readers who are looking to challenge any and every claim made on behalf of a theistic outlook. However, the text most certainly can provide an entrance point for someone who honestly questions the life-giving nature of religion in general (and, to the degree that Spitzer’s text is explicitly Catholic, the Catholic faith in particular). Still—and this is important—it would be a mistake to think that handing this book to a potential “seeker” would suffice to encourage a conversion ex nihilo. Instead, Spitzer’s text should be seen as a guide that can help a committed friend to confirm the insights (and address the questions) opened for the “seeker” as he or she works through Spitzer’s text.

On the whole, I recommend the text to all pastors looking for a general guide for articulating the human desire for happiness. Likewise, I recommend the text as a good general read for the non-specialist layman who is looking to grow in a more profound appreciation of the nature of the call to holiness and true happiness. For specialists in philosophy and theology, I recommend the text with the caveat that Spitzer’s project straddles the worlds of popular work and technical treatment. It does not intend to be the latter, and if one begins to read it as though it were, one likely will be disappointed based upon the overall generalist tone he must take regarding many difficult philosophical and theological matters raised throughout the text. Nevertheless, with an open and generous spirit, any reader can benefit from Spitzer’s work, which is clearly the product of his own broad reading, prayer, and life of devoted service to the Church as a Jesuit priest.

Matthew K. Minerd, PhL, is a PhD student in philosophy, the Catholic University of America, and adjunct instructor of philosophy, Mount St. Mary’s University.

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