Book Reviews – December 2020

Art and Architecture for Congregational Worship: The Search for Common Ground. By Richard S. Vosko. Reviewed by Christopher Siuzdak. (skip to review)

American Priest: The Ambitious Life and Conflicted Legacy of Notre Dame’s Father Ted Hesburgh. By Wilson D. Miscamble. Reviewed by Christopher Siuzdak. (skip to review)

Behold the Christ: Proclaiming the Christ. By Leroy A. Huizenga. Reviewed by Nathan Farrar. (skip to review)

Christ in the Storm: An Extraordinary Blessing for a Suffering World. By Pope Francis. Reviewed by Christopher Siuzdak. (skip to review)

Child Consecration to Jesus Through Mary: Following the Spirit of St. Therese, the Little Flower. By Blythe Marie Kaufman. Reviewed by Fr. Stanley Smolenski, SPMA. (skip to review)

The Next Pope: The Office of Peter and a Church in Mission. By George Weigel. Reviewed by Christopher Siuzdak. (skip to review)

One Body: A Program of Marriage Preparation and Enrichment for the New Evangelization. By John and Claire Grabowski. Reviewed by Fr. Matthew Schneider, L.C. (skip to review)

Art and Architecture for Congregational Worship – Richard S. Vosko

Vosko, Richard S. Art and Architecture for Congregational Worship: The Search for Common Ground. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2019. 236 pages.

Reviewed by Christopher Siuzdak.

Despite being inanimate and immobile, church buildings have powers of proclamation that can “move” and transform the people who behold them. Recognizing that “built environment shapes human behavior” (6) and that “we are shaped by what we shape” (23), the author attempts to articulate a new paradigm for the design of liturgical environments based on the challenges and strengths of the contemporary age. The author argues that a more egalitarian design facilitates a more conscious worship of God and equips worshippers to actively engage in the wider community as agents of social justice.

Vosko disfavors what can be called colloquially “the Boeing 747 model” of church design in which the assembly is seated in unidirectional rows within a long and narrow nave with a presider in a separate compartment at the peak. Vosko favors “circular, semicircular, or antiphonal seating” because it is the best expression of relationality and inclusivity (189). Such a shape, he argues, “would draw the assembly into an awareness of their own mystery” (78) and into recognition of “the presence of Christ in each other’s faces” (112). He recommends moving beyond the so-called traditional placement of the altar because “the placement of a sanctuary at one end of the church in order to imply an ‘end of time’ destination, or the locus of eternal life, a new Jerusalem, where the Son of God is risen and reigns, continues a line of thinking that is challenged by contemporary cosmology” (45). He acknowledges at the outset that “much of this book may appear to be iconoclastic in terms of hierarchy, rituals, art, and architecture” (8). The author delivers on his promise to be provocative.

Vosko identifies exclusion and polarization in society as problems of paramount concern. The Church in general and each parish in particular, as a community of “reconciled diversities,” has a vital contribution to make in this domain as a peacemaker and a model of unity (12). In achieving this goal of healing divisions, Vosko seeks to minimize “physical and psychological borderlines” that exist between the ordained and the lay faithful because such differences give the impression that “the voices of the clergy are more important than those of the laity, and they talk past each other in a way that is more often reflective of our fractured secular order than of the Gospel” (17). He bemoans “the clericalization of the liturgy” (151). To his credit, Vosko endeavors to underscore the shared mission and common identity that arises from the foundational sacrament of baptism. Rather than outsourcing such responsibilities to others, the author wants to prepare the Christian faithful — both lay and ordained — to be actively engaged in the pursuit of holiness and the concomitant struggle for justice.

There are many critiques and points for consideration in a lively conversation. First of all, Vosko seeks to revamp the image of God communicated through ecclesiastical architecture by deemphasizing transcendence and otherness in favor of immanence. If one were to entirely eliminate any hint of the otherness of God, one would devolve into pantheism or idolatrous self-worship. Each reader will have to determine whether the equilibrium Vosko seeks to strike between immanence and transcendence is the proper balance. Second, Vosko’s concern that the lay faithful not be conditioned into submissiveness or passivity is certainly in keeping with Sacrosanctum Concilium’s concern that worshippers not be mere spectators, but his sacramental theology and ecclesiology espouses a rather functionalist understanding of the ministerial priesthood.

Third, the author displays great sensitivity toward the categories of race, class, and gender, but in so doing neglects other valuable considerations. Making every spot within the church equally prominent may have some undesired consequences. How is the proposed circular design sensitive to the sizable percentage of people who are shy by natural disposition, or the estimated 15 million American adults who experience the diagnosable condition of social anxiety? How is this design inclusive of nursing mothers or families with rambunctious and easily distracted children who would prefer a space out of the limelight? How is this design respectful of mourners who may be shedding tears uncontrollably during a funeral and who wish not to attract glances or stares of onlookers? How suitable is this design for various paraliturgical devotions?

Lastly, one can argue that having a sanctuary where sacredness is in some sense concentrated and where special reverence is required for entry into the generally “off-limits” area could telegraph salutary subliminal lessons that potentially help with reversing the rise and record-setting high of sexually transmitted infections (for statistics, see the U.S. Center for Disease Control report regarding 2018). While the aforementioned example may strike some as silly, the deeper point is that concerns about exclusionary polarization and the consequent need to erase lines of demarcation should not be the sole societal issue that informs and is factored into the design of churches constructed in the contemporary age.

In the final analysis, Father Richard S. Vosko, a presbyter of the Diocese of Albany and a noted liturgical designer who has been involved with the design of some 150 houses of worship in North America, underscores the uncontested point that churches are a material expression of a certain theology, spirituality, and lived experience. The reflections shared by the author, which focus chiefly on the interior ordering of churches, pose thought-provoking questions that are worth pondering at length, even by those whose visions and tastes are different.

Christopher Siuzdak is a canonist in the Tribunal of the Diocese of Portland.

American Priest – Wilson D. Miscamble

Miscamble, Wilson D. American Priest: The Ambitious Life and Conflicted Legacy of Notre Dame’s Father Ted Hesburgh. New York: Image, 2019. 464 pages.

Reviewed by Christopher Siuzdak.

In 2017, the United States Postal Service unveiled a stamp featuring the Reverend Theodore M. Hesburgh of the Congregation of the Holy Cross (b. 1917–d. 2015) in the foreground and the iconic golden dome of the University of Notre Dame, where he served as president for thirty-five years (1952-1987), in the background. Father Hesburgh’s posthumous appearance on a postage stamp serves as an apt encapsulation of his life and legacy as a globetrotting influencer who ambitiously placed himself at the vanguard of educational affairs, ecclesiastical matters, and the public issues of his day, leaving an imprint that echoes to the present day.

Father Hesburgh garnered cascades of accolades and honors throughout his life, including a papal appointment as a delegate of the Holy See to the International Atomic Energy Agency, an appearance on the cover of Time in 1962, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964, the Congressional Gold Medal in 2000, sixteen presidential appointments to various commissions, and a record-setting 150 honorary degrees from institutions of higher education around the globe. Previous works — namely, Professor Michael O’Brien’s Hesburgh: A Biography (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1998) and an autobiography authored with the assistance of Jerry Reedy, entitled God, Country, Notre Dame (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1999) — painted a rather hagiographical portrait of Father Hesburgh. The critical distance afforded by the passage of time, however, has enabled a more multifaceted assessment of his life and legacy.

A central question that emerges is whether Father Hesburgh set into motion processes that led numerous Catholic institutions of higher education to become merely nominally Catholic. Some observers might accuse Father Hesburgh of praying the Lord’s Prayer with the following substitution: “Thy will be done at Notre Dame as it is at Harvard, Berkeley, and Princeton.” Father Hesburgh embarked on an unrelenting quest for excellence and sought to revamp Catholic higher education, but “the pursuit of excellence as defined by the secular academy came to dominate his actions” (379).

For example, Father Hesburgh convened twenty-six North American educators in 1967 who released the so-called Land O’Lakes Statement, which sought to distance Catholic universities from any oversight by ecclesiastical authorities. This “declaration of independence,” ironically, occurred at a time when “government agencies and departments and various private instrumentalities, like accrediting agencies and foundations, increased their oversight and regulation of higher education” (126). Later, Father Hesburgh seemed allergic to Pope John Paul II’s apostolic constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae of 1990 (126). These actions, arguably, enervated Catholic identity at Catholic institutions of higher education. “Father Hesburgh never achieved his grand goal of constructing a great Catholic university,” Father Miscamble concludes, “because he never developed a grand strategy that identified and developed the appropriate means to secure that good end” (379). In other words, he “failed both to fashion and to implement a viable model” for an institution that is simultaneously thoroughly Catholic and robustly academic.

Another critique of Father Hesburgh is that he “failed to make abortion and the right to life one of the great issues that he chose to address forcefully” (154). While delivering a distinguished lecture at Yale University in 1973, Father Hesburgh referenced “the most basic right of all, the right to life” (154). A contingent of attendees began hissing at him. The incident seemed to have left a lasting impression. He remained relatively muted on the issue, likely in order to avoid a neuralgic point with the prestigious people by whom he wanted to be considered “an insider.” Moreover, he provided a platform for Governor Mario Cuomo of New York to deliver an address on public morality and abortion in 1984 that seemed to offer an alibi by bifurcating the politician into public and private persons (335). The author notes the irony that “at the very moment he had reached a pinnacle in his accomplishments on civil rights and had won the regard of key groups in society, he refrained from using his power and influence to fight for the unborn” (288). Hesburgh’s “Achilles’ heel” was his overweening desire to please and be on good terms with “the American establishment” (288, 379).

Despite flaws and foibles in certain domains, Father Hesburgh was, on the whole, a much-loved priest who strove to successfully navigate the challenges that confronted him. His central identity was that of priest. He faithfully celebrated Mass daily, even on the day he died. He declined posts that were unbefitting of clerics, such as an offer to head the multibillion-dollar government agency known as NASA (270). He chose to walk a tightrope, metaphorically speaking, as a board member of the Rockefeller Foundation because he believed that he could exude a salutary influence and harness much potential for good that existed there. He upbuilt the University of Notre Dame into a world-class institution of higher education and endeavored to be a mediator who effected a more just, good, and peaceful world through all of the institutions with which he was affiliated.

This work is an enthralling biography of Father Theodore Hesburgh, not only because of the subject’s preternatural charisma but also because he mirrors the struggles and aspirations of American Catholics in the second-half of the twentieth-century as they moved out of “Catholic ghettos” and gained greater acceptance in the mainstream of American society. Few authors are as uniquely qualified to address the topic as Father Bill Miscamble, C.S.C., who has served as a history professor and departmental chair at the University of Notre Dame, seminary rector and superior, and a confrere who imbibed libations alongside Father Hesburgh at fireside chats. The unique combination of professional, personal, and priestly insights yields a remarkable read that pierces to the essence of the issues ranging from theology and ecclesiastical jockeying to higher education administration and presidential politics. Father Miscamble’s biography of Father Ted Hesburgh is a highly recommended read.

Christopher Siuzdak is a canonist in the Tribunal of the Diocese of Portland.

Behold the Christ – Leroy A. Huizenga

Huizenga, Leroy A. Behold the Christ: Proclaiming the Christ. Steubenville: Emmaus Road Publishing, 2019. 333 pages.

Reviewed by Nathan Farrar.

Behold the Christ is an accessible commentary on the gospel of Matthew that is organized around the readings heard in the Mass throughout (lectionary) year A. While focused primarily on explaining the text and themes of Matthew’s gospel, author Leroy Huizenga does not overlook applications of the gospel’s teaching to the lives of ordinary Christians.

Emphases in the commentary. Huizenga’s commentary emphasizes the theme of fulfillment throughout the gospel of Matthew, showing how Jesus, viewed typologically, is the new Adam, the new Isaac, the new Joseph, the new Moses, even the embodiment of the true Israel, the one in whom Israel’s mission — to be a light to the nations — is perfectly fulfilled. He is also like the sufferer in the Psalms, Isaiah, and Wisdom. Above all, he is Emmanuel, God with us. For a reader seeking a better understanding of how the gospel of Matthew sees the Old Testament scriptures being fulfilled in Jesus, this commentary will be instructive.

I found several of Huizenga’s interpretations to be thought-provoking, including:

  • Matthew’s “inverted” use of the Exodus narrative and his application of Hos. 11:1 in Matt. 2:15 (pgs. 58, 105–107);
  • The meaning of perfection in Matt. 5:48 (pgs. 161–164);
  • Framing the encounter with the Gadarene demoniacs through the lenses of ‘cleanness’ and the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God (pgs. 200–202);
  • Understanding Jesus’ statement that some would not die until they witnessed him coming in his Kingdom (Matt. 16:28) as being fulfilled in the Transfiguration (rather than a failed eschatological prediction) (pgs. 296–297);
  • Seeing Jesus’ actions in the temple (i.e., the “cleansing” in Matt. 21: 12-17) being a prophetic announcement of its impending destruction, evoking Jeremiah 7 as the interpretive lens through which his action is understood (pgs. 348–351); and
  • The suggestion that the tearing of the temple veil (Matt. 27:51) after Jesus had been killed signified God’s departure from the Jerusalem temple, suggestive of its perilous future (p. 407).

One minor disappointment is the mere passing mention of the enigmatic account in Matt. 27: 52–53. I would have been interested in Huizenga’s understanding of this report, though there is a hint it should be understood in apocalyptic terms (p.406).

Who would benefit? One strength of Behold the Christ is that it seems suitable for several different parish ministry contexts, including:

  • Assisting Homilists. The organization of this commentary around the lectionary would make this a useful reference work for priests or deacons preparing to preach from Matthew’s gospel; however, as laity, I will focus on other contexts.
  • Guiding Small Group Bible Study. One challenge facing small groups is having time to complete pre-readings. This commentary is well suited to help overcome this issue since its discussion of each section is relatively brief, and could be read together in the group, along with the corresponding passage from Matthew. Used during Lectionary Year A, this commentary could also be used to spur deeper reflection on the Sunday Mass readings within a group.
  • Individual use. What can be studied in a group can also be profitably studied alone. As we are currently in Lectionary Year A, this commentary would aid in personal study by both reviewing Mass readings from earlier in the year and preparing us to obtain a fuller grasp of those that are yet to come.

Reading a Jewish Gospel as Christian Scripture. As Christian readers, it is easy to miss that the ministry of Jesus in the gospel of Matthew is directed to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 15: 21) with the Gentiles only later coming into clear focus following the resurrection through the giving of the great commission (Matt. 28: 18-20). Huizenga reminds us that “the Church in Matthew is originally Jewish…but also ultimately open to Gentiles,” becoming missional as “Jesus sends the Church to [the Gentiles].” (p. 63, 65) Therefore, a gospel about Jesus’ ministry and teaching among his own people ends with the command to go to the Gentiles, “teaching them to observe all I have commanded you.” This ending invites a re-reading of the gospel of Matthew, in which it is not only an account of Messianic fulfillment (the 1st reading) but also Christian scripture (the 2nd reading). Huizenga speaks of this as the “two gospels” in the gospel of Matthew (p. 67); in this, he an excellent guide to ‘both’ by explaining how it would be read through 1st-century Jewish eyes, and how Christian readers can be formed through its rich teaching. This text is therefore recommended for both personal study of the gospel of Matthew and use in parish ministry.

Nathan Farrar is a Lay Dominican in the Province of Canada and is active in several ministries as a parishioner in the Archdiocese of Ottawa.

Christ in the Storm – Pope Francis

Pope Francis. Christ in the Storm: An Extraordinary Blessing for a Suffering World. Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 2020. 75 pages.

Reviewed by Christopher Siuzdak.

As the whole of humankind faced a formidable foe that cast a shadow of death and despair, Pope Francis pleaded before God on behalf of a distressed populace and injected a much-needed dose of courage and hope into the pandemic-ravaged world with his globally-broadcast Urbi et Orbi address and blessing. This handsome book compiling the scripture reading, homily, and paraliturgical devotions from that extraordinary occurrence on March 27, 2020 offers a spiritual itinerary for navigating the long-lasting Lent imposed upon the whole world by the coronavirus pandemic. Interspersed with poignant pictures from that rainy day on which the universal pastor of the Church led the global community in reflection and prayer, this work offers an opportunity to ponder the Holy Father’s message of the Lord’s closeness and engage in deeper prayer.

The pandemic exposed the vulnerability that all human beings share and highlighted humankind’s interdependence — both horizontal and vertical. It heightened humanity’s awareness that there are things beyond the control of any earthly authority or expert. At the height of the uncertainty and insecurity induced by COVID-19, Pope Francis rightly reminded people to have a firm trust in God’s presence and providence. Virtually alone in Saint Peter’s Square, he proceeded to lead the global community sheltering in self-quarantine in prayers of supplication and adoration. The prayers, drawn from time-honored pious devotions familiar to Catholics worldwide, included: Sub Tuum Praesidium (Under Your Protection), Parce Domine (Spare Us, O Lord), Adoro Te Devote (Hidden God, Devoutly I Adore), Litany of Supplication, Tantum Ergo (Down in Adoration Falling), and Laudes Divinae (The Divine Praises). These profound expressions of the soul resonated with people as the modern plague tested the limits of human resilience.

Sharing this book with elderly or homebound individuals and all those who have been affected physically, psychologically, economically, politically, or religiously by the pandemic will bring encouragement to the discouraged. It can help bring serenity to the anxious. It can serve as a tangible reminder that no one is abandoned. The reflections and prayers can serve as a social and spiritual support as people unite the hardships they are enduring during these trying times to the sacrificial death of Christ Jesus. Although the virus has wrought many voids and has hampered economic growth, it can be harnessed as a catalyst for growth in virtue and the spiritual life.

Christopher Siuzdak is a canonist in the Tribunal of the Diocese of Portland.

Child Consecration to Jesus through Mary – Blythe Marie Kaufman

Kaufman, Blythe Marie. Child Consecration to Jesus Through Mary: Following the Spirit of St. Therese, the Little Flower. Irondale, AL: EWTN, 2020. 92 pages.

Reviewed by Fr. Stanley Smolenski, SPMA.

God has His timing, as does Our Lady. Mt 4:16 states that “the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light.” Our times are becoming spiritually darker, and children are being affected by this spiritual vacuum in our culture. Throughout history God has supplied assistance through the Church to meet the challenges particular to each age. With secularism present everywhere and many things in our society attacking the purity of our children, assistance is needed for parents who desire to raise their children in the faith and promote holiness.

In such difficult times, seeking help from our Spiritual Mother is indeed timely. While Our Blessed Mother is always ready to help her children, we need to come to her to ask for her assistance, as she does not force her help on anyone. This book is 33-day consecration to Jesus through Mary written especially for children. Warmly endorsed by such figures as Cardinal Sarah and Cardinal Burke, as well a various other bishops, this book will help your child to grow closer to their heavenly Mother, and through her to Jesus.

One of the ways Catholics have sought protection and help from Our Blessed Mother is through Consecration to Jesus through Mary. The traditional method of Consecration outlined by St. Louis de Montfort has helped many souls, including Pope St. John Paul II, who was greatly influenced by this method of Consecration. Given the challenges today, it is particularly helpful to bring children under the protection of their Heavenly Mother when they are innocent and able to be gently guided toward the road of holiness. As a great help for parents and children, from the founder of the international Children’s Rosary prayer group movement, Dr. Blythe Kaufman, comes this child consecration book, seeking to unpack the St. Louis de Montfort consecration outlined in the classic text, True Devotion to Mary, in a way children can understand. Child Consecration is characterized by the spirit of simplicity, confidence, and trust of St. Thérèse, the Little Flower. The consecration journey is beautifully presented in the form of a parable and allows parents and children to scale to great spiritual heights.

As mentioned, these pages have received ecclesiastical approval prior to printing and has garnered the support of many bishops and cardinals within the Church. Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, states, “Child Consecration: To Jesus through Mary — Following in the Spirit of St. Thérèse, the Little Flower is a wonderful means by which children can come to know God’s Blessed Mother in an easy and accessible way.” Cardinal Sarah goes on to state, “I commend this book to parents and teachers, who will find here a solid and ready means to develop the spiritual and devotional life of children, giving them a firm foundation from which to build their relationship with the Lord and his Church.”

Bishop John Keenan of Paisley, Scotland, not only recommends this book for parents to share with their children, but also for teachers and priests! He states, “I encourage every parent, teacher and priest to read this book, quite unique in these times . . . Were I a parent, this would be my number one Marian book for my family. As a pastor of souls I pray many parents will take it up, confident that it has within it the grace to bring in a great harvest for the Church and the world in the generations too that lie ahead.”

His Eminence Cardinal Raymond Burke echoes the praise of others for this book. He shares, “I highly recommend it to parents who wish to introduce their children to Marian devotion and thus help them to give their hearts, one with the Immaculate Heart of Mary, completely to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.”

Several teachers at St Francis Xavier Catholic School, a classical elementary school in Birmingham, Alabama, are already planning to use the book with their students.

Bringing young hearts to Jesus through Mary is at the essence of the Consecration journey. Children while guided by their spiritual Mother are led by the quickest and straightest means possible to the end we all seek which is union with God and arrival at our permanent home in Heaven. God’s providence never fails, and indeed this book comes at a time of great challenge for young people. It is a moor line for our children to keep them moving ever closer to Our Lord. May many parents see an urgency to avail themselves of this simple yet effective way to provide for the future of their children.

Fr. Stanley Smolenski, SPMA is a priest of the Archdiocese of Hartford, in the service of the Diocese of Charleston, for Eucharistic Evangelization. Fr. Smolenski, SPMA, is a Baptistine Canonical Hermit, and diocesan director of the Shrine of Our Lady of South Carolina, Our Lady and Mother of Joyful Hope.

The Next Pope – George Weigel

Weigel, George. The Next Pope: The Office of Peter and a Church in Mission. San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2020. 141 pages.

Reviewed by Christopher Siuzdak.

The undergirding thesis of this essay by noted papal biographer George Weigel is that the Catholic Church is in the midst of an epochal transition from a Counter-Reformation posture to a mode of missionary intensification known as the New Evangelization. The Church is, to borrow from sports terminology, pivoting its “game-plan” from “playing defense” to “playing offense.” The author identifies several ad intra and ad extra challenges to confront and opportunities to leverage as the pontifex maximus builds a bridge between Christ and twenty-first-century society.

Weigel rightly raises the question of the proper dynamic between the pastor of the universal Church and local leaders of the globe’s 1.3 billion Catholics. The question is hardly new, but the media-saturated and celebrity-crazed context of the twenty-first century adds a novel permutation to the perennial question. The public profile of the papacy has grown considerably beginning with the pontificate of Pius IX (“Pio Nono”), the author observes. Developments in the domain of communications (e.g., the popular press), theology (e.g., the First Vatican Council’s teaching on papal infallibility), and other historical considerations such as the number of jubilees Pope Pius IX celebrated during his lengthy tenure as the Successor of Saint Peter (bringing rivers of pilgrims to the Eternal City) exponentially increased the prominence of the papacy “in both the Catholic imagination and the world’s thinking about the Church” (51).

Weigel argues that “the next pope must rebalance the position of the papacy in the life of the twenty-first century Church” (53). He explains: “The pope must and will remain the Church’s supreme authority. That authority, however, must be exercised in such a way that it facilitates the leadership of others, especially the Church’s bishops” (53). Importantly, “This will be less a matter of ‘shrinking’ the papacy than of the papacy empowering the missionary discipleship of others” (53). Although the author does not offer a comprehensive answer, he helpfully frames the question of “papal protagonism” (52): How can the “star power” of the global head of the Catholic Church best be harnessed to point toward Christ, unleash the power of Divine Revelation, overcome inertia in ecclesiastical institutions, and reinvigorate local communities of believers in their journey of faith?

A criticism that could be levied against this book is that the attention-grabbing title is insufficiently respectful of the reigning pontiff. According to long-standing custom, it is brutta figura to openly discuss a successor when the Petrine post is occupied. The author, however, avoids the temptation to descend into the rough-and-tumble sport of ecclesiastical politicking. He steers clear of proposing, endorsing, or handicapping any candidates. Weigel remains focused on substantive issues facing the Church and its visible head at this particular period in history. It could also be argued that the work gives insufficient credit to the current pontiff for his achievements and advances. For example, Pope Francis has appointed cardinals from geographical and cultural peripheries, continued the internationalization of the Roman Curia, convoked Synods of Bishops drawing diocesan heads to share their insights with a global audience, and established bishoprics in heretofore underappreciated regions (e.g., Amazonia). The essay could have benefitted from some more attention to the positive ways in which the current pontiff has paved the way for his successor.

All in all, Weigel’s reflections provide a springboard into further discussion of pressing issues as the Catholic Church retools pastoral strategies, rekindles ardor, and evolves from a mindset of institutional maintenance to missionary encounter. The issues identified and the points proposed are of importance not only to “Vatican insiders” or adherents to the Catholic faith. Many of the points presented for consideration have significant ecumenical and geopolitical implications. A wide variety of readers, including those whose vision may differ from that of the author, will gain much food for thought. Ultimately, this work offers an opportunity to reflect on the role each person plays in upbuilding the Body of Christ.

Christopher Siuzdak is a canonist in the Tribunal of the Diocese of Portland.

One Body – John and Claire Grabowski

Grabowski, John and Claire. One Body: A Program of Marriage Preparation and Enrichment for the New Evangelization. Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Road Publishing, 2018. 200 pages.

Reviewed by Fr. Matthew Schneider, L.C.

The book is a study guide for marriage preparation or marriage enrichment in small groups, and the authors are more than qualified: John is an associate professor of moral theology at Catholic University of America and the author of several books on ethics. They have been married since 1985; they have been on the Pontifical Council for the Family since 2009; and they wrote commentary on Familiaris Consortio. Overall, I rate this book very good with one precaution: that it only works well for those with a good background. I will review this book in three parts: an outline, session summaries, and a rating.

This book is divided into seven sessions, covering the basics of Church teaching on marriage. The Grabowskis recommend at least two weeks between each session for couples to discuss and read on their own. Each session opens with a suggested scripture passage and prayer, then a catechetical reflection. Following this is a “Thoughts from Claire” section where she explains how they have lived this out in their marriage. Discussion questions follow, which end the first chapter and the whole session for the last two sessions. The second chapter of the first five sections includes longer Biblical passages for reflection.

The first session, “Solitude, Vocation, the Call to Unity,” is a summary of the first Part of John Paul II’s theology of the body. It covers Jesus’ discussion with the Pharisees on “in the beginning,” original solitude, original unity, and original nakedness. One Body makes important exegetical points about the first creation story: selem, the Hebrew word we translate “image,” means, “human beings share in God’s authority over creation”; and the Hebrew word ezer has no connotations of being secondary like our translation “helper” might.

The second session, “‘To Leave and to Cling’: Forming a New Family,” goes deeper into the second creation account. Claire’s tells a valuable story about her mother-in-law to explain how couples have to compromise on traditions.

“Marriage as a Covenant and a Sacrament” is the name of the third session covering the marital bond. It begins by describing the difference between a covenant and a contract using imagery from the Old Testament such as Abram’s covenant in Genesis 15 where he walked between the split animals. It continues this message using the theology of the body, which, “Repeatedly reminds us that the body is the expression and revelation of the person.”

Two of the Gospel texts for session three — the Fall (Genesis 3), and Matthew 5:28 — are not clearly connected to the theme of covenant, while the third – the prayer of Tobias and Raguel — seems more connected to marriage qua covenant.

The fourth session, called “Nakedness, Love vs. Lust, the Gift of Children,” focuses on children in marriage and proper sexual practices during marriage. They balance things out as after talking about Natural Family Planning, they begin the next paragraph, “But the fact that the Church approves natural means of birth regulation should not obscure the fundamental teaching of scripture and the Church’s Tradition that children are a great gift.”

The fifth session, “Mutual Submission: Church Teaching and Practice,” tackles challenging problems directly. They immediately deal with the seeming contradictions in the Bible where Jesus raises women’s status, yet not one of the twelve apostles is a woman. The Grabowskis mention that at times the Church overemphasized man’s headship in the family. However, this history is not the last word. They quote Casti Conubii on the double primacy: “For if the man is the head, the woman is the heart, and as he occupies the chief place in ruling, so she may and ought to claim for herself the chief place in love.” Their discussion of mutual submission is a paraphrase of John Paul II’s detailed analysis of Ephesians 5 in theology of the body (it might have been better to put this passage here than as part of session four).

The sixth session, called “The Forms of Intimacy in a Healthy Marriage,” explains how the category of intimacy goes far beyond sexual relations. The Grabowskis explain, “Social scientists and marriage counselors describe multiple forms of intimacy necessary for a healthy marriage — verbal/emotional, physical, spiritual and sexual.” They go on to note, “Couples whose only physical contact is sexual in nature often suffer from an overall lack of intimacy in their relationship.”

The seventh session ties up odds and ends. The conclusion explains their journey towards writing this book.

Before a final rating, the doctrine, the audience and the use of the book will be discussed. I will refer to other successful marriage preparation, notably people I know who run the largest program in the archdiocese of Washington. This program is fully sound doctrinally and has well-done explanations. The authors blend theology of the body, magisterium and scholarship together without turning the book into a thick theology text. Repeatedly, I recognized theological concepts or texts paraphrased behind the book’s text.

The Grabowskis deal with some difficult topics with grace. In session six, they bring up psychological sex differences. Even though the science is relatively clear on this, our culture thinks that such differences do not exist. This is often the most controversial topic in marriage preparation. They explain these differences as “approaches,” “styles,” or how the sexes “tend.” They talk about in a friendly and casual manner, not claiming to be experts in social science research on this difference or enforcing a kind of strict division between sexes.

This book is for marriage preparation or enrichment. It works well for couples who have a good catechetical background, but does not reach couples with large gaps in formation. Three reasons present themselves. One Body jumps straight into deeper topics: the first page mentions theology of the body, Jesus’ discussion with the Pharisees, and creation in Genesis. The first chapter includes such concepts as original unity, nakedness without shame, and the vocation to celibacy. That may be too much for less catechized couples. In the discussion questions, catechism numbers are referenced as an answer key. However, they offer no argument for couples who struggle with a point.

Finally, the Grabowskis fail to explain the difference between lust and libido, when our society often equates the two. A priest who runs marriage preparation monthly said that they need to distinguish lust from libido every time. After talking about clearer signs of lust, they state, “Lust can also invade hearts and relationships of those who are married, as when a couple deliberately exclude the life-giving potential of sexual intercourse through some form of contraception or when one spouse engages in sexual practices which demean the other person.” The uncatechized likely don’t understand what is meant by demeaning sexual practices, yet the Grabowskis do not explain it further.

The book is recommended for group discussions. This is wise because group discussions can help resolve couples’ questions. In the introduction, they list four stages of preparation for marriage: remote, proximate, immediate, and ongoing. The book is only intended for the last two (marriage preparation or marriage enrichment). They assume a good background, “In Christian moral living, including sexual morality, marriage, and the nature of family life,” from the prior two stages. This goes back to the critique above.

Overall, I give One Body four out of five stars. It explains marriage and Christian sexual ethics comprehensively. The scripture passages and personal stories are well-chosen. However, I remove a star as several aspects of the book go too deep too fast for many couples with limited faith background. I think they achieve what they set out to do in the introduction. “Even for those who have encountered Christ, there is always the opportunity to go deeper in their faith. Marriage formation should also be an opportunity to understand more fully the gift of marriage.” This book shows that gift clearly.

Fr. Matthew P. Schneider, L.C is a priest with the Legionaries of Christ, ordained in 2013. He lives in the Archdiocese of Washington where he helps at Our Lady of Bethesda Retreat Center and produces material for Regnum Christi.

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