Book Reviews – May 2021

Under Siege: No Finer Time to be a Faithful Catholic. By Austin Ruse. Reviewed by Matthew Kappadakunnel. (skip to review)

Retrieving Augustine’s Doctrine of Creation. By Gavin Ortlund. Reviewed by Fr. Stephen Rocker. (skip to review)

What We Hold in Trust: Rediscovering the Purpose of Catholic Higher Education. By Don J. Briel, Kenneth E. Goodpaster, and Michael J. Naughton. Reviewed by Christopher Siuzdak. (skip to review)

The Holy Bread of Eternal Life: Restoring Eucharistic Reverence in an Age of Impiety. By Peter Kwasniewski. Reviewed by John A. Monaco. (skip to review)

Pause in Wonder. By Deacon Eddie Ensley, with Deacon Robert Herrmann. Reviewed by Lawrence Montz. (skip to review)

Under Siege – Austin Ruse

Ruse, Austin. Under Siege: No Finer Time to Be a Faithful Catholic. Manchester, New Hampshire: Crisis Publications, 2021. 191 pages.

Reviewed by Matthew Kappadakunnel.

Austin Ruse’s ultimate thesis for Under Siege, embedded in the subtitle, is there has never been a finer time to be a faithful Catholic” (147). This reviewer could not agree more. Despite the devastation due to the coronavirus pandemic and the violence that has multiplied in 2021 alone, among other issues, we cannot give in to despair. We must persevere in hope, and place our hope in Christ. As Saint Paul exhorts, “where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more” (Rom 5:20).

Ruse, President of the Center for Family and Human Rights (“C-Fam”) and contributing editor to Crisis Magazine, calls the reader not to despair, but to hope (122), even in the face of an abyss which deep below, he asserts, lurk several threats to our Catholic faith. He does not sugarcoat any of these threats: abortion, adult and child pornography, clergy abuse, and transgenderism. Ruse supports the Church’s definitive positions on each of these areas.

Stemming from this abyss, Ruse highlights the growing secularism in our nation that has taken on a semblance of a religion unto itself (46). Ruse holds that several Christian principles and practices that were formerly acceptable in public have been overturned by the state, including the discontinuation of prayer in public schools and the recitation of Bible readings (42), and the passage of Roe v. Wade and its legalization of abortion (46).

Following this trajectory, Ruse describes “a new state-imposed orthodoxy”with “a new priesthood” of robed “judges and justices, academics and scientists” (49) promoting several developments in society that are an affront to his personal convictions. Ruse decries the rise in acceptance of homosexuality and transgenderism (55–57), and the emphasis on personal pronouns, environmentalism, institutional racism and unconscious bias (50). He expresses skepticism toward climate change (51–52), even as Pope Francis expressed in Laudato Si. While Ruse acknowledges that social justice efforts are compatible with Christianity, and even lauds that “Christianity has done more for social justice than anything else in human history” (59), he opposes the resulting trend stemming from these efforts of denouncing “‘covert white supremacy’” (59) and the belief expressed by U.S. federal agencies, revealed in whistleblower documents, that “‘virtually all white people contribute to racism’” (60). Additionally, Ruse is against the trend of political correctness and the consequential isolationism (61), including the loneliness experienced when refusing to wear masks during the pandemic (61–62).

I do not want to draw any hasty conclusions on Ruse’s sentiments toward Laudato si’; however, I would expect a book that strives to reaffirm the Catholic identity to have more positive dialogue about the present pope and communion with the Holy See. Additionally, the USCCB acknowledged institutional racism and subconscious bias in Open Wide Our Hearts (5) (admittedly Ruse’s specific disagreement is in the belief of inherent racism in all of the institutional systems). While I do not agree with all of Ruse’s objections, the trajectory of the remainder of the book strongly resonated with me.

Ruse does not dwell on the abyss but reaffirms his thesis that there is no finer time to be a faithful Catholic. The challenges to the faith we experience today call us to heroically respond to the grace that God generously offers us. Ruse identifies and debunks several temptations in the face of the abyss.

The first temptation is fear. Prominent Christians expressed despair amid the priestly sexual abuse scandals (117, 121). Rather than fear, Ruse points to the early Christians who risked their lives amid a far more dominant pagan culture (122). The admonition against fear echoes Jesus’ message “Do not be afraid; just have faith” (Mk 5:36).

The second temptation is nostalgia and Golden-Age Thinking. Certain Catholics give in to wishful thinking for the way things were in the past, such as the 1950s or the Middle Ages (124), or even the notion of monarchy (128–130). Ruse holds that these whims are temptations that “take us away from the real work God has given us to confront the ongoing societal crises in our lands and our times” (128). I fully support Ruse’s assertion. We cooperate with God’s will when we surrender to God’s presence in the present moment. I am reminded of a bumper sticker on our family’s car as a child: “The will of the Lord will not lead you where the grace of God cannot keep you.”

Another temptation is integralism. “Integralists argue not just that the state must be informed by Catholic thinking but, at the extreme, that Catholicism should be the official state church” (130). Ruse stands up to this alternative form of wishful thinking, and I fully support his position: “. . . these siren songs of nostalgia turn the Catholic layman away from the difficult work of engaging our actual society as it actually is. We will never be ruled by a king. Catholic ideas will never explicitly rule the United States government” (132).

The final temptation that Ruse highlights is also the most insidious one: distraction. Smart phones, social media, emails, and binge-watching take “us away from what is happening in the world and stifles our proper reaction . . . We live in the most distracted era the world has ever known . . . And it has profoundly dangerous consequences not just to us and to our family life but to society as a whole” (132–133). Ruse notes that distraction prevents people from participating “in one of the most glorious times in the history of the world to be a faithful Catholic” (133). I strongly agree with this position. As the saying goes, “Laziness is the workshop of the devil,” exhibited in one of the seven deadly sins — sloth. Laziness deters Catholics from the heroic work to grow in and defend the faith, thereby forgoing halos and crosses (135).

Amid these aforementioned temptations, Ruse exhorts, “There is another course beside the paths of fear, nostalgia, and distraction. There is a life filled with joyful fighting spirit and the realization that God has placed us here from the beginning of time to be His heroes” (135).

In the final chapter, Ruse supports his thesis why there is no finer time to be a faithful Catholic. Despite the abyss, and in the face of the aforementioned temptations, “We are promised by our Faith that God can bring good out of any evil” (138).

Ruse gives a brief overview of his path to conversion to the Catholic faith in the late 1980s. He sought from young adult Catholics recommendations on what he should read to aid in learning more about the Church, and was surprised none of these young Catholics had any to offer (144). In light of this, Ruse went on his own search, which proved to be a blessing. “First, I had to make the Faith my own. I had to dig the marrow of the Faith out of pages of books no one gave me, books I had to find on my own. This is one of the great developments of our time. Our Faith is no longer rote. It must be internalized. It must be made our own. We must fight for it” (145).

The resources that greatly aided Ruse’s search include the publications of Ignatius Press (145) and the writings of Thomas Merton. Despite this trend in the 80s, Ruse notes the tide has turned. Lay-run initiatives have grown and multiplied in the present, including EWTN (founded by Mother Angelica but presently lay-run) and Salt and Light Television, and he even names Where Peter Is (which I am a contributor to) among the noteworthy new media initiatives (146). Ruse further promotes that the growth in the role of the laity, amid the priest sex abuse scandal, further denotes a sign of hope for the Church. “It is not in spite of the manifold and manifest problems in society and the Church that makes this the finest time to be a faithful Catholic but precisely because of them. God called us here now, when He knew the societal collapse would come. He called us here now, when the Church would come under attack” (147–148).

Additional sources of hope are the saints, martyrs and suffering souls. Ruse recounts the great saints that have come forth in recent times, including Padre Pio, Mother Teresa, Josemaria Escriva, Gianna Beretta Molla (whose daughter Ruse met), and Pope John Paul II (150–151). He also notes the martyrs of the last century in Armenia, China, Mexico, Russia, and Spain (152–154), and in the current century due to Islamic extremism (154–155). Further, Ruse shares with us the stories of the “little suffering souls” — several young persons he encountered who died far too young due to a debilitating condition, yet despite this suffering exhibited deep holiness and mysticism (155–162).

Amid pressing reasons in our Church and society to give in to fear, Ruse boldly redirects us to the ever-abundant signs of hope that reaffirm his call to put our hope in Christ, asserting while he stares at the abyss that there is “no finer time to be a faithful Catholic than right now” (184).

Matt Kappadakunnel is a finance professional who lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two young children. He is from the Syro-Malabar Rite.

Retrieving Augustine’s Doctrine of Creation – Gavin Ortlund

Ortlund, Gavin. Retrieving Augustine’s Doctrine of Creation. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2020. 248 pages.

Reviewed by Fr. Stephen Rocker.

Gavin Ortlund has written a well-researched and accessible study of St. Augustine’s theology of creation. While Ortlund is deeply engaged with debates among evangelical Christians, many of the topics treated are relevant to all Christians, such as reconciling the scientific claims of evolution with the manner of the emergence of the first humans and the event of the Fall. Augustine’s theology of creation also expresses his philosophical understanding of what it is to be human.

Augustine’s most famous work, his Confessions, has nine autobiographical books followed by four books on time and creation. To some these last books of the Confessions seem unnaturally appended to Augustine’s autobiography. Ortlund, however, shows that Augustine views his own story of being drawn back to God as creation’s story from formlessness to order. More precisely, Augustine’s presentation of the restless soul’s quest to rest in God parallels God’s work of creation ending in the eternal seventh day. “You rested on the seventh day. . . . We too shall rest in you in the Sabbath of eternal life” (Confessions, Book 13). Augustine’s exposition in Book 11 of time is part of the goal of how we may achieve eternal rest. Time is characteristic of the changeable, contingent realm, yet we seek union with God that is incapable of fading away. Furthermore, the utter dependence of everything on God means that creation reveals its creator.

Augustine’s doctrine of creation recognizes evil as a falling away from the good that God has created. Sin is choosing a lesser degree of being and so “fouls” or “unmakes” the good natures that God has created. The reverse of this falling away is our deification. Since we are made in God’s image, our perfection is the fulfillment of that image.

In numerous writings, Augustine reflected on the first three chapters of Genesis. While for him the Scriptures are God’s infallible word, he argues they must be interpreted correctly. Augustine is especially concerned that non-believers not be given cause to dismiss the Bible’s truth because Christians interpret it wrongly. Augustine asserts, “The scriptural style comes down to the level of the little ones and adjusts itself to their capacity.” Augustine and the other Church Fathers interpret Biblical texts by the light of faith, and that light reveals the deeper meaning the Biblical author could not have known.

In the Augustinian interpretation, Adam and Eve by their sin did not bring death into the animal kingdom, rather they “contracted” death in humankind. Hence, Augustine takes the view that animal pain and death existed before the Fall. Moreover, the statement in Genesis, “and God saw that it was very good,” means creation in its totality is beautiful, so that temporal objects come to be and pass away. “In a poem, if syllables should live and perceive only so long as they sound, the harmony and beauty of the connected work would in no way please them.” So, too, Augustine states, the physical evils of pain and death have their place in God’s view of the whole, and God allows the moral evil of sin by making “good use of the bad . . . so that the will of the Almighty may be fulfilled.”

This reviewer has only a couple critical comments. Ortlund’s engagement with fundamentalist readings of the creation stories in Genesis may be of less interest to a Catholic reader. Also, at one point Ortlund misapplies the principle employed in textual criticism that “the more difficult reading is the stronger” when he suggest using this principle analogously for the philosophical pursuit of truth. “All other factors being equal, it is the more complicated version of truth that tends to be right, since it is less likely to be invented or discovered unless necessary.” In fact, it’s the opposite. In explaining the order of things, the principle of parsimony applies, and we only seek a more complicated explanation if the simpler does not suffice.

Augustine frequently and deeply reflected upon the Genesis creation accounts. This book perspicuously presents those reflections. Moreover, it’s a delight to the reader to have an accessible selection of Augustine’s own words on this subject.

Fr. Stephen Rocker is a priest of the Ogdensburg Diocese serving parishes in Potsdam and Colton, NY.

What We Hold in Trust – Don J. Briel, Kenneth E. Goodpaster, and Michael J. Naughton

Briel, Don J., Kenneth E. Goodpaster, and Michael J. Naughton. What We Hold In Trust: Rediscovering the Purpose of Catholic Higher Education. Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 2021. 159 pages.

Reviewed by Christopher Siuzdak.

Without a vision firmly rooted in the time-honored Catholic intellectual tradition, Catholic colleges and universities risk shrinking in purpose in spite of any gains in enrollment or endowment. In this enlightening essay, the authors explore the Catholic university’s raison d’être, that is, the reason for its being, and how to strengthen awareness of and commitment to a Catholic philosophy of education at Catholic institutions of postsecondary learning amid the ever-present risk of “mission drift.” Large-scale forces such as the secularization of society with its “agnosticism to the transcendent” (2) and the corporatization of higher education with its reduction of students to mere consumers who expect their preferences satisfied and career credentials provided in exchange for money require mission-driven institutions to be more intentional about their animating identity in order not to slip into mere market-driven thinking. By outlining the primordial purposes of Catholic higher education and specifying some practical means for securing those aims, the authors endeavor to promote the ongoing renewal and long-term success of Catholic colleges and universities.

The first chapter introduces two foundational principles undergirding Catholic higher education — namely, the unity of knowledge and the complementarity of faith and reason. Chapter two sketches “the historical roots of the university’s purpose and where it begins to become disordered” (10). Learning the tradition “does not mean slavishly imitating the past,” the authors explain, “but it does mean that our historical consciousness should enlarge our perspective and free us from naïve self-sufficiency” (10). In this chapter, it would have been helpful to cite Brad S. Gregory’s masterful treatment of the secularization of knowledge in The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society. In the third chapter, the authors tackle a leadership problem that they term “teleopathy,” a disordering (pathos) of goals (telos). Put simply, it is when secondary goals take on ultimate importance (74).

“In the absence of a clear understanding of the university’s purpose,” the authors maintain, “leaders in higher education can fixate on specialization, careerism or only social and ethical causes as surrogates, which are insufficient to sustain the purpose of a Catholic university” (11, emphasis original). They liken the situation to cut flowers “deprived of nourishing sources that give them life” (5). The fourth chapter proposes “identity-enhancing practices” such as intentional recruitment and hiring, faculty formation and leadership development, interdisciplinary innovation, and trustee oversight (11). The epilogue offers a short institutional “examination of conscience,” a self-assessment that has the potential to yield some practical reforms. The reflection questions, however, stop short of exploring the role of residence life and how to bridge the gap between classrooms and dorm rooms.

Both brief and broad, this primer will prove useful to trustees, administrators (including university chaplains or vice presidents for mission and ministry), faculty, and other stakeholders, such as donors, who are involved with advancing the distinctive identity of Catholic colleges and universities. While many of the wise ideas contained within this work have been voiced before, this succinct synthesis will assist existing and emerging leaders in Catholic higher education to steward well the precious mission that they hold in trust (3). It is indeed a lofty mission of shaping souls.

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

The Holy Bread of Eternal Life – Peter Kwasniewski

Kwasniewski, Peter. The Holy Bread of Eternal Life: Restoring Eucharistic Reverence in an Age of Impiety. Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2020. 336 pages.

Reviewed by John A. Monaco.

In 2019, the Pew Research Center released results from a survey aimed at American religious adherents. Among the several findings presented, the survey noted that only 34% of Catholics believed in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Is this a failure of catechesis, faith formation, or religious literacy? It would seem so. But, if we truly believe that “the law of prayer is the law of belief,” then perhaps such lack of Eucharistic faith coincides with a lack of Eucharistic devotion. In The Holy Bread of Eternal Life, Peter Kwasniewski diagnoses our current age as one of “impiety,” an age where belief, love, and devotion to the Eucharist is not necessarily a given among Catholics. But far from being a jeremiad of liturgical complaints, Kwasniewski offers a compelling case for what we should know about the Holy Eucharist, why we should approach the sacrament with reverence, and how the Church can promote this in her liturgies, theology, and pastoral practice.

The book is divided into three main parts. Part I (“The Most Wondrous of God’s Gifts”) serves as a spiritual meditation upon the Holy Eucharist. In it, Kwasniewski draws upon Sacred Scripture, the Church Fathers, and St. Thomas Aquinas in order to demonstrate the beauty and depth contained within the Blessed Sacrament. Chapter 1 (“Eating Fire and Spirit”) focuses on the Eucharist’s effects on our body and soul; like fire, the Eucharist illuminates the mind and its warmth prepares the body for eternal beatitude. He points out the logical conclusion that, if we believe that Jesus Christ is truly and substantially present in the Eucharist, then we would desire to become one with Him through the Eucharist (9). As J.R.R. Tolkien did in a letter to his son, Kwasniewski locates all the beauty, adventure, excitement, and fulfillment of desire in the sacred Host (14, 58–59).

Chapter 3 is particularly intriguing, as he offers a typological reading of Leviticus in light of Catholic Eucharistic theology. From the holiness code to the notion of sacrifice, he shows how Levitical liturgical precision ensured that God’s people were formed to avoid their former idolatry, and instead offer worship to the one true God (25). After decades of hearing how meticulous attention to liturgical rubrics is “rigid,” connecting Leviticus to the Mass helps reclaim a sense of sacrifice, atonement, and the “gift of self” which Christ offers to the Father, in which the Church mystically participates. In the chapter following, Kwasniewski then offers a relevant commentary on St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, where Paul instructs the early Christian community at Corinth on the nature of their worship (“Christ crucified,” 1 Cor. 1:23), the importance of sanctifying our bodies for the Lord (1 Cor. 5–8), warnings about eating and drinking Christ’s Body unworthily (11:27–29), and customs for appropriate worship (12, 14). The author closes the book’s first part with an excellent essay on St. Thomas Aquinas’ Eucharistic theology, explaining the concepts of “Christ’s Passion, His presence, and His charity.” (58)

In Part II (“Approach with Faith and Fear of God”), Kwasniewski outlines various, concrete ways in which Catholics should show reverence to the Eucharist, including traditional practices which fell out of favor following the Second Vatican Council, but are finding resurgence today. These practices include: fasting prior to reception (75), making an act of thanksgiving following reception (78), the need for priest, deacons, and liturgical ministers to prepare for the Holy Sacrifice with a spirit of reverence (84-87), receiving Holy Communion kneeling and on the tongue (89), and the various issues with receiving in the hand (105).

Knowing well the polemics characteristic of the “liturgy wars,” Kwasniewski avoids an Ordinary Form/Extraordinary Form dichotomy and instead shows how the Second Vatican Council did not mandate an end to these venerable practices. Chapter 8 offers a pointed rebuttal to those who claim that receiving Holy Communion in the hand is the more traditional manner, pointing out how the source commonly cited to support the claim (St. Cyril of Jerusalem’s Mystical Catecheses) is misused to justify current practice. Not only is this an example of the false antiquarianism which Pope Pius XII condemned, but it also reveals a lack of understanding regarding St. Cyril’s instructions, which if followed, would look entirely different than what is seen in many parishes today (106–7). In the following chapters, he questions the universal and ordinary use of “extraordinary Eucharistic ministers,” noting how the practice not only has led to a blurring of distinctions between the lay and ordained priesthood, but also stands in rupture of Catholic tradition, both East and West (148–149). He then closes Part II with chapters on Eucharistic adoration and the virtue of chastity, both of which should lead to greater love of the Eucharistic Jesus, and form our habits to make us worthy partakers of the sacred mystery.

Part III (“Eating and Drinking Judgment”) will undoubtedly be seen as the most controversial section of the book, because it involves concrete ways in which Eucharistic devotion has been attacked by those within the Church. Kwasniewski’s powerful language should be read in a way which reflects the gravity of those topics he treats, including: the omission of the “hard sayings” of Scripture and Tradition regarding sacrilegious reception of Holy Communion (181–195), the loss of any sense of mortal sin and the questioning of its very possibility (197-202), the connection between liturgical abuse and clerical sexual abuse (203-213), and the refusal of bishops to bar public and notorious sinners from the Eucharist (215-226).

In these aforementioned topics, the author demonstrates how the Church can either be a champion of the sacramental life or a stumbling block to its flowering in the lives of the faithful. Again, we return to the hypothetical formula, “if . . . then—”: If we truly believe that Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharist, then we would not remove readings from the lectionary which warn of unworthy reception, nor would we allow a lack of seriousness and flippancy regarding the moral obligations of sacred ministers (208–9) The author then closes the book with chapters on the various ways the Eucharist was spoken of and administered during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and discerning what obedience means in liturgical matters.

If Kwasniewski’s aim in writing this book was to foster Eucharistic devotion where there is none, and to increase the flames of piety where there are small sparks, then he has found success. The reader will benefit from these essays, and will find biblical, patristic, medieval, and contemporary basis for Eucharistic devotion. One may not necessarily agree with all of his analyses, especially regarding post-conciliar liturgical reform, but his overarching argument — that Jesus Christ is to be adored, honored, and worshiped in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar — should find no objectors. Kwasniewski lays out a number of proposals in which such devotion may be recovered, and it is up to the reader to put these into action.

John A. Monaco is a doctoral student in Sacred Theology at Duquesne University.

Pause in Wonder – Dcns. Eddie Ensley and Robert Herrmann

Ensley, Deacon Eddie, with Deacon Robert Herrmann. Pause in Wonder. Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 2020. 136 pages.

Reviewed by Lawrence Montz.

The primary author is Deacon Ensley. Incorporated in each chapter are ancillary suggestions for spiritual journaling presented by Deacon Herrmann to aid the reader deapen their relationship with God. Deacon Ensley paints the picture for our consideration and Rev. Herrmann helps us solidify the joyous relationship via the journaling method. Eddie Ensley and Robert Herrmann are permanent deacons in Savannah who in addition to their parish duties are heavily involved in preaching missions and retreats, teaching, and in spiritual writing. Eddie Ensley is a Native American who often uses stories learned from his family to help explain the concept of Joy in our lives, prompting us to learn to delight in God and His world.

According to Galatians, joy is one of the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit. John of St. Thomas, a seventeenth-century philosopher and theologian whose comprehensive commentaries on Roman Catholic doctrine made him a leading spokesman for post-Reformation Thomism, remarked: “They are called fruits because they refresh the minds with genuine delight.”

In the midst of our hectic lives, we all experience a thirsting for true joy, a sense of wonder. Too often modern man tries to find joy in creatures rather than the creator, as St. Ignatius points out when he cautions in the Spiritual Exercises “to make ourselves indifferent to all created things.” Deacon Ensley posits that the only source of joy is God. To be joyful does not mean we do not experience suffering. That is part of the human condition which Jesus shared with us. Phil 4:4 urges us to “rejoice, again I say rejoice.” This joy is not simply happiness, which is fleeting, but a choice reflecting our total dependence on God. Sorrow and pain can even bring us more joy in that relationship because they can draw us closer to God. The creator alone is our greatest gladness. The deacon writes, “Joy is not an experience that comes from advantageous circumstances, but is God’s gift.”

This book is about how to find that gift. Deacon Herrmann instructs us to use journaling to depend our relationship with God. It is described as a method of seeing our inner reality more clearly and thereby allowing us to become more transformed by God through this type of contemplation by both aiding our memories and placing us into the divine presence. St Teresa of Avila wrote in her autobiography that Jesus instructed her not to neglect “to write down the counsels I give thee, that thou mayest not forget them.” At the end of each chapter, Deacon Herrmann offers suggestions for reflection.

The first step in our journey to become a joyous person is to develop a better sense of awe, not only of God but of his creation. We can choose joy by reflecting on the good in the world and not dwelling on issues that upset us. Simply stop and consider the consolations God has sent us, not only in our intimate prayer lives but in the glories of nature, the work of his hands.

All grace is a gift of God but we must be open to receiving it. Being joyful is a conscious choice, but it comes from our willing acceptance that God is in control. However, there are things “we” can do to makes ourselves more disposed to joy. Many of these are simple in concept but not always easy to practice. Deacon Ensley urges readers to resist being discontent. Another way to put that is not grumble or “murmur” as the Bible cautions against. Look for God in nature, as all creation ultimately points to the creator. Liturgical worshiping with reverence can also yield an immediate encounter with God. Even the tragedy of death can bring consolation and joy if we realize that it is not final; “because of Jesus, we have eternal, soul-lifting hope.”

The deacons come from a Charismatic background, but their advice is not restricted to the outlook of that movement. Joy can be found in singing with jubilation. Great theologians such as St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine prayed this way. Ephesians encourages it when it instructs us to address others “in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, sing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts” (Eph 5:19). The Latin word jubilatio means a wordless call or “whoop.” Charismatics might label it “praying in tongues” but St. Augustine wrote that “he who sings a jubilus does not utter words,” “he simply lets his joy burst forth.” Contemplative prayer in song as practiced by St. Teresa of Avila is not something we achieve on our own efforts but by simply surrendering to God in wordless wonder.

Certainly all want joy in their lives, and if we do not live in wonder, it is not because God does not desire us to experience it but because we fool ourselves into thinking our own desires, even about God, are the source of joy. Even distress and pain can become a source of joy, not by our overcoming them but by our accepting them as Christ did on the Cross. The good deacons help us see this and lead us into a better focus on where true joy lies in their personal examples and advice.

Lawrence Montz is a Benedictine Oblate of St. Gregory Abbey, past Serran District Governor of Dallas, and his Knights of Columbus council’s Vocations Program Director. He resides in the Dallas Diocese.

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