Book Reviews – May 2022

The Decline and Fall of Sacred Scripture: How the Bible Became a Secular Book. By Scott Hahn and Benjamin Wiker. Reviewed by Nathan Farrar. (skip to review)

Exegetical Gems from Biblical Hebrew. By H.H. II Hardy. Reviewed by D. Malachi Walker. (skip to review)

To Call On His Name: Perspectives on the Jesus Prayer. By John Gill. Reviewed by Lawrence Montz. (skip to review)

Humility of Heart. By Fr. Cajetan Mary da Bergamo. Reviewed by Mark McCann. (skip to review)

The Fire Trail. By Christine Sunderland. Reviewed by Francis Etheredge. (skip to review)

The Survival of Dulles: Reflections on a Second Century of Influence. Ed. by Michael M. Canaris. Reviewed by Clara Sarrocco. (skip to review)

The Decline and Fall of Sacred Scripture – Scott Hahn and Benjamin Wiker

Hahn, Scott, and Benjamin Wiker. The Decline and Fall of Sacred Scripture: How the Bible became a Secular Book. Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Road Publishing, 2021. 296 pages.

Reviewed by Nathan Farrar.

The form of modern Biblical scholarship routinely taught in universities and seminaries, and found in commentaries, relies heavily on the so-called “historical-critical” method of interpretation. This approach assumes a naturalistic worldview and then attempts to understand the Bible through the lens of secular history, describing what really happened once any vestiges of the supernatural have been expunged. Needless to say, this “modern” approach has tended to have an acidic effect on faith, quietly eating away at the fundamental conviction that, in the Bible, we encounter the Word of God to humanity.

To many lay and academic readers alike, this method of Scripture study is taken for granted as the natural outworking of a scientific and enlightened worldview. This sentiment is well captured by the late Rudolf Bultmann — himself having been a critical New Testament scholar — who opined that one cannot enjoy the successes of modern scientific achievements and “believe in the New Testament world of spirits and miracles” (Bultmann, R. 1953. The Mythological Element in the Message of the New Testament and the Problem of its Reinterpretation Part 1. In: Kerygma and Myth).

To the contrary, Hahn and Wiker helpfully demonstrate that, in fact, the roots of the historical-critical method in biblical scholarship predated the emergence of modern science by several centuries and were given their impetus by various philosophical and political contingencies. “What we find,” they note, “is a philosophical revolution at the root of the transformation to modern secularism, and the exegetical approach to biblical scholarship that would emanate from and reinforce it.” (p. 270) That philosophical move was basically materialism, and the influence of this idea on scriptural interpretation was creatively employed to advance this-worldly, political aims.

Secularizing the Bible: Hahn and Wiker’s historical survey of the secularizing use of the Christian scriptures, as they were manipulated to achieve various political ends, highlights thinkers who contributed to this process in different ways, including Marsilius of Padua, John Wycliffe, Machiavelli, René Descartes, Thomas Hobbes, Benedict Spinoza, John Toland, and John Locke, among others. What unites this diverse cast of characters and their particular historical circumstances is the attempt to subvert the authority of the Scriptures so as to elevate the power of a political sovereign, state or to advance a political agenda. It is in the approaches used, and their underlying philosophical assumptions, that we find the true roots of the historical-critical methodology.

To illustrate this pattern, consider the example of Machiavelli, “a great-great-grandfather of the historical-critical method.” (p. 95) For Machiavelli, religion ought to be beneficial to a ruling sovereign, an idea found in the ancient pagan philosophers, who saw religion as a useful tool for managing the masses. Assuming the Bible to be a semi-mythical text that contained historical elements, Machiavelli’s “method of biblical analysis was to place biblical figures beside semi-mythical and historical figures from ancient Greece and Rome, the goal being to compare them.” (p.100)

Analyzing Moses in this way — implying his status as a semi-mythical figure by placing him alongside other semi-mythical political figures such as Romulus — Machiavelli recasts Moses as the type of political leader he envisioned in The Prince. For Machiavelli, Moses is not the humble, reticent leader called by God and strengthened by God’s deeds of power in delivering Israel. Rather he is “demythologized” to be a leader who balanced force and cleverness in his rule of the Israelites, in the latter case, using feigned encounters with God as a tool of political control, just as the ancient pagan philosophers envisioned.

The key point is that Machiavelli’s exegesis, undergirded by the assumption that scripture was an admixture of mythology and historical fact, produced a “historical Moses” who had the attributes of Machiavelli’s prince. (Of course, the Moses of the biblical text looks much less Machiavellian.) Machiavelli’s critical approach to scripture, therefore, had a politicizing effect in creating an image of an ideal Machiavellian leader.

To reiterate, not every act of politicizing the Bible and its accompanying approach were identical. Still, the underlying aims and resulting methods of scriptural exegesis ultimately advanced secularization while progressively undermining faith in the scripture’s divine authority. And this was well underway before the emergence of modern science.

Readers most likely to benefit: Hahn and Wiker have produced a unique book that is essential reading for students in seminary and those entrusted with teaching scripture within a parish context (whether in homilies, catechesis/RCIA, or small group Bible studies). Those engaged in teaching scripture are likely to encounter the conclusions of historical-critical scholarship, perhaps even unknowingly, and these conclusions may undermine the faith development being sought. To summarize, Hahn and Wiker’s text provides the reader with an understanding of the assumptions that underlie some critical approaches to scripture and the history and context in which these assumptions emerged. This, in turn, assists the reader in judiciously assessing some modern biblical scholarship, rather than simply assuming it is the assured results of objective study.

Nathan Farrar is a Lay Dominican in the Province of Canada and is active in several ministries in the Archdiocese of Ottawa. He is currently pursuing a master’s degree in theology.

Exegetical Gems from Biblical Hebrew – H.H. II Hardy

Hardy, H.H. II. Exegetical Gems from Biblical Hebrew. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2019. 224 pages.

Reviewed by D. Malachi Walker.

Following in the footsteps of its Biblical Greek counterpart, Exegetical Gems from Biblical Hebrew is written to show that the fundamental connection between theology and the biblical texts is grounded in the grammatico-syntactic structures of Hebrew. Students of Hebrew can become disheartened by the massive amount of Hebrew morphology and grammar because the connection between abstract grammatical principles and theology is not always apparent (xiii).

While there is no dearth of beginning or advanced Hebrew grammars, Hardy tries to split the gap by using morphological and grammatical analyses together with more advanced concepts such as textual criticism and sequence of tenses. This is not done in an abstract way; rather, Hardy uses specific passages from all three sections of the Tanak (Torah, Nevi’im, and Ketuvim) to demonstrate the specific payoff in a study of grammar. Hardy aims for accessibility in readership and says that collegiate and seminary students, former Hebrew students, and professors will all benefit from his book (xv).

The division of each chapter is fourfold (xiv). First, there is an introduction. This amounts to a verse(s) in Hebrew followed by a statement explaining its relevance to some grammatical concept. This can include differing English translations or different ways of interpreting the Hebrew text. Chapter five provides Proverbs 31:1 as an example, along with two possible ways of interpreting the Hebrew (29). Second, there is an overview. This includes a review and explanation of the grammar being discussed in the chapter. Hardy uses chapter five to discuss the concept of definiteness in Hebrew, including the definite article; proper nouns; pronominal forms; construct states; and the relationship between predication and attribution (29–30). Third, there is an interpretation in light of the grammatical overview. This includes the elimination of possible but inaccurate readings of the text based in the grammar. Fourth, Hardy recommends further resources related to the concepts involved in the chapter.

Hardy’s book has some clear strengths. Exegetical Gems helps the reader understand the importance of detailed grammatical analysis. Because this book is not aimed at first-year students, Hardy’s analyses remain flexible enough to cover broader issues in the text rather than just morphology. For instance, Hardy discusses the semantics of Genesis 29:17 with respect to Leah’s poor eyesight (chapter 3), but goes further in connecting it to its larger context: the description of Rachel as beautiful and the theme of poor eyesight found in Genesis 13–20. The goal of breadth extends both in terms of texts and themes as well as grammatical and linguistic analysis. During the course of the book, Hardy discusses: the difference in English translations; different textual critical analyses; morphology; syntax; semantics; pragmatics; sequence of tenses; and much more.

The strength of Hardy’s book also gives rise to its weakness. Such a massive span of topics prevents a thoroughgoing treatment of many of them. The depth each topic receives can also vary significantly. A second-year Hebrew student would be bored by the review of the presence of matres lectionis found in Hebrew (something covered in the first semester study of Hebrew). Other topics would usually be beyond the scope of a typical second year Hebrew class, such as Hardy’s detailed examination of the sequence of tenses as related to the volitive (verb conjugations receive eight chapters worth of treatment). However, these weaknesses by no means preclude its capacity to be a useful resource to many.

H.H. Hardy II received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 2014. He teaches at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina and is the author of numerous publications. While some of his interpretations and his method of arranging the material of each text are open for debate (a fact which he acknowledges), the weaknesses are more than made up for by reaffirming the connection between grammar, meaning, and theology in specific ways according to the text.

This would make an excellent resource for those in need of a refresher on grammar, whether for those who just finished their grammar cycle or those who are long removed from Hebrew classes. For a typical first-year student, this book may be less relevant, but a useful resource nonetheless. There is no one group of people to whom this book will appeal in its entirety. However, many will appreciate much found within this book.

D. Malachi Walker was born and raised in Nashville, TN. He received his Bachelor of Arts from the Pontifical College Josephinum and is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in the Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Studies at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

To Call On His Name – John Gill

Gill, John. To Call On His Name: Perspectives on the Jesus Prayer. Durham, England: Sacristy Press, 2019. 148 pages.

Reviewed by Lawrence Montz.

Mr. John F. Gill is an ordained deacon in the Melkite Catholic Eparchy of Australia and New Zealand, where he serves at the parish of St Peter and Paul at Hampton Park, Melbourne. He is also a professional psychiatrist. Mr. Gill’s interest in spirituality and meditation led to his experimentation with a variety of meditation practices and to participate in a study program of Hindu and Buddhist texts in the Sanskrit language. These studies have provided him with a well-grounded understanding of the both Eastern and Western meditative practices and beliefs and provided him the intellectual and spiritual background to author this book that not only explains the Jesus Prayer but the observances of many other traditions.

He “discovered” the Jesus Prayer, which drew him to a Byzantine Rite in full communion with the Catholic Church. To Call On His Name is not only an exposition of the famous Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner,” but a well-rounded synopsis of the ancient Christian mystical prayer and those of the Far East. John Gill develops comparisons of the Jesus Prayer with other methods, not so much in an attempt to extol the Jesus Prayer but rather to give the reader a broader understanding of mysticism. While thorough, it is still more of a beginner’s guide that should appeal to readers of different traditions and levels of spirituality.

In order to gain a better knowledge of the teachings of the Eastern Fathers, a clearer understanding of the tradition of hesychasm in which the Jesus Prayer is practiced is important. In the Eastern Church it reflects a type of life in which the practitioners seek divine quietness or inner silence through the contemplation of God. It takes its name from the Greek word “hesychia”, stillness or silence. It does not connote a desire for the absence of noise but to be filled with the divine presence.

Comparisons are not always straightforward when assessing different traditions in their various understandings of the words meditation and contemplation. Mr. Gill typically uses the term meditation to mean methods used to produce a heighten mental state of awareness and attention. Contemplation, in his view, is prayer that leads to inner silence and is typified by the occurrence of the mystical gifts bestowed on us by God that are not attainable by human efforts — in essence, infused by God.

Several chapters in the book briefly address the thoughts and teachings of numerous Eastern and Western spiritual thinkers both ancient and modern. As such this book that is ostensibly about the Jesus Prayer is in actuality a great resource for anyone interested in meditation and contemplation. The ideas and teachings from Mount Athos in the East to Benedict and Ignatius in the West are covered. Hinduism and mantras are not overlooked, but the similarities and differences with Christian thinking are highlighted. More modern spiritual thinkers experienced in both Christian and Hindu spirituality — such as Fr. Anthony de Mello and John Main, who tried to combine the perceived best in both traditions — are also touched upon. It is for the reader to study and pray over the nuances of the writings of a myriad holy men and women.

The Jesus Prayer is not a mere method to be practiced in isolation but a pilgrimage into a personal relationship with Jesus that should be reflected in how we live and relate to our communities to evidence real growth. While To Call On His Name has a devotional aspect, it is more of an attempt to relate the Prayer to other forms of Christian devotions. The Jesus Prayer itself is very flexible. Simply repeating the Lord’s name can encompass the entire prayer because it reflects the basic understanding that God saves.

It is typically practiced in two ways. At times informally throughout the day or by reciting it during set periods, typically in the mornings or evenings. The Jesus Prayer is inherently Trinitarian in nature as by invoking the Son we reflect the Father. While not named, it is the Holy Spirit that empowers us to proclaim that “Jesus is Lord.” It is an unpretentious devotion that can be woven into the fabric of our lives to help us pray continuously. It is a prayer with deep scriptural significance, not a magical formula to influence God. If practiced with genuineness and in the sprit or contriteness, it can help us become open to God’s presence within us.

Despite its unpretentiousness, the Jesus Prayer is rich in meaning because it is a path which can lead us into the presence of Christ. It has been compared to a verbal icon that can guide us to Jesus, not by flights of imagination but by invoking the Holy Name with attention as a means to acquiring a more heighten awareness of God. It should never be prayed mindlessly like a mantra but as personal relationship with the Creator against whom we have sinned and seek forgiveness, never prayed as an “I-Thou” type of invocation but a horizontal appeal as part of His family. Concentration and perseverance are hallmarks of an “effective” prayer. Ultimately drawing closer to God is not based upon any method, but a free gift of God. It is He that calls us to prayer in every circumstance out of His great love for us. Prayer is not about our effort but His inspiration. We are shown that the Jesus Prayer stands the test of time as a way for both the hermit and the ordinary Christian to improve their relationship with the transcendent God.

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

Humility of Heart – Fr. Cajetan Mary da Bergamo

Da Bergamo, Fr. Cajetan Mary, trans. Herbert Cardinal Vaughan. Humility of Heart. Gastonia, NC: TAN Books, 2013. 234 pages.

Reviewed by Mark McCann.

In an age where the world appears to have gone too far to save, where traditional Catholic teachings have been trashed in favor of moral relativism, misguided ideology, and identity politics, the Christian call to practice virtue in our pursuit of heaven has never been more important and yet more difficult to follow. Fortunately, we have in Humility of Heart, by Fr. Cajetan Mary da Bergamo, a powerful tool for reclaiming what it means to follow Christ our humble Savior, the One who left the mansions of heaven for the humiliation of the cross.

The beauty in this collection of teachings is that it focuses not on performing acts of charity, developing faith, or finding hope, but in cultivating the virtue without which we cannot enter heaven — humility. Again and again, through a beautifully methodical walk through the theology and practice of humility, we are challenged to come to terms with what it means to know ourselves in relation to the ruler of the universe. By walking the road of humility, we come to see ourselves as we are: sinful and unsaved without Christ, and yet wonderfully made in his image and called to follow the way of the cross.

The book begins with “Thoughts and Sentiments on Humility” — presenting, in simple terms, the theological truth of what humility is. And yet, understanding this great work is anything but simple. This book presents a very real challenge for us, a challenge to examine our lives and our motives for living. To understand humility is to understand truth, to learn how utterly powerless we are without Christ. It calls us to come to terms with the sin of pride, which is the root of every sin from the days of Adam and Eve right through to these present turbulent times. For those of us willing to immerse ourselves in the wisdom of these holy words, we can experience a transformation from wretched sinner to worthy saint.

The remainder of the book shares the ways in which we can live out this virtue in relation to God, our neighbors, and ourselves, understanding how all our Catholic doctrines flow from the humility that our Lord displayed in taking on flesh and living as a perfect servant for our salvation. As we meditate on these words, we continually move from the state of self-centered love to perfect, sacrificial surrender; for practicing the virtue of humility shows us our true worth only in the shadow of Calvary.

Bergamo constantly brings us back to the giants of the faith, particularly Saints Augustine and Aquinas, and continually quotes from the Scriptures to show how humility is woven into the very fabric of our salvation story. Even though he writes in the 1700s, his book is a timeless message that reaches across the ages to our modern era, crashing into our spiritual lives with truth that overwhelms us like a wave pounding against our selfish shore of safety, wearing away the hardness of our hearts one grain of sand at a time. It is a treasure meant to be read over and over as its nuggets of divine grace change us into the men and women our perfect, humble Savior calls us to be.

Perhaps the most beautiful aspect of this work is that the English version we have was translated from the original Italian by Herbert Cardinal Vaughan, a man who carried this little book of wisdom with him for a lifetime, devoting his closing years to creating the work as we have it today. His effort is a powerful testimony to the way in which his life was transformed by a careful study of humility, fueling his deep desire to pass on this wisdom to future generations. We cannot help but feel his touch in the way he has set the original language into words we can understand and relate to our modern lives. His precious gift calls us, in a real sense, to make our own “translation” of these words by how we manifest their beauty in our own lives in the way we understand and live out the truths they contain.

For those of us who are truly looking for a way to see beyond the insanity of our current troubled times, Humility of Heart will open our eyes to the glory of Christ’s perfect love and the splendor of moving from pride to pardon and selfishness to surrender. With each moment spent contemplating these thoughtful and challenging words, we will make the journey from sadness and separation to sacrifice and solemnity, for it is in humility that we divest ourselves of all that is haughty and discover the wonder of all we can become in Christ.

Mark McCann is an author and ministry consultant in Connecticut.

The Fire Trail – Christine Sunderland

Sunderland, Christine. The Fire Trail. Little Elm, TX: eLectio Publishing, 2016. 268 pages.

Reviewed by Francis Etheredge.

The book opens with Jessica on a beautiful walk called The Fire Trail, when she hears a woman scream and then is seen by the man who has committed a brutal crime. This event overhangs the whole story until, at the end, it is resolved; and, therefore, one has the impression that this is almost a symbol of our cultural climate and our need for God: revealing both a definite fragility to human life and, at the same time, a resilience which comes from the Christian faith.

Within this structure of suspense lies the beginnings of courtship between Jessica and Zachary, two PhD students whose research informs the whole book: being about love and friendship and the religious foundations of learning in Berkeley and beyond. The story engaged me from the beginning. It does not dwell on tragedy yet it is there, like an unpredictable infection, bursting out in different places and eventually touches, very closely, the living present of the main characters of the story. Indeed, the author traces a fine line between sketching the ways that women intensify their vulnerability to abuse without, exactly, either blaming them for what happens or excusing the men who assault them.

The author, an Anglican, has a definite affinity with Catholicism and at the same time a very positive grasp of a variety of Christian denominations and their contributions to culture. Her work is a rich combination of historical research and fictional characters. I was particularly impressed with the five Irish Catholic nuns whose journey entailed that they “sailed from Kingstown (today Cobh [on the South Coast of Ireland]) to Liverpool to New York, then to Panama. They rode mules across the Isthmus, through mud and high rivers, following rocky trails along precipices, forging their way through dense tropical forests. They sailed up the coast . . . and arrived in cold and damp San Francisco on Monday, November 13, 1854.”

This contact with Irish history proved to be a good starting, talking point between my wife and me, which, incidentally, allows the book to do what the author advances as a main contribution to marriage: to stimulate good conversation. Additionally, these intrepid Irish nuns, who struck out on a tremendous adventure, suggest that a modern mentality of “blaming the Church” for the underdevelopment of women may yet be a thesis to be challenged!

While the book was close to arguing that wives need to match their well-shaped husbands, that special diets and exercise are almost “mantric” elements of social life and that the references to the tragic outrages of terrorism suggest a cultural need to be more informed about Muslims who are sympathetic to other ways of life, it may be that these are a part of the “times” in which a well-observed novel is set and indicates, as with any contemporary “moment” in time, that there is always more going on than can be fully explored at any one time.

All in all, as I say, a stimulating and engaging read.

Francis Etheredge is a Catholic husband; father of 11, 3 of whom he hopes are in heaven; and author of 11 books on Amazon, with more due in 2022: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Books-Francis-Etheredge/s?rh=n%3A266239%2Cp_27%3AFrancis+Etheredge.

The Survival of Dulles – Michael M. Canaris

Canaris, Michael M., ed. The Survival of Dulles: Reflections on a Second Century of Influence. New York: Fordham University Press, 2021. 176 pp.

Reviewed by Clara Sarrocco.

Michael Canaris has compiled the reminiscences of a number of Avery Cardinal Dulles’s friends, colleagues, and students. Each essay tells of an encounter with the famous and brilliant Catholic theologian, philosopher and prominent convert to the Catholic Church. Their recollections originated from a celebration of Cardinal Dulles’s 100th birthday, and together form a moving encomium to him.

The first essay is Anne-Marie Kirmse, O.P.’s “Avery Dulles’s Journey of Faith (A Lifelong Adventure),” recalling her twenty years as Cardinal Dulles’s assistant while he was a professor at Fordham University. Kirmse focuses on how Avery Dulles contracted polio while in the United States Navy, and how it returned in his last years with a vengeance, leaving him totally paralyzed. Sister Anne-Marie describes beautifully how she lovingly aided him by being able to read his signals and then typing them on a computer for him.

The second essay comes from a fellow Jesuit, Patrick J. Ryan, S.J. In his essay, “He knew the One Whom he loved,” Father Ryan recounts Cardinal Dulles’s education and study as a Jesuit in the seminary and his various university degrees. Cardinal Dulles entered the Catholic Church in his first semester in Harvard Law School. In 1946 he began his studies as a Jesuit novice. For fourteen years Cardinal Dulles taught at the Catholic University of America and then twenty more years as the Laurence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society at Fordham University. His last McGinley lecture at Fordham had to be read by someone else because his voice had been silenced by the recurrence of polio.

“Avery Dulles, Theology, and the Twentieth Century” by Joseph F. Lienhard, S.J., examines Cardinal Dulles’s contribution to twentieth century theological studies. Father Lienhard notes that Dulles was educated in the last phase of the pre-Vatican II theological milieu. The worldwide social unrest quickly expressed itself in religious life. His response to the turmoil was to propose “models in theology.” In his classic Models of the Church, Dulles “. . . acknowledge[d] theological pluralism while hoping to illuminate and overcome conflicts, acknowledging that full agreement or conformity was unattainable and perhaps undesirable.” However, Dulles’s principles always remained constant as in his motto for his coat of arms “Scio cui credidi” — “I know in whom I have believed” (2 Tim 1:12).

Father Peter C. Phan’s contributing essay, “Imaging the Church in the Age of Migration,” is a reflection of his own background as a native of Vietnam emigrating to the United States as a refugee. Father Phan then recounts the long history of migration and its relationship to the Church. Clearly this is a topic of much concern to him. Whether it would have been so for Cardinal Dulles is open to speculation. Sister Elizabeth Johnson, C.S. J. chose “Fluency of Interpretation: A Key to Avery Dulles’s Practice of Theology,” an explanation of Cardinal Dulles’s 1969 lecture at John Carroll University. She then presents the six principles that Dulles reported for proper interpretation of established doctrine. She notes his “deep sense of social change.” Like Newman in his understanding of authentic theological development, Sr. Johnson obviously avers that this Dulles lecture, given thirty-nine years before his death, will prove to be a lasting legacy in the Church. Bishop James Massa, in “Mutual Enrichment: A Remembrance of Avery Dulles,” focuses on their relationship of student to teacher, evidencing gratitude to Dulles for his help, insights and openness.

A one-time graduate assistant to Cardinal Dulles, H. Ashley Hall, submitted his essay on “Avery Dulles on Luther and Lutheranism.” He analyzes Dulles’s writings on Luther and Lutheranism in what articles are available. Despite the lack of availability on the subject, Hall believes Dulles’s insights provide substantial contribution to the Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogue. Terrence W. Tilley, emeritus chair of Theology at Fordham University, contributed an essay on “Divine Revelation, Academic Freedom and the Catholic University – A Proposal after Avery Dulles.” With regard to academic freedom, Tilley believes that in the United States academic freedom is usually associated with the ideas of AAUP (American Association of University Professors). In the final explanation, Tilley comments on Revelation and its place in the academic freedom argument in a Catholic university, and its association with Dulles. It is to Dulles that he attributes the harmony between academic freedom and the study of revelation in a Catholic university.

“Hope and Despair in Today’s World – Avery Dulles and Filipino Youth” by Stephanie Y. Puen begins with the unhappiness and despair of today’s youth. Since Puen is Filipino of Chinese extraction, she focuses on the youth of the Philippines. She sees that hope for these disenchanted youths will come from Cardinal Dulles’s writings. The challenge in this regard still remains the translating of Dulles’s work into a religiously plural context. Mary Beth Yount’s essay, “The Undomesticated Church – Inspiration and the Mission of the Family,” states that Avery Dulles is the perfect partner in examining membership in a family and membership in a church. It is Dulles’s models of the church that help shed light on individuals as members of both family and Church.

Katherine G. Schmidt, a self-described “digital theologian,” contributed “The Church and the Digital.” She recognizes that Cardinal Dulles died before the explosion of the digital age, but because of his astute insights into the relationship between the Church and the modern world, his vision would be important in the digital culture, especially in the American Catholic Church. She claims the media is not in competition with the family. Dulles’s dedication to evangelization would lead him to appreciate the importance of digital life for the Church in the modern world.

Continuing on the theme of evangelization, Vincent I. Strand, S.J. contributes “Evangelization in the Theology of Avery Dulles.” Father Strand notes that Cardinal Dulles had become “sort of an itinerant preacher” for evangelization because he did not consider it just a pious hobby. In the tradition of Cardinal Dulles’s love of discourse, Father Strand ends his essay with a criticism of the Cardinal’s evangelical Catholic theology. He notes that Dulles rarely makes reference to liturgy as an instrument of evangelization, saying that he has a tendency to over-emphasize the new forms of Catholicism over the past, and finally that Dulles’s emphasis on the “new” evangelization borders on an idea of a “new” Catholicism.

The final full-length essay is by Michael M Canaris. In “Retrospective Vir Probatus” it is evident that Canaris has a deep love and respect for Cardinal Dulles. He considers him not only a teacher but a mentor. It is the sufferings of Dulles’s last days that Canaris notes truly were the mark of the man. Fr. Michael C. McCatthy, S.J. closes the book with his Afterword: “The Good Faith of Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J.” He writes: “In a world where there are too few public examples of bona fides . . . let us hope that in studying his work we are not only learning about his theology but also carrying forth his deeper legacy.”

From reading all these contributions honoring Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., it becomes apparent that his appeal was not only Catholic in the particular sense but also catholic in the universal sense. Like Paul, in many ways, he was all things to all people. It illustrates the Cardinal’s prodigious knowledge and influence on the Catholic Church and Christian thinking in general.

Canaris notes in his Acknowledgments that the essays were part of the centenary celebrations of Dulles’s birth. He writes of the “conference and book.” It would have been helpful if there had been a Foreword explaining if the contributions were lectures given at a conference or essays submitted by the authors, or both. Since Cardinal Dulles’s contacts were so far-reaching for so many years, one wonders what criteria was used to invite these particular contributors. These criticisms notwithstanding, this work is a fitting tribute honoring the Cardinal’s obvious influence which continues to reach far and wide, and this alone might indicate the possibility of another book in the future.

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