Book Reviews – October 2022

Touched by Christ: The Sacramental Economy. By Lawrence Feingold. Reviewed by Mark McCann. (skip to review)

Transubstantiation: Theology, History, and Christian Unity. By Brett Salkeld. Reviewed by Dan Sherven. (skip to review)

Justice and Charity: An Introduction to Aquinas’s Moral, Economic, and Political Thought. By Michael P. Krom. Reviewed by Augustine Culligan, O.P. (skip to review)

Stories in Light: A Guide to the Stained Glass of the Basilica at the University of Notre Dame. By Nancy Cavadini and Cecilia Davis Cunningham. Reviewed by Christopher Siuzdak. (skip to review)

#Rules of Engagement: 8 Christian Habits for Being Good and Doing Good Online. By Ann M. Garrido. Reviewed by Lawrence Montz. (skip to review)

Newman: A Human Harp of Many Chords. By Peter Conley. Reviewed by Fr. Juan Vélez. (skip to review)

Touched by Christ – Lawrence Feingold

Feingold, Lawrence. Touched By Christ: The Sacramental Economy. Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Academic Press, 2021. 848 pages.

Reviewed by Mark McCann.

One of the more troubling aspects of our modern Catholic age is the reality that many in the Church have no real grasp of the sacraments and the beautiful way they connect us to the salvation we have in Jesus Christ. What a blessing it is then that we have Lawrence Feingold’s exceptional and comprehensive work, Touched by Christ: The Sacramental Economy. This book brilliantly lays out the Church’s understanding of the sacraments from a biblical, historical, and theological perspective and makes it accessible to both the clergy and the everyday people in the pew.

The result of years of research and teaching, this text is most aptly suited for those entering the seminary who wish to dive deeper into the treasury of knowledge on the sacraments. Feingold unfolds a plan for teaching that is a methodical, practical, and spiritual deep dive into what it means to be part of the sacramental economy. He divides his work into five parts, taking the reader step by step along the journey of understanding and application. Those who undertake this journey must commit themselves to the rigor and challenge that this study entails if they are to glean the beautiful truths contained within these pages and share them with the Church at large that so desperately needs to connect with the sacraments once more.

Part I serves as an introduction, though it might be better to label this section an exhaustive overview of the nature of the sacraments in relation to the incarnation and the outpouring of the grace of God in the sacramental life of the Church. Here we see how all of salvation history has led to the coming of Christ in the flesh and the giving of these great signs for our salvation, signs which connect the elements of this earth with the invisible realms of heaven. Feingold shows us the necessity of the sacraments, their unfolding within the story of our redemption, the beautiful harmony they reveal in one another, and the ways in which the life of Christ has revealed the sacraments as the means of grace for the Church he formed.

Part II looks at the outward sacramental sign — the matter and form of the sacraments — and explains why these earthly signs are crucial to imparting the graces that the sacraments offer to the Church. The physical aspects, the gestures, and the spoken words, as well as the intention of the minister of the sacrament and the mind and heart of the receiver, are all part of the glorious manner in which the Savior touches the children of God and leads them into the Kingdom through the grace we receive through the sacraments.

Part III treats the effects of the sacraments by examining the sacramental character through the Church’s development of its understanding of res et sacramentum, the levels of sign and the reality of grace, with the third level being where grace remains after the outward sign has ceased. Feingold takes great care to thoroughly explain the nature of the grace the sacraments confer, as well as the gifts of virtue, fellowship, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that we receive through them. He treats not only sanctifying grace, but the particular and habitual graces that we receive from each sacrament over the course of our lives.

Part IV deals with the causality of the sacraments, that is, the way in which these sensible signs impart supernatural graces and allow us to share in the divine life of Christ. Here, Feingold masterfully takes us through the history of the Church with regard to the sacraments, from the early Church fathers, to St. Thomas Aquinas, and right into the time of the Reformation. Through his in-depth and complex treatment of the topic, we see the power of God and the privilege we experience in this beautiful divine plan which draws us into the supernatural life of Christ through the sacraments.

Part V examines how the grace of the sacraments of the New Covenant can be received through our desire for them, even though one has not actually received them. This difficult topic is developed from the perspective of the sacramental rites of the Old Covenant as it gives way to the New. The way in which Feingold moves through this section, drawing wisdom from the giants of the Church, presents a truly comprehensive study, while at the same time making such a challenging subject more easily understood.

Finally, Feingold offers his conclusions, which not only serve to summarize his ideas, but offer teaching on fostering a sacramental spirituality. Here we connect in a more intimate way to the Trinity, the Eucharistic focus of the sacraments of initiation, and Mary as the model of living the purity of a sacramental life.

This book will certainly challenge the reader to move beyond a Sunday school catechism understanding of the sacraments, and call the clergy to make a more profound commitment to living out and sharing a deeper sacramental life within the Church. It is truly a resource the Church needs if she is to survive and thrive in this postmodern age of moral relativism and spiritual apathy as she brings the beautiful truths of the sacraments into a new era of spiritual revival, renewed purpose, and meaningful growth.

Mark C. McCann is an author and ministry consultant with more than 30 years’ experience in ministry to children, youth, and families, having worked in schools, diocesan offices, and Christian radio. He currently lives in Connecticut with his wife and three children.

Transubstantiation – Brett Salkeld

Salkeld, Brett. Transubstantiation: Theology, History, and Christian Unity. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2019. 256 pages.

Reviewed by Dan Sherven.

Transubstantiation: Theology, History, and Christian Unity by Dr. Brett Salkeld is a masterclass in Eucharistic theology.

The book was originally Dr. Salkeld’s dissertation, but now he’s revamped it to appeal to a broader audience. However, the book is not diluted at all. Rather, it is richly dense with research, commentary, and brilliant insight into ecumenical debate centered on Eucharistic presence.

Dr. Salkeld is archdiocesan theologian for the Archdiocese of Regina, in Saskatchewan, Canada. And he takes care throughout Transubstantiation to ensure he shares his knowledge about Eucharistic theology not only with clergy, but with people in the pews who are willing to take the journey.

His central argument, woven throughout the book, is that most of the debate about Eucharistic presence between Catholics and Protestants is due to a misunderstanding of language rather than an actual disagreement.

He’s appeared on many podcasts in support of his book, and in one of them he jokes about how he is allergic to misunderstandings between people, especially when they are talking past one another. Salkeld uses this allergy to his advantage all throughout the book to further ecumenical dialogue around the Eucharist.

In particular, the main point of his argument revolves around the definition of “substance.” Salkeld argues that when Saint Thomas Aquinas writes about the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the substance of Christ in the Eucharist, the word substance has a very different meaning than what it comes to mean by the time of the Reformation.

Rather than substance referring to a more material quality, as modern people think in the scientific and materialist age, for Aquinas, substance refers to the ultimate nature present in the “accident” of the bread.

The word accident can be explained as the physical manifestation, where the substance is able to exist — but it could have been a different physical object, which is why it is an accident. Still, there must be a material source, a body or accident, for the Spirit or substance to exist in, when speaking of the Eucharist.

So as Transubstantiation argues, Aquinas is not making the claim that the material reality of the bread changes. Instead, he is simply stating that the primary quality of the Eucharistic bread changes as Christ enters into it, once the priest consecrates the host. This is where much of the disagreement between Catholics and Protestants begins in terms of Eucharistic presence.

Once the Reformation arrives — and Salkeld traces this development through Reformers such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, and the internal Protestant disagreements with Ulrich Zwingli — substance comes to have the meaning people often attribute to it now: that there is some kind of physical change in the accident of the bread which we could observe with a microscope.

As Salkeld notes, if we take the meaning of substance to mean how it is often used in a forensic sense — then Aquinas would rightly agree with Protestant Reformers that there is no change of substance within the bread itself, because there is no physical change.

However, as stated, that is not what Aquinas has in mind at all when he writes substance. Aquinas is drawing on an Aristotelian definition of substance, where substance is the essential essence present in the accident. Substance is the presence of God in the Eucharist, in a manner which physical science is unable to observe, capture, or convey at all.

In other words, substance is a change in the meaning of the Eucharistic bread, not in the physical bread itself. It is a symbolic change which points to something real, something real in the sense of metaphysics and not in the sense of biology. It is a greater change than a physical change.

So for Aquinas, substance is the most real attribute of something. But for modern people, and for the Reformers, substance means something real in terms of the physical sciences. The definition of substance simply changed over the centuries into how people define it now. It is a brilliant insight on the part of Salkeld, and something which can strongly help with ecumenical dialogue.

Humorously, Salkeld notes on a podcast that often both Catholics and Protestants do not fully understand their own beliefs around Eucharistic presence. But they do know that whatever the other side is saying cannot be right.

Transubstantiation makes a strong theological case that Catholics and Protestants may not be that far off in terms of Eucharistic presence. Because despite the accidents of language over the centuries, there seems to be some agreement about the substance of the matter.

Dan Sherven is the author of three books: Light and Dark, Classified: Off the Beat ’N Path, and Live to the Point of Tears.

Justice and Charity – Michael P. Krom

Krom, Michael P. Justice and Charity: An Introduction to Aquinas’s Moral, Economic, and Political Thought. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2020. 223 pages.

Reviewed by Augustine Culligan, O.P.

Michael P. Krom provides an evaluation of many contentious positions affirmed by Catholic social thought (CST) regarding human sexuality and reproduction, economic value and labor, social rights and freedom. Drawing from his experience as a professor of Thomistic Philosophy at St. Vincent College, Krom first establishes the context for this evaluation by presenting the moral, economic, and political thought of Aquinas. In order to do this, he elucidates succinctly those questions of the Summa Theologiae — as well as the other relevant works of Aquinas — that are pertinent to this project, followed by an explanation of the relationship that exists between the questions and  the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Throughout the book, Krom, a Byzantine Catholic theologian, strives to “think with the Church” by first affirming the official teachings of the Catholic Church and then explaining them in light of Aquinas’s thought. Furthermore, he begins each chapter with two quotations from Scripture, and each subsection contains a listing of the important background readings from either Aquinas or the Compendium.

Krom describes the structure of his book clearly: “St. Thomas Aquinas follows the Aristotelian tradition of dividing practical philosophy [ . . . ] into (1) moral philosophy, (2) economics, and (3) political philosophy. In addition, he distinguishes between the truths we can know via reason (philosophy) and those we can know via revelation (theology)” (p. xiii). The book consists of six chapters (each of which follow these distinctions) and a final chapter which applies Aquinas’s thought to contemporary challenges to CST. Krom summarizes the first six chapters:

“We have just completed an introductory tour of Aquinas’s moral, economic, and political theory, showing that on his account our natural desire for happiness directs us to (1) cultivate the cardinal virtue of justice in our souls, (2) engage in economic transactions such that we value objects in light of what we owe to one another as persons, and (3) work together as members of families, communities, and political bodies in pursuit of the common good. This philosophical focus on justice must be completed by the theological recognition that charity builds upon and perfects this earthly justice, such that by the life of grace we can (1) achieve the perfect happiness for which we long, (2) value earthly goods in terms of how they contribute to reaching our heavenly home, and (3) subordinate the common good of the political community to the transcendent good of the Body of Christ” (p. 177).

There is a clear pedagogical structure throughout the book whereby each chapter builds upon the previous one, and there is an “Introduction” section at the beginning of each chapter which outlines the subsequent material. Conscious that he has addressed his book to developing scholars, Krom employs a number of familiar examples, such as throwing a frisbee or buying a Dodge Omni, to concretize some of Aquinas’s recondite ideas. Furthermore, there are helpful footnotes throughout the book that provide greater clarity as well as direction to more specialized resources. Krom strives to remain neutral in his presentation of Aquinas by presenting diverging interpretations of Aquinas’s thought, as well as by indicating when he is asserting his own interpretive claims.

Certain challenges are bound to accompany a book purposefully designed as an introductory volume to its subject. For example, Krom does not present a comprehensive treatment of the moral philosophies contrasting with that of Aquinas, nor does he engage other contemporary thinkers regarding controversial economic and political issues. Consequently, readers inclined toward Aquinas’s perspective will be left more satisfied with this book than those rooted in another school of thought. This limitation is most evident in the final chapter. Here Krom provides an application of Aquinas’s thought in order to present a clear justification for the positions of CST, but he does not address arguments in support of the alternative perspectives. Perhaps addressing the opposing views adequately would require more pages than an introductory volume would allow.

Despite this limitation, this book will appeal to a wide-ranging readership. By explaining the basic tenets of Aquinas’s moral, economic, and political thought, Krom offers support for the often challenged positions of Catholic social teaching through an application of Aquinas’s wisdom to contemporary issues. The readers of Justice and Charity: An Introduction to Aquinas’s Moral, Economic, and Political Thought will benefit from a greater familiarity with Aquinas’s writings, and they are given an instruction on Aquinas’s thought as it relates to contemporary issues.

Augustine Culligan, O.P. is a Dominican friar of the Province of St. Albert the Great. He is a student brother currently in formation for priestly ministry.

Stories in Light – Nancy Cavadini and Cecilia Davis Cunningham

Cavadini, Nancy and Cecilia Davis Cunningham. Stories in Light: A Guide to the Stained Glass of the Basilica at the University of Notre Dame. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2020. 220 pages.

Reviewed by Christopher Siuzdak.

The translucent tapestries that adorn the gothic revival church located at the center of the University of Notre Dame’s campus constitute “one of the largest collections of late nineteenth-century French stained glass outside of France” (1). Crafted at glassworks founded by cloistered Carmelite nuns in Le Mans and transported some four thousand miles across the Atlantic Ocean to what was then missionary territory, the forty-four stained-glass windows mounted throughout the Basilica of the Sacred Heart’s narthex, nave, transept, sanctuary, radiating oratories, and apsidal oratories continue to glorify God and edify the faithful. Unlocking the symbolism in these resplendent works of sacred art is, arguably, more difficult in the present age due to widespread theological illiteracy, anesthetized spiritual receptivity, and the break-neck pace of life that prevents people from fully appreciating what they encounter. Written in the format of a guidebook with full-color photographs accompanied by erudite historical and theological commentary, this informative resource promotes greater cultural literacy, art appreciation, and religious understanding.

In the apostolic letter commemorating the sixteen hundredth anniversary of Saint Jerome’s passage from earthly existence to eternal life (Scripturae Sacrae Affectus, 2020), Pope Francis poignantly reflects:

One of the problems we face today, not only in religion, is illiteracy: the hermeneutic skills that make us credible interpreters and translators of our own cultural tradition are in short supply. I would like to pose a challenge to young people in particular: begin exploring your heritage. Christianity makes you heirs of an unsurpassed cultural patrimony of which you must take ownership. Be passionate about this history which is yours.

The Holy Father’s call to delve more deeply into one’s cultural inheritance — not only as a recipient but also as a protagonist — is answered aptly by the authors, an art historian and a theologian. The authors offer a concise biographical sketch and explain the artistic attributes of saints spanning the centuries who are depicted in the Basilica’s stained-glass windows. Readers learn, for example, that the virgin-martyr Ursula is a patron saint of education and is depicted wearing hints of academic regalia because she served as patroness of great medieval universities (23). The authors, moreover, effectively explain subtle artistic details and biblical allusions present in numerous features. For instance, readers learn that the keys Saint Peter is traditionally depicted as holding symbolize apostolic authority and appear in different colors — namely, one silver and one gold — in order to “represent the dual nature of the kingdom, of both heaven and earth (Matt. 16: 13-20)” (128).

In a homily preached at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City on April 19, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI memorably used stained-glass windows as a metaphor for the life of faith. The Holy Father stated:

From the outside, those windows are dark, heavy, even dreary. But once one enters the church, they suddenly come alive; reflecting the light passing through them, they reveal all their splendor. Many writers — here in America we can think of Nathaniel Hawthorne — have used the image of stained glass to illustrate the mystery of the Church herself. It is only from the inside, from the experience of faith and ecclesial life, that we see the Church as she truly is: flooded with grace, resplendent in beauty, adorned by the manifold gifts of the Spirit. It follows that we, who live the life of grace within the Church’s communion, are called to draw all people into this mystery of light.

Indeed, the dazzling display of colors that becomes perceptible once one begins to enter inside is meant to convey supernatural truths of salvation history and awaken religious devotion. The authors of this work successfully enter into the “mind’s eye” of the Basilica’s founding generation and assist present-day readers to have an “insider’s view” of that vibrant French-flavored spirituality. As readers will come to see clearly, the rich aesthetic experience offered by over two hundred and twenty shimmering scenes is meant to “provide a visual statement about who God is and where God is to be found in the world” (12).

This easy-to-read art history book is a model worthy of emulation at other Catholic universities, basilicas, cathedrals, and artistically significant parish churches so that their richness can be more fully unpacked and relished. Not only does this book offer an initiation into Western Christianity and the material civilization to which it gave rise, it also unassumingly serves as an instrument of evangelization. It is recommended for pilgrims or visitors to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Indiana, viewers of liturgies broadcast from the Basilica, alumni of the University of Notre Dame, and art historians interested in nineteenth-century art or Catholic iconography in general.

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

#Rules of Engagement – Ann M. Garrido

Garrido, Ann M. #Rules of Engagement: 8 Christian Habits for Being Good and Doing Good Online. Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 2021. 128 pages.

Reviewed by Lawrence Montz.

Perhaps as much as we may wish social media would not have such an influence on our culture, we cannot avoid change and need to better recognize its benefits and how a Christian should respond. Ms. Garrido is an associate professor of homiletics at Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, Missouri. In addition to having written many books, she has served as senior editor of Human Development Magazine. Ann Garrido has written a concise handbook on our responsibilities, in fact, the title, #Rules of Engagement: 8 Christian Habits for Being Good and Doing Good Online, refers not only to her book but a movement she began to address the nature of societies’ exchanges with modern ways of communal interchanges that are often needlessly so impersonal.

Each of the eight habits discussed were influenced by papal statements from various World Communications Days and are not merely the suggestions of an academic. How we should act and react are fundamental Christian ideals and not simply counsels for improving our communication skills, as important as that goal may be. The first questions we should ask ourselves if we use modern social media platforms are “What are we doing?” and “Why are we doing it?”

We desire to stay connected with those close to us as well as more distant associates. We long to develop sound relationships with others to build our communities. Pope Benedict XVI wrote of this call that God makes that it is a cry “imprinted in our nature as beings created in the image and likeness of God.” Using social media in a proper Christian fashion invites us to respond out of love, not to only ignore or block inherently inaccurate sentiments or outright attacks. Judgment needs to be used to differentiate from a proper response or with a blocking command.

The eight recommended habits are exemplified within the engagement pledge that social media users are asked to take. Pledgers are encouraged to be aware of what they are doing and what their Christian responsibilities are to build community. Checking sources used and their veracity before sharing or posting. Recognizing our own personal biases and how those might impact our views. Always remembering that there is a real person on the receiving end of a post. Trying to understand the other’s viewpoint so that we learn and grow. Avoid posting intentionally inflammatory comments by trying to understand both what our intentions may be and how they might be perceived by the “other.” Using social media to create relationships and not to squander time. Becoming cautious that we are not wasting time by controlling compulsive behavior or bad habits of use.

The rules of engagement are presented in the form of exercises to help us better understand what we are doing and why we desire to do it. However, we cannot overlook our primary relationship during this process, and that is the one we have with God. Praying about the suggested habits will open us to a deeper understanding of our duties to community building.

The eight practices are imbedded in the words of the famous anonymous prayer associated with St. Francis which begins, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.” Rather than post hatred and self-righteousness, sow love. When we encounter injury, seek reconciliation. If doubt is perceived, try and increase faith. If despair is encountered, bring hope. Where darkness is present, bring God’s light and where there is sadness, foster true joy — recognizing that our use of social media is not to seek consolation but to console.

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.

Newman: A Human Harp of Many Chords – Peter Conley

Conley, Peter. Newman: A Human Harp of Many Chords. Stoke-on-Trent, England: Alive Publishing, 2019. 136 pages.

Reviewed by Fr. Juan Vélez.

The title of this delightful book is taken from a line of a poem by St. John Henry Newman. His poetry gives beautiful insight into his person. It is significant that this be the title of this book, which takes a look at the saint from the lens of his humanity. It shows us the human face and “many chords” of John Henry Newman who has often been considered primarily a nineteenth-century European intellectual.

The author, Fr. Peter Conley, is a diocesan priest from the Birmingham Diocese, the same as Newman. He studied at St. Mary’s College, Oscott, and obtained postgraduate degrees from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and Newman University in Birmingham. Conley uses an approach which Newman himself desired when writing about saints. Newman wrote in a Fragment of A Life of St. Philip (1853):

Spiritual readings are properly limited to spiritual subjects; but a Saint’s life may often have in it things not directly and immediately spiritual. To find a Saint sitting down to cards, or reading a heathen author, or listening to music or taking snuff, is often a relief and an encouragement to a reader, as convincing him that grace does not supersede nature . . .

For the founder of the Oratory in England, the historical dimension is essential for the understanding of a saint. The dogmatic is insufficient. Newman was convinced that we should see the “lights and shades” of each person. This is precisely what Peter Conley, like few before him, has done with this perceptive gaze into the heart of Newman. The result is that we have before us a real-life Newman, a man of flesh and blood.

Fr. Conley does this by intertwining many anecdotes and quotes from Newman’s letters and sermons. He captures Newman’s keen capacity of observation manifest in turns of phrases which serve as title chapters, such as “being kindly lights,” while living in our “snail’s shell” yet being a “human harp of many chords.”

The first chapter titled “The Saint who learned Billiards” expresses Newman’s appreciation for healthy recreational enjoyment with friends. At the Catholic University of Ireland, which he co-founded with Archbishop Paul Cullen, he in fact set up a billiards room for the students.

This is a rich seminal work on the way we think and write about Newman (and saints in general) which the author wishes to expand upon in subsequent books. I find it helpful in my work of preaching retreats and introducing people to Newman.

If we wish to understand a Saint who was a great author and thinker, then we need to learn also about his likes and dislikes, his favorite hobbies and novels, his friendships and his inner life, in sum his personal biography. Fr. Conley gives us a very good start for understanding a personal John Henry Newman, offering readers important insights into the life and thought of this complex, courageous, and compassionate man.

Father Juan R. Vélez is a priest of the Prelature of Opus Dei and author of Passion for Truth: The Life of John Henry Newman (TAN, 2011).

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