Book Reviews – January 2023

Theology as Prayer: A Primer for the Diocesan Priest. By Msgr. Walter R. Oxley and Fr. John P. Cush. Reviewed by Fr. Ryan A. Muldoon. (skip to review)

Theology and Science in the Thought of Ian Barbour: A Thomistic Evaluation for the Catholic Doctrine of Creation. By Fr. Joseph R. Laracy. Reviewed by Fr. Christopher Myers. (skip to review)

Make Your Home in Me: Reflections on Prayer. By Fr. Éamonn Bourke. Reviewed by Fr. Andrew Walsh. (skip to review)

The Pastor’s Bookshelf: Why Reading Matters for Ministry. By Austin Carty. Reviewed by Christopher Siuzdak. (skip to review)

Christ versus Satan in Our Daily Lives. By Robert Spitzer, SJ. Reviewed by Mitchell Sherven. (skip to review)

Jesus and the Old Testament Roots of the Priesthood. By John Bergsma. Reviewed by Joseph Tuttle. (skip to review)

The Family on Pilgrimage: God Leads Through Dead Ends. By Francis Etheredge. Reviewed by Aaron Martin. (skip to review)

Theology as Prayer – Walter R. Oxley and John P. Cush

Oxley, Walter R., and John P. Cush. Theology as Prayer: A Primer for the Diocesan Priest. Omaha, NE: Institute for Priestly Formation Publications, 2022. 120 pages.

Reviewed by Rev. Ryan A. Muldoon.

In Theology as Prayer, Monsignor Walter Oxley and Father John Cush want to remind all priests, and not just those in academia, that they have a vocation to be theologians. They quote Jesuit priest and theologian John Courtney Murray: “The simple priest is under the necessity of being trained as a theologian because of his association in the magisterial office of the bishop” (10). From the first page of their work, the authors situate their invitation to priests within the Church’s twentieth-century ressourcement; they want every priest to return to the earliest Christian sources, as well as to the great works of theology in the Scholastic, Modern, and Contemporary periods. In Theology as Prayer, Msgr. Oxley and Fr. Cush help priests to understand the “why” of their calling as theologians and provide a “how” for priests to respond even in the midst of demanding pastoral ministry.

Msgr. Oxley and Fr. Cush use the familiar method of lectio divina, usually applied to the reading of Sacred Scripture, to propose a way of reflecting on works of theology. In Chapter 1, Fr. Cush makes the case that priests, especially diocesan priests, need to have a robust intellectual life. In this chapter, Fr. Cush draws heavily on the writings of Fr. John Courtney Murray — the protagonist of Fr. Cush’s doctoral research — to show that the priest is “charged with official mediation between God and man,” which requires that a priest know, express, and defend the faith in a way substantially different from that of others in lay vocations (9). This endeavor of “reading theology again” is not divorced from prayer and pastoral practice; rather, “holiness leads to good theology which, in turn, leads to good pastoral practice” (12). The hope of the authors is that good theology can also lead to holiness.

In Chapter 2, Msgr. Oxley recognizes that some priests’ desire to read theology was “long ago snuffed out” and that some priests “lack confidence” to seek intellectual growth. He offers a reflection on the habit of study and lectio divina that is meant to help priests “rekindle the flame” (15). As Msgr. Oxley introduces this method for reading theology, he first acknowledges the danger that technology represents, as “the tyranny of technology is robbing us of the contemplative leisure that is essential for our own intellectual and spiritual growth” (18). He suggests that priests take “at least one full hour on a bi-weekly basis for prayerful theological reading” (18). This prayerful reading is meant to provide the priest “the fuel for an eventual meditative prayer period in front of the Blessed Sacrament or in the quiet of his room” (19).

Both authors collaborate on Chapter 3, which outlines step-by-step the application of the stages of lectio divina — reading, meditation, prayer, contemplation — for reading theology. In Chapter 4, Fr. Cush proposes theological texts that the priest may use — works by von Balthasar, Rahner, Lonergan, de Lubac, Bonaventure, Aquinas, Ignatius of Antioch, Maximus the Confessor, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI — and gives a brief introduction to each text (the texts are introduced, but not included). Chapter 5 reads like a journal as Msgr. Oxley shares his own “prayed meditations” upon the texts proposed in Chapter 4 using the method offered in Chapter 3. Msgr. Oxley and Fr. Cush’s work is so practically oriented that the reader can see, from start to finish, the “why” and the “how” of the method, the texts one might use to apply the method, and an example of the method applied in the life and prayer of a diocesan priest. Extensive notes at the end of each chapter reflect a thoughtful preparation of this short work by the authors who, themselves, strive to “practice what they preach.”

Msgr. Oxley and Fr. Cush, both diocesan priests, previously served on the formation faculty of the Pontifical North American College in Rome, where they relate that the integration of study, prayer, and pastoral service was a frequent topic of conversation over meals with fellow priests and students. Theology as Prayer is the fruit of those conversations and of the authors’ own striving to integrate study and prayer in their priestly lives. At present, both authors continue to work with priests and future priests in an age when the landscape of priestly formation and ministry is changing rapidly. The new sixth edition of the USCCB’s Program of Priestly Formation (2022), which guides priestly formation in the USA, recognizes that:

The overall goal of every stage of seminary formation is to prepare a seminarian who is widely knowledgeable about the human condition, deeply engaged in a process of understanding Divine Revelation, and adequately skilled in communicating his knowledge to as many people as possible. Moreover, continuing education after ordination is a necessity for effective ministry. (no. 264)

It is this final mandate of continued, lifelong learning after priestly ordination that Msgr. Oxley and Fr. Cush take seriously, and their work is an important contribution for the ongoing intellectual formation for today’s priests.

Rev. Ryan A. Muldoon, S.T.L., is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York. He serves as Adjunct Professor of Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue at St. Joseph’s Seminary (Yonkers, New York) and as Parochial Vicar of St. Patrick’s Church (Yorktown Heights, New York).

Theology and Science in the Thought of Ian Barbour – Fr. Joseph R. Laracy

Theology and Science in the Thought of Ian Barbour: A Thomistic Evaluation for the Catholic Doctrine of Creation. By Fr. Joseph R. Laracy. New York: Peter Lang, 2021. 346 pages.

Reviewed by Fr. Christopher Myers.

Many readers of Homiletic and Pastoral Review are familiar with the widely held “conflict hypothesis” for science and religion instigated in the nineteenth century by Thomas Henry Huxley, John William Draper, and Andrew Dickson White. In light of this challenge, relating the Christian faith to the natural sciences in a mutually beneficial way is of the utmost importance. Father Joseph Laracy begins his book echoing Pope Francis’ call in Evangelii Gaudium for constructive dialogue between Catholic theology and science. But how can this be accomplished? For example, how can the discoveries of physical cosmology be related to the Catholic doctrine of creation? Laracy offers a fascinating, coherent, and hopeful approach in this scholarly work that builds bridges and engages these fundamental questions.

Laracy establishes the foundation for his book around the thought of the late Professor Ian G. Barbour, a well-respected and accomplished physicist and Protestant theologian. Barbour’s research on the relationship between theology and science led him to receive numerous awards, such as the Templeton Prize. Yet Barbour’s work was largely unexplored in the Catholic tradition until now. Throughout the book, Laracy acknowledges areas of doctrinal disagreement and philosophical concerns with Barbour’s approach. Nonetheless, he also identifies numerous positive aspects. For instance, in many ways, Ian Barbour appreciated Thomistic realism, embodied by philosophers such as Étienne Gilson and Jacques Maritain.

In the book’s second chapter, Laracy explains Barbour’s fundamental principles: epistemological, metaphysical, and theological. Barbour’s embrace of Alfred North Whitehead’s metaphysics and his own “critical” realism leads him to process theology. Whitehead’s book, Process and Reality, greatly influenced Barbour’s vision for the dialogue and integration of natural science and Christian theology. Whitehead attempted to develop a new metaphysics in light of evolutionary biology and complex systems theory, emphasizing the notion of “process” over “substance.” Barbour found the Whiteheadian ontology and causality not only scientifically reasonable but also potentially applicable to theology. Laracy clearly shows how process philosophy (and theology) differs from Thomistic metaphysics (and Catholic theology).

In the next chapter, readers get to one of the most fascinating parts of the book. Here, Laracy presents Barbour’s analysis of contrasting and parallel perspectives on religion and science. First, he begins with contrasting perspectives such as scientific materialism, fundamentalism, neo-orthodoxy, existentialism, and linguistic analysis. It becomes abundantly clear how these perspectives have little to offer for the dialogue between the natural sciences and Catholic theology. Among the parallel perspectives, Barbour identifies Neo-Thomism, liberal Protestant theology, and process thought. In light of Barbour’s appreciation of the metaphysics and epistemology of Aquinas, Laracy utilizes Thomism to evaluate and apply Barbour’s approach. In the next chapter, Laracy critically engages Barbour’s system by employing the insights of the Angelic Doctor.

In chapter four, readers are treated to the heart of Laracy’s research. He argues for the importance of philosophical realism in science and theology. Laracy compares a Thomistic understanding of realism with Barbour’s “critical” realism, heavily influenced by Kant. Unfortunately, Barbour does not appreciate that being (esse) precedes the knowledge of any subject. A consequence of Barbour’s Kantian epistemology is that immediate and certain knowledge of theological questions must be ruled out. In his evaluation of Barbour’s process theology, Laracy critiques Barbour’s assertion of potency in God, denial of God’s perfection, and panentheism. He also evaluates Barbour’s theology of God the Creator and his anthropology. Laracy finds a way forward with Thomas Aquinas.

Laracy offers readers a path toward dialogue and integration between theology and science in the final chapter. The first opportunity for dialogue is with the presuppositions of science and contingency questions. Barbour identifies four areas of contingency: (1) Contingent existence, e.g., Why is there anything at all? (2) Contingent boundary conditions, e.g., A singularity at the beginning of spacetime, would be inaccessible to the methods of science. (3) Contingent laws, e.g., A universe could exist with different laws. (4) Contingent events, i.e., the cosmos, are a unique and irreversible sequence of events. Laracy explains how all four contingencies offer substantial areas for the dialogue of Catholic theology with the empirical sciences.

Laracy also utilizes Barbour’s notion of “limit questions,” i.e., ontological questions raised by the scientific enterprise as a whole but not answered by the methods of science. Why is there a universe? Why is it comprehensible? In chapter five, Laracy helps readers to grasp the congruent methodologies of theology and science. He concludes the book by applying Barbour’s integrative approaches of natural theology, theologies of nature, and systematic syntheses of theology and science, i.e., through a comprehensive, inclusive metaphysics. While Barbour adopts and simplifies the process metaphysics of Whitehead, Laracy shows how a systematic synthesis for the Catholic doctrine of creation can be realized using the metaphysics of Aquinas.

Relating the natural sciences to theology can be a complex (and daunting) task. Father Laracy’s monograph makes an enduring contribution to this space by drawing on the insights of Barbour and remaining faithful to the truths of the divine revelation. Fellow Roman Catholics will much appreciate his Neo-Thomist perspective. While the book is certainly scholarly and the argumentation rigorous, even those without formal training in philosophy will appreciate Laracy’s contributions to the field. In addition, those without a strong scientific background can still appreciate how fascinating it can be when faith and science are placed in a mutually beneficial relationship. Ultimately, Father Laracy succeeds in his quest by showing how Ian Barbour’s approaches to the interaction of theology and science can promote a more fruitful dialogue and integration between the Catholic doctrine of creation and the natural sciences.

Father Christopher Myers, a priest of the Diocese of Camden, serves as parochial vicar at Christ Our Light Parish in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

Make Your Home in Me – Éamonn Bourke

Bourke, Éamonn. Make Your Home in Me: Reflections on Prayer. Omaha, NE: Institute for Priestly Formation Publications, 2021. 88 pages.

Reviewed by Fr. Andrew Walsh.

Fr. Éamonn Bourke has written a brief book containing many practical points on the subject of prayer and encouragement to develop a life of prayer. Deep within the human person is the desire for God and communion with Him. This communion is sustained by communication — He speaks to us and we speak to Him. While all Christians understand this truth, we do not always apply it to our daily lives, or we hesitate and say, “I’m not good at prayer.”

Fr. Bourke tells us that we should overcome our trepidation and our past failures and start praying today; “start now in whatever stumbling, incoherent awkward way that you can. Let God do the rest.” Once we have started down the path of prayer, we need to be dedicated and consistent to it even when do not see any immediate results. “The evidence that prayer is making a difference in your life is subtle, more often, slow.” Still, we should be confident that it will bear fruit in real and tangible ways. Fr. Bourke mentions one of his university students who was consistent in prayer for some time and began to “notice in himself a grown in self-confidence; things that had gotten him down before did not have the same effect on him. He was growing as a person.”

This theme of personal growth through prayer runs like a golden thread through the whole book. Drawing on the Gospel scene of Jesus healing Bartimaeus, Fr. Bourke explains that Jesus taught the blind man “with incredible dignity and respect” since He asked him what he wanted from the Lord. “Each day, Jesus asks us the same question: ‘What do you want me to do for you’ . . . He really wants to know the answer.” To do this we need to acknowledge to ourselves and to God in prayer what is going on in our lives: what we are feeling, what we are thinking, what we desire, etc. This opens “for us a profound gateway to freedom,” to growth, and to healing by Jesus the Divine Physician.

Prayer thus becomes a means of healing and transformation. It “turns fear into courage, self-absorption into generosity for others, doubt into deep faith.” This in turn allows us to serve Christ Jesus more effectively as His disciples. Fr. Bourke informs us, “the less we are self-absorbed, looking out for our own needs, the more we can be outward looking, brave, and fearless in our attempt to be His disciples.” When we have received something in prayer — love, joy, peace, patience, confidence, etc. — we need to live that gift and share it with others.

Many things hold us back from prayer, including the fear that it will transform us. “We might become a different person; we might change . . . The transformation in us may cost us a particular lifestyle or sinful way of life we are leading. It might cost us friends or acquaintances . . . We fear that prayer might turn us into boring people . . . We fear that others might call us ‘holy.’” All of these things Fr. Bourke tells us are baseless fears. “The truth is we never lose when we make prayer an integral part of our life. We only gain.”

Like a wise guide, Fr. Bourke shows us where to begin, how to deal with distractions and resistance in prayer, how we might keep a prayer journal, the importance of spiritual direction, and more. This book would be a helpful aid to seminarians learning the art of prayer, priests looking for encouragement, and lay people who are unafraid of holiness.

Father Andrew Walsh, a priest of the Diocese of Wichita, serves as pastor of Saint Patrick’s Parish in Kingman, Kansas.

The Pastor’s Bookshelf – Austin Carty

Carty, Austin. The Pastor’s Bookshelf: Why Reading Matters for Ministry. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2022. 168 pages.

Reviewed by Christopher Siuzdak.

The central thesis of this work can be distilled into the same two words that famously sparked the history-altering conversion of Saint Augustine: “Tolle lege,” that is, “Take and read.” Reading can be, as it was for the Doctor of Grace, inspirational and transformational. The formative capacity of reading makes it a vocational responsibility for clergy rather than an extravagance (64, 101). Far from being an evasion of real responsibilities, regular reading of various genres can be an apprenticeship of sorts that expands the “pastoral imagination” and sharpens ministerial skills (ix).

This invigorating book, which allows one to take a step back and reflect on the value of reading, is divided into three main sections: “the first explaining what a pastor-reader is, the second explaining why a pastor ought to become one, and the third explaining how a pastor can go about doing it” (4). By answering the “why” and “how” of intentional reading, this easily digestible work helps redouble the motivation to read avidly.

“In our current climate, where ideological tailwinds bandy us about daily,” the author poignantly observes, “most people feel a deep and visceral attraction to those rare individuals with gravitas — that is, with the gravity to remain anchored and poised” (16). A balanced diet of reading refines the lens through which reality is apprehended and cultivates profound wisdom (27). Such wisdom, in turn, exerts a magnetism that draws listeners into learning more about the splendor of the Gospel. Even empirical studies have demonstrated that “‘deep reading’ forms neural pathways that correspond with greater capacities for empathy, patience, critical thinking, and tolerance of ambiguity” (17). Not only does reading result in a more grounded and more defined sense of self, it also enables one to enter more readily and more deeply into the experiences of others. When approached with the proper disposition, reading is a way of learning to love one’s neighbors and to better appreciate how a given person might fit into the unfolding story of God’s abiding love for the world.

Sustained reading pays dividends in preaching, among other domains of ministry. Stated succinctly, “Reading is calisthenics for proclamation” (xi). The author elaborates: “By plumbing the depths of human experience — by walking in another’s shoes and by wrestling with complicated situations — a reading preacher gets an increasingly stronger sense of what will move a congregation, and also — and more importantly — a stronger sense of why it will move them” (69). The steady practice of reading leads to the development of a fingertip sense of pastoral solicitude. As the author further explains: “As preachers we read by faith, trusting that while we don’t yet see how our reading will be useful in our sermon prep and delivery, we nonetheless know that it will be, because with each successive book and article and essay we read, our filters are being enriched and our reservoirs are being filled, our understanding of human nature is being expanded and our wisdom is being increased” (70, italics original). In other words, reading is remote preparation for the infinite variety of pastoral situations that will inevitably arise.

Reading informational works of non-fiction and imaginative works of fiction (i.e., novels) along with scriptural commentaries and theological tracts is not a useless pursuit. Put simply, reading is not a fool’s errand. On the contrary, one would be foolish to circumvent it. Reading serves the mission of upbuilding the Kingdom of God by honing one’s pastoral intuition. The author of this work even recommends conceiving of reading as a pastoral visit and scheduling at least one hour for it each day (109).

The author rightfully extols the virtue of avid reading; however, this book arguably would have benefitted from the inclusion of a short chapter treating the temptations or excesses associated with being a proverbial bookworm. If not carefully cultivated, voracious reading has the potential to devolve into the vice of being closed off from others. A well-read cleric, for instance, might be tempted to lose his humility and become dismissive of those who are not literati. It is important to remember that the Lord came to save all, including those who are not among the intelligentsia. A short section with concrete examples of reading-related vices to avoid would have been a welcome aid in finding the virtuous mean between unhealthy extremes. Nevertheless, this omission does not detract from the overall value of this work.

Clergy constitute the principal audience of this work; however, “the lessons are applicable to all persons interested in growing into fuller, more enriched human beings — particularly persons interested in learning how their faith can be deepened by an immersion in literature” (4). As Saint Paul exhorts in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to “pray unceasingly,” the author of this work persuasively encourages the discipline of regular reading because it has the potential to bear fruit in the soul and, concomitantly, in the work of evangelization. In short, read regularly!

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

Christ versus Satan in Our Daily Lives – Robert Spitzer, SJ

Spitzer, SJ, Robert. Christ versus Satan in Our Daily Lives. San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2020. 439 pages.

Reviewed by Mitchell Sherven.

This is the first volume of Father Robert Spitzer’s “Called Out of Darkness” trilogy­­­­­­­­­, which includes Escape from Evil’s Darkness: The Light of Christ in the Church, Spiritual Conversion, and Moral Conversion (Ignatius Press, 2021) and The Moral Wisdom of the Catholic Church: Principles of Personal and Social Ethics (forthcoming). These books attempt to summarize the Church’s moral wisdom. In Christ versus Satan, Father Spitzer shows the value of this wisdom in combatting evil in contemporary life. The book is highly readable and informative for anyone interested in the problem of evil and how to confront it. Father Spitzer uses scripture, Catholic doctrine, literature, scientific evidence, and personal reflections to show that Satan and evil are very real — but with God and the Church, anyone, from the ordinary believer to the expert theologian, has the ability to combat evil and triumph.

The first half of the book explains how God’s love is always present and that He is our ultimate ally in this fight. Father Spitzer does not shy away from the seriousness of the problem of evil and Satan himself. But he does make clear that we have all the support we need to freely choose the ultimate good. He explains the workings of the Holy Spirit and how He enables us to have “a deep sense of home . . . the sense of having a place in totality . . . of being in unity with the Creator and principle of all being: the Trinity.” Father Spitzer speaks with great humility about the workings of the Holy Spirit in his life — particularly the spark of truth and wisdom he felt encountering the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas. This candid approach discussing his own spiritual journey, as well as discussing his encounters with sin, make this a relatable book to read for people at any stage of their relationship with God.

Jesus’s victory over Satan is discussed at length. Father Spitzer shows that one of Christ’s main goals was defeating the increasing power that had been gained by Satan and his demons. To do so, Christ takes five steps — engaging Satan in spiritual battle and establishing authority over him, using exorcisms to defeat Satan’s demons, telling his disciples about Satan’s tactics, enabling his disciples the ability to carry out their exorcisms on His behalf, and finally defeating Satan through an unconditional act of self-sacrifice, “redeeming not only the weakness of human beings, but also the darkness and evil brought by Satan.” Father Spitzer shows here that it is clear in scripture that Christ achieved victory and laid the foundations for the Church to be the best defense in the future against continued conflict with Satan and his demons.

The second half of the book demonstrates how Satan continues to work in the world. Father Spitzer reminds us that we are dealing with a formidable foe who does his homework on us. I thought this passage explained very well four of the ways Satan works today:

  1. Keep increasing the intensity of social and digital stimulation of lower desires
  2. Keep undermining the truth and goodness of God, the soul, Jesus, happiness, love, virtue, and moral principles
  3. Keep marginalizing and ridiculing churches, religious people, and religious commitment
  4. Foster resentment of all moral and religious leaders who warn against reducing ourselves to mere material sensual, and ego-comparative gratification

There is also a thorough treatment of the deadly sins I found to be very helpful. He uses several examples in scripture and great works of literature to show the dangers that can arise when we indulge in these sins, and how current culture and technology magnify some of them (lust for example). He also offers a virtue to follow instead for each sin. These opposing options show that each decision brings us closer to good or evil, and even with God on our side, we must take an active role in choosing the good. When we are aware of our shortcomings we will always be better suited to plans of attack — which tend to be where we are weakest. Father Spitzer talks about the importance of this continuous work on ourselves, and that the process of a deep moral conversion is often gradual.

The book expertly describes a blueprint for how Satan works and how we can fall into his traps. The problem of evil is real and not to be explained away in metaphor or euphemism. However, if we use our free will to follow God and His Church, we will find a home that we always belonged to, which offers us the guidance and courage to become the best versions of ourselves and pursue the highest good. This is a daily choice that we must make. Father Spitzer offers a positive vision of how we should not shy away from evil but follow in the footsteps of Christ — to encounter evil and prevail.

Mitchell Sherven is a writer and independent scholar from Regina, Canada.

Jesus and the Old Testament Roots of the Priesthood – John Bergsma

Bergsma, John. Jesus and the Old Testament Roots of the Priesthood. Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Road Publishing, 2021. 164 pages.

Reviewed by Joseph Tuttle.

Stemming from a series of lectures given by Dr. John Bergsma at a local parish, Jesus and the Old Testament Roots of the Priesthood goes in-depth into the origins of the priesthood, both ministerial and universal, in the Old Testament and how they are fulfilled and viewed in the New Testament.

The first section of the book begins with the book of Genesis, detailing the priesthood of Adam through and up to the time of Abraham. Beginning with Adam, Bergsma points out that the Revised Standard Version of the Bible translates the words in Genesis 2:15 to describe Adam’s job as “till” and “keep.” Bergsma says, “A more literal translation of the Hebrew, however, would be ‘work’ and ‘guard’” (8). These words only occur together in reference to the duties of the Levites in the book of Numbers. These words imply that Adam had a priestly role in the Garden of Eden. Bergsma goes on to discuss how the priesthood of Adam was re-established with Noah, and Melchizedek (who according to tradition is Shem, Noah’s oldest son) and finally how Abraham acted as a priest when offering his son Isaac on Mount Moriah in Genesis 22.

The second section of Bergsma’s book deals with the priesthood from Isaac to the Babylonian Exile. After Isaac, Jacob continues the priestly ministry of Abraham. Bergsma points out that Joseph, Jacob’s son, also acted as a priest. In Genesis 45:8, Joseph is mentioned as “a father to Pharaoh.” Bergsma says that “. . . personally being a ‘father’ to Pharaoh meant he was a priest, one who consulted God on behalf of Pharaoh, offered prayers and sacrifices for him, and mediated God’s blessing to him” (47). After they had been enslaved by Egypt, God made the whole nation of Israel a priestly people. Every firstborn male was the ministerial priest of his family. This priestly role given to the firstborn, however, was short-lived. When the Hebrew people sinned against God by worshipping the Golden Calf, in the book of Exodus, the ministerial priesthood was conferred exclusively on the tribe of Levi.

In 2 Samuel, David brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. When the Ark arrived, David was dressed in priestly garb and acted as a priest. David was practicing the priesthood of Melchizedek, which was the priesthood of Adam. Melchizedek was both a priest and king in Genesis. Thus, Bergsma says, “Apparently, the kingship of Jerusalem carried with it a hereditary priesthood” (62). Bergsma concludes this section by examining how the prophet Isaiah was heralding the return of a descendant of David who would be both priest and king. Jesus is this descendant; He is both a descendant of David and a priest.

The third section of Bergsma’s book discusses the priesthood in the New Testament. He begins by noting that Mary and Joseph did not “buy back” Jesus in the Temple. Bergsma explains that the firstborn would have been consecrated as a priest. Following the Golden Calf incident, however, only Levites could be priests. Families would then present their firstborn in the Temple and make an animal offering in order to redeem their child and exempt him from service in the Temple as a priest. From the Gospel accounts, it is clear that Mary and Joseph make no such offering. Their offering of two doves is that of the purification of the mother. Thus, Jesus is already being presented as a priest from the very beginning of His life. Bergsma also discusses how Jesus is continually reinstituting the Melchizedekian priesthood with the Apostles throughout the Gospel accounts.

In the final section, Bergsma contends with those who think that celibacy is an unbiblical practice and concludes with an examination of the priesthood in the Dead Sea Scrolls. He treats many of the Old and New Testament people, including Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, St. Paul, and even Jesus Himself as examples of celibacy throughout salvation history. Bergsma also uses the Dead Sea Scrolls to illustrate that the Essene sect of Judaism living in Qumran also practiced celibacy. He then briefly examines the practice of celibacy in the early centuries of the Church. Ultimately, celibacy is partially based on the practice of the Levitical priests who had to abstain from marital relations while serving at the Temple. In the early Church and even now, priests are always “on duty” and thus they embrace the celibate lifestyle.

Each chapter concludes with a brief summary and study questions to help the reader better understand and comprehend the material. Jesus and the Old Testament Roots of the Priesthood is an excellent resource for anyone wanting to dive into the deeply rich biblical roots of the priesthood.

Joseph Tuttle is a freelance writer and author holding a B.A. in Theology from Benedictine College. He is currently pursuing an MA in Catholic Philosophical Studies at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology.

The Family on Pilgrimage – Francis Etheredge

Etheredge, Francis. The Family on Pilgrimage: God Leads Through Dead Ends. St. Louis, MO: Enroute, 2018. 255 pages.

Reviewed by Aaron Martin.

Toward the beginning of one of my favorite books, Travels with Charley, John Steinbeck writes: “A trip, a safari, an exploration, is an entity different from all other journeys. It has personality, temperament, individuality, uniqueness. A journey is a person in itself — no two are alike — and all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip, a trip takes us.”

Steinbeck’s trip was an attempt to understand America as an American writer. But even more profound than a countryman in search of his country is the preeminent pilgrimage of Christians in search of their homeland. Man was, after the Fall, “an exile upon the face of the earth; but in time, while still an exile, he was to become a pilgrim” (Warren Carroll, A History of Christendom, Vol. 1, Front Royal, VA: Christendom Press, 1985, 18).

Being a religious pilgrim is something more than traveling the highways and byways of a country to find new material as a writer. It is a daily excursion into the adventure of the Christian life. This adventure can be physical, like a pilgrimage to a shrine or World Youth Day, or it could be the hard work of moving from one spiritual way station to another as one deepens one’s prayer and spiritual life. And because each believer is unique, the pilgrimage each believer takes is similarly unique.

Francis Etheredge’s work, The Family on Pilgrimage: God Leads Through Dead Ends, recounts many moments from Etheredge’s own pilgrimages throughout his life. Not all of these involved physical travel. Etheredge discusses the pilgrimage of parenthood and raising children, the pilgrimage of discerning his vocation, and even thoughts on what the pilgrimage of “accompaniment” might mean in our current ecclesial environment. There are the physical pilgrimages as well — not only Etheredge’s own travels, but also stories from his family and those he meets along the way.

Throughout the book, it is clear that these pilgrimages have had a profound effect on him and helped shape the trajectory of his life and those he has met. We likely all know someone who went to World Youth Day and felt moved to become a priest, or someone who went on a retreat and had a profound experience of God or insight into their own lives. These are the kinds of experiences Etheredge highlights in his various stories. And they are uniquely his stories — sometimes presented in a stream-of-consciousness style that makes it difficult to relate to some of the experiences or to follow the disjointed narrative. For example, Etheredge moves from memories of physical pilgrimages — like his play-by-play account of his pilgrimage to Walsingham or to World Youth Day in Poland—to more theoretical reflections on the nature of pilgrimage through the lens of his own vocational journey to marriage. The moves seem abrupt at times, particularly when they include seemingly random recollections by a family member or fellow member of the Neocatechumenal Way.

But perhaps the abrupt shifts are an unconscious reflection for the reader of the very nature of pilgrimage. Etheredge includes a story by Alan Soares recounting a pilgrimage experience of his own. The story appears out of nowhere, with no introduction or context. But the account itself reminds us how pilgrimage — a religious pilgrimage or the pilgrimage of life itself — is imperfect and how we can be sometimes blindsided for better or worse. No matter how prepared we are for a trip, pilgrimages naturally zig and zag with unknown obstacles or opportunities that are worth a detour.

But isn’t that like the spiritual life itself? As the late English Dominican Herbert McCabe described in his book God, Christ and Us, faith “is about setting out on the journey to explore what we have not yet seen. . . . Faith, for the author of Hebrews, is seen in terms of a journey, a movement. And not just a commuter’s journey, a movement from one familiar spot to another. It is seen as a real journey, the kind of journey you make on a holiday, to see new places and to meet new people. It is a journey of exploration, an adventuring out.” Without “adventuring out” to see what might be new or unfamiliar, we limit our potential for growth and experience.

Etheredge helps the reader experience a bit of his own “adventuring out” into the world as a Christian pilgrim seeking a closer relationship with God. For him and for us, many of these experiences seemed like dead ends or unnecessary delays at the time. We often feel lost, without a map or GPS, and have no certainty about the way forward. But in the perspective of hindsight, all these stages seem to form a rational path punctuated by moments of grace that moved us in the right direction. Etheredge’s reflection is an interesting glimpse into one person’s journey, from which we could all learn something. It is also a reminder that we are all pilgrims, that “here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” (Heb 13:14).

Aaron Martin, JD, PhL, and his wife, Jenny, live in Phoenix, AZ with their four children. Aaron owns his own law practice and teaches in both the Kino Catechetical Institute and the Diaconate formation program for the Diocese of Phoenix.

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Comments

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