FULL-TIME CHRISTIANS: The Real Challenge From Vatican II, by William
Droel. Twenty-Third Publications. 119 pp. $10.95.
Reviewed by MICHAEL J. DALEY, a writer and teacher at St.
Xavier High School in Cincinnati, Ohio. He recently co-edited, with William
Madges, Vatican II: Forty Personal Stories (Twenty-Third Publications).
AS HE ENDED a tour of his church in Chicago, Father John Flynn
asked the boys from a nearby Catholic high school: "What is the most important
object in this church?" "The exit sign," one boy replied. Thinking the boy was
being sarcastic, Flynn retorted: "And why do you suppose the exit sign is so
important?" "Because," the student continued, "it shows us the direction in
which to take the gospel."
In Full-Time Christians: The Real Challenge From Vatican II,
William Droel shares this story to illustrate his main conviction that the Christian
vocation is more than just an hour on Sunday. As a founder of the National Center
for the Laity in Chicago, an instructor at Moraine Valley Community College
and a pastoral associate at Sacred Heart Church in Palos Hills, Illinois, Droel
is in a prime position to advocate the full integration of Christians, as Christians,
in the larger society.
The author is concerned about the split between Sunday and Monday,
between faith and daily life, something he saw Vatican Council II (1962-1965)
attempting to bridge. "The implication," Droel writes, "is not that Christians
are terribly immoral on the job or around the community. It is, rather, that
Christians are not very concerned that their workaday life is a primary expression
of their response to God, that work itself puts holiness into life."
There are several possible reasons, Droel suggests, for this state
of affairs and the lack of an authentic lay vocation. The first is that many
Christians have achieved a level of success that they don’t want overturned
or jeopardized by some universal call to holiness.
Another reason is that, in the wake of Vatican II, too much attention
was placed on lay ministry in the Church rather than to the world. This has
led many people to believe that "fuller Church involvement means internal ministry"
instead of engagement with the world.
Droel says the remedy to this situation is to enlarge our
understanding of vocation, one that takes seriously the Incarnation—God
becoming enfleshed in history. This needs to be a spirituality
that encourages and sustains laypeople, "one in which they,
in the company of others, encounter God in the give-and-take
of marriages, family life, business, civic endeavors and worldly
Droel terms this a spirituality of work. It is "not an attempt to
spiritualize work or even to carry God into the marketplace. More properly,
the spirituality of work helps Christians cooperate with God, who is already
lurking about, often masquerading as a supplier, a customer, an employee, an
elderly relative or a student and whose glory is embedded, though imperfectly,
in office routines, policy guidelines, legislation, art and architecture."
In order for this to be realized and lived, though, reflection or
"Sabbath time" is essential.
In the creation of an authentic lay vocation, much is made of the
call to social justice. Oftentimes people speak as if change can only come from
those "outside" an organization. Yet Droel argues that insiders—the bank executives,
union leaders, nurses, accountants, teachers, salespersons, plumbers or homemakers—are
best positioned to implement the reform advocated by outsiders.
In striving to become full-time Christians, the mediating and supportive
structures of family and neighborhood are not luxuries but necessities. But
individualism—as expressed in technology, fast food, wages and hectic schedules—continues
to weaken the communal values that family and neighborhood uphold. We need to
create and maintain communities of inclusion and participation.
Full-Time Christians is written in a very accessible style.
For those who desire to truly live out their lay Christian vocation, it is a
good place to start.
You can order FULL-TIME CHRISTIANS: The Real Challenge From Vatican II from
St. Francis Bookshop.
FATHER MATHEW’S CRUSADE: Temperance in Nineteenth-Century Ireland
and Irish America, by John F. Quinn. University of Massachusetts Press. 262
Reviewed by AUGUSTINE CURLEY, a Benedictine monk of Newark
Abbey in New Jersey. He teaches religion at St. Benedict’s Prep, and is the
author of New Jersey Catholicism: An Annotated Bibliography and Augustine’s
Critique of Skepticism: A Study of Contra Academicos.
FATHER THEOBALD MATHEW (1790-1856) was a Capuchin friar who
almost single-handedly promoted the cause of total abstinence from liquor in
mid-19th-century Ireland. John F. Quinn’s engaging biography puts Mathew’s life
in the context of the times—the problem of Irish alcoholism, poverty, the famine,
Anglo-Irish relations and the Irish in America.
Contrary to popular prejudice, teetotaling is as "Irish" as is drunkenness,
and this in no small way is due to the work of Father Mathew. He was recruited
in 1838 to lead the Cork Total Abstinence Society, and by the time of his death,
five million Irish men, women and children had taken the pledge at Mathew’s
hands. During a tour of America, Mathew encouraged abstinence among the Irish
But Mathew’s life was not without controversy. His relationship
to Daniel O’Connell was rocky. His relationship with Protestants and with the
British government was criticized, even while his good works were praised. He
alienated a number of bishops, while enjoying the enthusiastic support of others.
Quinn has done a fine job of combining archival collections of newspapers,
as well as the secondary literature, to provide a multifaceted portrait of this
important figure in 19th-century Ireland and Irish America.
In the course of the book, Quinn provides a number of tidbits that
illuminate 19th-century Irish and Irish-American culture. In Ireland, Mathew
was an ardent abolitionist, having joined Daniel O’Connell in putting his name
to an anti-slavery petition sent to Irish Americans in 1841, which included
the statement: "Treat the colored people as your equals, as brethren." But in
the United States, abolitionism was more the province of northern Protestants,
and so Mathew had to downplay his sentiments during his American tour.
His ecumenical sentiments, which had developed when he was young,
caused friction in America, where relationships between Catholics and Protestants
were not very cordial at the time.
Quinn also notes that, during his tour of England, Mathew had to
make a number of speeches in Irish, since many of the Irish emigrants had not
yet learned English. This confirms what I have found in my research about the
number of Irish immigrants in 19th-century America who could not read, write
or speak English.
Mathew’s crusade had obvious repercussions. Many distillers went
broke. A large number emigrated to the United States. Many public houses closed,
although a number began selling non-alcoholic beverages. Even Mathew’s younger
brother, a distiller, was put out of business, a fact which, Quinn implies,
led to an early death after a period of despondency.
A final chapter considers the effect of the temperance movement
on the American Church. In 1895, the Knights of Columbus and the Society of
St. Vincent de Paul followed the lead of the Knights of Labor in expelling from
their membership liquor dealers. Later, in 1902, the Knights of Columbus banned
all liquor from their functions. The Ancient Order of Hibernians followed suit
in 1904. Quinn then traces the influence of the temperance movement through
passage of the 18th Amendment. But then, with the amendment’s repeal, drinking
became more acceptable in Catholic circles and these organizations changed their
You can order FATHER MATHEW’S CRUSADE: Temperance in Nineteenth-Century Ireland
and Irish America from St.
MY BELOVED: A Novel, by Jean Sulivan. Translated from
the French by Sister Francis Ellen Riordan. Introduction by
Joseph Cunneen. River Boat Books. 146 pp. $15.
Reviewed by BARBARA SONNENBERG, a retired public librarian
currently serving on the St. Anthony Messenger Press Advisory
WHAT SHOULD PLEASE the Church hierarchy more than a humble
priest so dedicated to his flock that he lives in their neighborhood, keeps
their working hours and is always available to them? Perhaps a priest with a
higher class of clientele than prostitutes, pimps and criminals!
Jean Sulivan is the nom de plume adopted in 1964 by a priest,
Joseph Lemarchand, who was released from clerical duty to become a full-time
author. In this work he has created a fictional biography of Abbé Jerome Strozzi,
a priest in the notorious Pigalle district of Paris during the Nazi occupation.
Strozzi’s greatest gift was just listening to the residents, neither judging
nor preaching, but helping in any way possible.
He secured the release of three prostitutes from a Nazi commandant;
served as an "uncle" for those who had need of a respectable sponsor; arranged
for schooling abroad for daughters of prostitutes; visited the destitute sick.
He was constantly on call, was often beaten, lived in an apartment provided
by the charity of his friends and ate frugally. What kept him going was seeing
the face of Christ in each person he met.
Sulivan narrates the tale in first-person prose so probing of the
human psyche and crammed with physical detail that frequently this reviewer
had to put down the novel to have time to absorb the text. The terse writing
leaves many gaps in the narrative, but the plot is completed and personalized
by each individual reader.
While the novel is translated from the French, the French milieu
and historical setting permeate the work with their unique viewpoint on the
German occupation, war rationing, Jewish persecution and the evolving religious
movement in Paris encouraging priests to work outside parish structures.
Strozzi had twice revolted against authority and been expelled during
his school years, but appeared to accept most all Church dogma while in the
seminary. Here’s how Sulivan describes it:
"Nevertheless, when he thinks back on it, Strozzi remembers stumbling over
two points: canon law and exegesis. Canon law because one
day he came upon an article of the Code that stated, 'No new
customs will be introduced in the Church.' How can one reconcile
that with the fact that canon law itself, for the most part,
is based almost entirely on custom? And in studying the Bible,
the Hebrew language amazed him because of the poverty of its
vocabulary. How could he translate it, how could he choose
one meaning among so many possibilities? But these weren’t
burning questions at that time."
Abbé Strozzi had dreamed of being a missionary, perhaps a martyr,
but was sent to teach mathematics in a Catholic high school. Assigned to a parish
as well, he had trouble manipulating the words to form meaningful sermons and
felt that celebrating High Mass..."[w]ith its careful distribution of functions...mirrored
a society that was still almost feudal. It thus became a frightening display
of the importance of acquired status, the acceptance of artificial divisions,
and hence a denial of the reality of Communion...."
He is named superior at the seminary at Fribourg, then arrested
by Swiss authorities for forwarding contraband mail (out of naïveté or conviction
is unclear) and turned over to French custody. Now, unemployed, he befriends
youths on the streets, gets acquainted with their parents, and "...begins his
studies all over again; this time without books—it’s a whole different world."
Killed in an automobile accident in 1980, Lemarchand was certainly
recognized and appreciated in France where he received the prestigious le
Grand Prix Catholique de Literature.
With over 30 works published, only this title and two others have
been translated into English. I located the other two at the local public library
and found them to be equally intellectually challenging, minutely descriptive
and yet universally applicable in their philosophy. Sulivan’s spiritual journal,
Morning Light, made the fictional titles seem much more accessible, at
least for me!
The obvious audience would be Catholic Francophiles, but mature readers with
a religious/philosophical bent might also enjoy Eternity,
My Beloved. This unique work would provide a challenging
title for book club discussions.
You can order ETERNITY, MY BELOVED: A Novel from St.
IN OUR WEAKNESS: A Gift of Hope From the Book of Revelation,
by Marva J. Dawn. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 220
Reviewed by the REV. DONNA SCHAPER, pastor of Coral Gables
Congregational Church in Coral Gables, Florida.
ONCE AGAIN, MARVA DAWN, theologian, author and educator,
has broken open the Bible with a perspective that is fresh
and unusual. Using much of her own experience with health
problems, she reads the Book of Revelation as one who knows
She pushes us to ask the right questions of our suffering. Instead
of asking "how long," we should ask, "Who is God in the midst of this?"
She shows over and over how it is not in our competency or capability
that God can tabernacle among us. Instead, it is in our weakness. "By participating
in the suffering of those who are weak, we learn the sufficiency of God’s grace."
Her analysis of the Four Horses of the Apocalypse is very fine.
Remember that in Revelation (Chapter 6) Christ rides out with the other three
horses as influences upon history, but in the end, by Chapter 19, he is the
only one still riding. Other forces of history are shown to be truly feeble.
The rider of the white horse comes again to conquer ultimately and to save.
The other three horses are war, economic disasters and epidemics. In Revelation
we are reminded that these three forces alone do not control the development
Christ is lord of the cosmos, according to the Book of Revelation,
and Dawn has fun showing us how. "I formerly used the word Skillions
to describe the uncountable grandiosity of the angelic choir, but then a mathematical
friend taught me about googols (1 with 100 zeros behind it) and googolplexes
(10 to the googol), numbers which still can’t come close to the generality of
heavenly praise! All the creatures of all time and all space resound with a
great voice that the Slain Lamb is worthy to receive their adoration."
Dawn has an uncanny ability to move from this sort of victorious
praise to very mundane situations. "Before he moved...Tim’s dialysis room was
gaily decorated with bright red and blue festoons, ropes of brilliant plastic
looping from one corner to the other....[T]he room hardly seemed like a place
for serious medical treatment....
"The impressions these bands made on Tim’s visitors, however, changed
drastically when they learned that the celebrative festoons were made of the
ends of the artificial kidneys used on his dialysis machine. Each red or blue
inch-long loop of plastic represented more than eight hours on the machine,
so those long, draping cords pictured years of added life, the gift of modern
technology, the grace of a machine to cleanse Tim’s blood and stave off death."
One of the other joys of this book is its use of music as metaphor.
I think of the way she quotes composer Olivier Messiaen in his "Quatour Pour
la Fin du Temps" for violin, cello, clarinet and piano. This work is inspired
by Revelation Chapter 10. Written while Messiaen was imprisoned by the Nazis
in 1941, this quartet was performed on damaged instruments in the prison camp
at Gorlitz in Silesia. The Fifth Movement is very important and includes a broad
cello melody: Dawn says it "magnifies with love and reverence the eternity of
that powerful and sweet Word."
Pachelbel’s popular "Canon in D" is also understood as a consummate
picture of God’s grace. The same eight notes in the bass line repeat over and
over without any variation or change, just like the Trinity’s love, says Dawn,
while the texture above in the violins, violas and cellos keeps changing intricately.
If there is any problem with the book, it is in the way a reader
with a less classical education than Dawn’s would be intimidated by it. But
for those of us graced by formal Christian education, this book is a jewel.
You can order JOY IN OUR WEAKNESS: A Gift of Hope From the Book of Revelation from St.
WHEN THE TREES SAY NOTHING: Writings on Nature, by Thomas Merton.
Edited by Kathleen Deignan. Drawings by John Giuliani. Sorin Books. 185 pp.
Reviewed by MITCH FINLEY, author of more than 30 books
on Catholic topics, most recently It’s Not the Same Without
You: Coming Home to the Catholic Church (Doubleday). Finley
delivered a major address at the 1999 meeting of the International
Thomas Merton Society, later published as "The Joy of Being
Catholic: The Relationship of the Conversion of Thomas Merton
to the RCIA," in The Merton Annual, Vol. 13 (Sheffield
THOMAS MERTON (1915-1968) wore many identities: reformed unbeliever,
Catholic convert, Trappist monk, poet, social critic, photographer, wit—and
now we can add "nature mystic" to the list. Anyone familiar with Merton’s writings
will not be surprised by this, of course, since it was clear as early as Merton’s
first few books, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, that he found a loving God
in the wind, the trees, the birds and the fields.
When the Trees Say Nothing is a lyrical and substantial
collection of many short excerpts from Merton’s books, with enlightening and
informative introductory essays by Thomas Berry and the editor. Simple drawings
of animals, trees, leaves, mountains, etc., complement the text beautifully
and nudge this compact volume into the "gift book" category.
Thomas Berry states succinctly how this book contributes something
vital to contemporary religious consciousness: "Today...we find ourselves in
a critical moment when the religious traditions need to awaken again to the
natural world as the primary manifestation of the divine to human intelligence.
The very nature and purpose of the human is to experience this intimate presence
that comes to us through natural phenomena."
If this book has a weakness, it lies in the introductory essays.
Both overlook that it is precisely because Merton was Catholic that he was able
to be so broad-minded; it was his Catholicism which made it possible for him
to cultivate a sacramental imagination which could perceive the presence of
the sacred in the wind, trees, rain, birds and deer. It was Merton’s Catholic
imagination which made it possible for him to appreciate the sensitivity of
other religious traditions and philosophies to God’s presence in everything
from a storm to a star-filled night sky.
One sample: "To go out to walk silently in this wood—this is a more important
and significant means to understanding, at the moment, than
a lot of analysis and a lot of reporting on the things 'of
With regard to the vital intimacy that exists between humans and
nature, as in so many other ways, Merton was a prophet and ahead of his time.
He understood that to be alienated from the natural world is to be alienated
from our deepest self. If we would rediscover and nourish our relationship with
our heavenly Father’s creation, this book is an excellent place to begin.
You can order WHEN THE TREES SAY NOTHING: Writings on Nature from St.