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Are Catholic Universities Catholic?

Q U I C K S C A N

CATHOLIC HIGHER EDUCATION: A Culture in Crisis
LOURDES: Font of Faith, Hope, and Charity
THE HEALING TOUCH OF MARY: Real Life Stories From Those Touched by Mary
THE SCRAPBOOKING JOURNEY: A Hands-on Guide to Spiritual Discovery
INTO THE DEEP: One Man's Story of How Tragedy Took His Family But Could Not Take His Faith
TO CLEANSE AND RENEW



CATHOLIC HIGHER EDUCATION: A Culture in Crisis, by Melanie M. Morey and John J. Piderit, S.J. Oxford University Press. 450 pp. $39.95.

Reviewed by LAWRENCE S. CUNNINGHAM, who is the John A. O’Brien Professor at the University of Notre Dame. He teaches systematic theology and culture, Christian spirituality and the history of Christian spirituality. A Brief History of Saints is his 17th book. He co-authored St. Anthony Messenger’s 2003 column on saints.

BASED ON EXTENSIVE interviews and in-depth research with senior administrators at 33 Catholic colleges and universities in the United States, this volume has the word crisis in its subtitle in the ancient sense of posing a moment of opportunity as well as a moment of danger.

The pessimistic part of this report orbits around two fundamental findings: Catholic components in not a few of the schools studied are understated to the degree that they can be overlooked, and many senior administrators (by necessity, almost always laypeople) “know little about the Catholic tradition they so enthusiastically champion.”

The cautiously optimistic part of the report, by contrast, is based on what needs to be done to avert the full consequences of the pessimistic part; such optimism is aspiration and not a reality to date.

The crisis in Catholic higher education is not hard to explain. Most Catholic schools were founded by religious communities who provided those schools with a cadre of dedicated religious who were not only conversant with the Catholic tradition but also, by their very lives, committed to it and shaped, through their formation, by it. As those religious declined in number, their lay counterparts were appreciative of this tradition but had little formation in it. They could not articulate the Catholic vision or give direction in its implementation in terms of curriculum and, more generally, in the culture of the college community.

Added to that fundamental problem was the corrosive effect of trying to follow the model of sectarian or secular models of education, the need (especially for tuition-driven schools) to attract students to keep the place going financially, and the neglect in the hiring of Catholics committed to the Catholic intellectual life.

Father Piderit is president of the Catholic Education Institute, taught economics at Fordham, was vice president of Marquette University and president of Loyola University Chicago from 1993 to 2001. Morey is senior director for research and consulting at NarrowGate Consulting, which has advised many Catholic institutions.

Of course, as these authors point out, there are Catholic colleges and there are Catholic colleges. In fact, these authors use a fourfold model to categorize the range of schools from the “immersion” schools where the Catholic component is paramount and highly visible to those schools where the Catholic component is minimal, the instruction in matters Catholic is perfunctory, and Catholic liturgical and spiritual life is peripheral. Morey and Piderit do not name names, but I could supply them in a trice.

A cynic once said that sociology is just slow journalism. In my frequent travels to Catholic campuses around the country, I have noted impressionistically what these authors in their researches set out in more empirically exacting (and rather repetitive) detail.

The plain truth is that some Catholic colleges are only marginally Catholic. Not a few of them, especially the smaller ones, will find it difficult to survive in the future or, if they do, will bear few traces of their Catholic heritage.

To have these facts set out nakedly, as these authors do, is valuable in its own right, but they are merely a launching pad for studies that cry out for further research and, equally importantly, some kind of action. In the final part of their book, Morey and Piderit propose some action plans (most of which I have heard of in the interminable discussions we have had on this campus about Catholic identity), but more needs to be done.

At least three issues they address are of critical importance: 1) how the Catholic intellectual tradition can be shared with the university administrators of the future; 2) the value of a Catholic education as a countercultural stand against today’s secular culture; 3) realistic strategies for the recruitment and retention of faculty who are committed to the Catholic intellectual tradition.

The day of an integrated Catholic curriculum based on the old Jesuit ratio studiorum and its scholastic underpinnings is long gone. The best we can hope for is that a new generation of Catholic intellectuals will rethink the whole idea of Catholic higher education. Pope John Paul II’s Ex Corde Ecclesiae has been an impetus for such rethinking, but it is only a starting place.

All of these issues are profoundly difficult in their own right, but Morey and Piderit have shown us abundantly that they are critical for the future of Catholic higher education—lest this precious resource fade into irrelevancy.

You can order CATHOLIC HIGHER EDUCATION: A Culture in Crisis from St. Francis Bookshop.

 

LOURDES: Font of Faith, Hope, and Charity, by Elizabeth Ficocelli. Paulist Press. 181 pp. $16.95.

THE HEALING TOUCH OF MARY: Real Life Stories From Those Touched by Mary, by Cheri Lomonte. Divine Impressions. 210 pp. $19.95.

Reviewed by BARBARA SONNENBERG, a retired public librarian who was privileged to visit Lourdes on November 7, 1999.

THE YEAR 2008 marks the 150th anniversary of the Blessed Mother’s appearance to Bernadette Soubirous in a remote grotto outside of Lourdes. A poor, sick, uneducated peasant girl of 14, Bernadette describes the initial February 11, 1858, apparition as beginning with a gust of wind. Then a bright light in the niche revealed an extremely beautiful young woman clad in a long white dress with a blue sash, a white veil and a yellow rose on each bare foot. A golden rosary hung from her arm and her hands were clasped in prayer.

Bernadette later wrote: “I wanted to make the Sign of the Cross....I couldn’t raise my hand to my forehead...the vision made the Sign of the Cross. Then I tried a second time, and I could. As soon as I made the Sign of the Cross, the fearful shock I felt disappeared. I knelt down and I said my Rosary in the presence of the beautiful lady. The vision fingered the beads of her own Rosary, but she did not move her lips. When I finished my Rosary, she signed to me to approach; but I did not dare. Then she disappeared, just like that.”

Bernadette’s sister Toinette and friend Jeanne Abadie were with her that day but saw only a shaken Bernadette. Toinette informed their mother of the strange occurrence and Bernadette was forbidden to return to the grotto; her story was thought nonsense.

Three days later, with grudging permission from her parents, Bernadette returned with her friends and, as was to be the pattern in the 17 remaining appearances, bystanders saw only her reactions. Eventually, sympathetic relatives and other villagers began to accompany her, then town authorities, the police, and physicians who examined her during her ecstasies.

The first miracle occurred on March 1 when water from the spring which Mary had directed Bernadette to unearth cured a woman. On the following day, Bernadette received the directive to tell her parish priests that Mary desired a chapel to be built and processions to take place. The pastor was not pleased with these relayed orders, but Mary’s revelation that she was the Immaculate Conception was the unmistakable sign that he had demanded. (How else would this illiterate young woman know this title for Mary proclaimed by the Church only four years earlier!)

Catholic convert and prolific author Elizabeth Ficocelli concisely and competently brings together the history of the sanctuary at Lourdes from the biography of the seer to the Church’s role in enabling pilgrimages, to plans currently in process for future improvements for Lourdes.

Also included is a detailed description of the facilities, the protocol for declaring physical cures and the vital role of volunteers. Intriguing sections treat the difficulty of validating spiritual healing and plans for international promotion of the Lourdes devotions.

This should be required reading for anyone who is contemplating a trip to Lourdes—either in body or in spirit.

Of the over 50 individuals touched by Mary who share their stories in Cheri Lomonte’s book, 22 credit the use of Lourdes water for the miraculous events in their lives, although only one actually bathed in the spring water there. Obviously, Mary is not limited by geography! While not officially recognized as intercessory miracles by the Catholic Church, these individuals felt called to request Mary’s intercession and feel that they have received it.

The author’s own story recalls being asked by a Jewish lady to secure some Lourdes water for a grandson born with physical defects. She readily agreed but had no idea how to obtain the water. At Mass the following day, the celebrant asked that any special intentions be requested aloud, and she mentioned needing the water. Upon exiting the church, a man announced he would be glad to share the water his brother had just brought from Lourdes.

Stories like these edify, inspire and bring to our attention the power of intercessory prayer. The text is greatly enhanced by the addition of 40 color photos of artwork depicting the Virgin on good-quality paper, but the rather unusual format makes holding the book difficult.

Lamonte’s book is an excellent introduction to personal Marian devotion.

You can order LOURDES: Font of Faith, Hope, and Charity and THE HEALING TOUCH OF MARY: Real Life Stories From Those Touched by Mary from St. Francis Bookshop.

 

THE SCRAPBOOKING JOURNEY: A Hands-on Guide to Spiritual Discovery, by Cory Richardson-Lauve. Skylight Paths Publishing. 176 pp. $18.99.

Reviewed by SUSAN HINES-BRIGGER, an assistant editor of this publication and avid scrapbooker (when she can find time).

I LOVE PICTURES. Just ask my husband and kids. And when I’m not taking pictures, I’m busy putting them into scrapbooks. I’m always excited by any new resources to add to my scrapbooking supplies. So I gladly agreed to review The Scrapbooking Journey. The book exceeded even my greatest expectations.

In the Foreword, author Cory Richardson-Lauve writes: “There is something deep within scrapbooking that fulfills us even beyond our artistic sensibilities. It stirs something in the soul. When I scrapbook, I feel empowered and connected and hopeful. I feel grateful and content and stimulated. In the process of scrapbooking, I feel the closest to my essential self, and to God.”

Richardson-Lauve is a scrapbooker, designer, teacher and artist. Her scrapbooking layouts have been featured in a number of idea books, magazines and Web sites. So she obviously knows what she’s talking about—and it shows.

The beauty of this book is that Richardson-Lauve knows how to get to the heart of why scrapbookers do what they do. Then she challenges them to take it one step further. The book contains eight scrapbook journal projects, such as “Seeking Balance” and “Expression: Finding Your Voice.” Each project, complete with questions to ponder, is designed to help readers explore and grow in their spiritual life.

Throughout the book, Richardson-Lauve also addresses issues scrapbookers face, such as the temptation to have all the latest and greatest supplies: “Don’t allow the shopping to eclipse what scrapbooking is really about.” And she gently encourages readers to convey real life in their scrapbooks—what she calls “Living in the Mess.”

“Sometimes we need to stop trying to make the world look beautiful and instead live with its brokenness for a little while,” she writes.

She also offers touching reminders throughout the book for scrapbookers: “Remember: As you express yourself through color, shape and texture on the scrapbook page, you are honoring your individual uniqueness and reflecting the image in which you were made. When you create, you are joining hands with God.”

Each chapter begins with a reflection by fellow scrapbookers about what the hobby means to them. These “Voice Along the Journey” reflections add a nice personal touch to the book.

As nice as it is to be reminded to stop and think of the bigger picture, I would be lying if I didn’t say that what most scrapbookers want is ideas. And this book doesn’t disappoint. There are black-and-white pictures of various layouts throughout the book and a small bonus section of color layouts tucked in the center. Many of the layouts are Richardson-Lauve’s own creations.

The book’s Appendix lists techniques and supplies.

This book has definitely earned a place on my scrapbooking table.

You can order THE SCRAPBOOKING JOURNEY: A Hands-on Guide to Spiritual Discovery from St. Francis Bookshop.

 

INTO THE DEEP: One Man's Story of How Tragedy Took His Family But Could Not Take His Faith, by Robert Rogers with Stan Finger. Focus on the Family. 226 pp. $13.99.

Reviewed by MARY JO DANGEL, assistant managing editor of this publication who has buried two of her three children.

THE ONLY MEMBER of his family to survive a flash flood, Robert Rogers writes a vivid account of his experience. He begins by describing family life before the tragedy in which his wife, Melissa, and their four children died. During the nearly 12 years of their marriage, Melissa gave birth to three of their children, including one with Down syndrome. Then they adopted a child from China in 2003.

That same year, while driving home in their van from a wedding during a heavy rain, the Rogers family was caught in a flash flood. The usually tranquil Jacob Creek in Kansas had grown to “a torrent later estimated to be 1,000 feet wide,” he writes. When Robert kicked out one of the windows of the stalled van, he was instantly sucked away. “I could feel myself being tossed up, down, left, and right—like a rag doll tumbling in a washing machine.”

Although Robert miraculously survived, he longed to know the fate of the rest of his family. First, the overturned van with the bodies of the three youngest children (Zachary, Nicholas and Alenah) was found. Then the body of Makenah, the oldest child, was located. It took three days until Melissa’s body was discovered.

Robert recalls the trauma of identifying each of their bodies and being asked to donate their organs. “The opportunity to donate tissues that could save other lives was the first glimmer of hope to pierce through this tragedy,” he writes.

This book is so descriptive that it may be too overwhelming for some people who are grieving. I started to read it near the first anniversary of my youngest son’s death and had to put the book down for a while before I resumed reading it because it brought back too many memories. I found myself wishing Robert hadn’t given so many details.

I lost both of my sons within a five-year period, due to the ravaging effects of cystic fibrosis. I can’t imagine the trauma of losing five family members at once, and the multiplication of responsibilities including funeral arrangements and legal issues.

Robert Rogers describes the emotional trauma of going home to an empty house that still had signs and scents of his wife and children. “I didn’t feel guilty for surviving. But I did feel guilty for not adequately protecting my family,” he recalls of his emotions at the time.

After describing the tragic event that changed his life, Robert’s story flashes back to his Catholic upbringing, career and married life with Melissa. He recalls “a pivotal moment” of his faith journey when he was a teenager and attended an interdenominational church with a friend. Before God and the congregation, Robert declared, “I believe in Jesus, I receive His gift of salvation, and I want to live the rest of my life for Him.”

The evangelical tone of this book may sound alien to many Catholics. But Robert’s deep, unfaltering faith as a Christian rings true as he describes “Jesus as my sole Savior, my sole Provider, my sole Redeemer and my sole Healer. His grace sustained me through the fiercest storm.”

Over 700 people attended the funeral for the five members of Robert’s family, where he gave a eulogy and performed a song he had written. “The best way I found to cope was to help others who hadn’t yet tasted this bitter grief,” he recalls. “I slowly released my sorrow through the act of caring for others. I knew I had to pour myself out or else I might drown in the well of my own tears.”

In 2004, Robert resigned from his career as an electrical engineer and formed Mighty in the Land Ministry, (www.intothedeep.org), a nonprofit dedicated to “teaching others to live a life of no regrets.” Mighty in the Land Foundation is dedicated to advance adoption and care for orphans and special-needs children worldwide. A portion of the sale of this book’s proceeds will care for orphans at Melissa’s Home, a Russian orphanage.

A happy footnote to this story is Robert’s marriage to Inga in 2006 and the recent birth of their son, Ezekiel.

You can order INTO THE DEEP: One Man's Story of How Tragedy Took His Family But Could Not Take His Faith from St. Francis Bookshop.

 

To Cleanse and Renew

Ash Wednesday comes early this year, on February 6. With the ashes, we cleanse our hearts. With the Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, we renew our spirit.

SEVEN LAST WORDS FOR SEVEN WEEKS: Praying With Jesus on the Cross, by Mary Sweeney (Paulist Press, 65 pp., $6.95), was written by a Sister of Charity of Halifax who is a campus minister at Boston College. She proposes a Lenten plan for spending 15 minutes a day in prayer, concentrating each week on a word or phrase from Jesus’ last words on the cross. She has a reflection, ways to apply the words to your life, and some thoughts and questions.

A SEASON OF REBIRTH: Daily Meditations for Lent, by Marc Foley (New City Press, 160 pp., $12.95), comes from a Carmelite priest, who picks Scripture readings from Sunday and weekday Mass cycles. He draws out the ways we are called to change, “to break out of our self-centered, encapsulated lives into a new and more expansive life of love in Christ.” He cites classic and current literature.

WHEN DAY IS DONE: Nighttime Prayers Through the Church Year, by Mark G. Boyer (Twenty-Third Publications, 105 pp., $12.95), contains short versions of the Church’s night prayer for all the seasons (including Lent and Easter) and many feasts of the Church year. This book is for those who want to end the day with a simple prayer on their lips. Father Boyer has written 27 books.


Books can be obtained through St. Francis Bookshop on the Web or at 8621 Winton Road, Cincinnati, OH 45231, phone 1-800-241-6392. All orders must be prepaid. Add $4 for postage and handling, $2 more for each additional book. Ohio residents should also add 6.5 percent for sales tax. The Bookshop offers a free catalog.


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