THE CHURCH AND THE WORLD: Gaudium et Spes, Inter Mirifica, by
Norman Tanner, S.J. Paulist Press.
144 pp. $12.95.
Reviewed by MARK M. WILKINS, who is
in his 30th year of teaching at St. Xavier
High School. From 1969 until 1973, he
was a member of the Movement for a Better
World, a group of laypeople and religious
who gave workshops around the world to
promote the spirit of Vatican II.
TO COMMEMORATE the 40th anniversary
of the Second Vatican Council,
Paulist Press is presenting an eight-volume
series that focuses on what
today’s Catholics need to know about
the Council in order to live it in our
personal and parish lives. As Pope
Benedict XVI wrote about
Vatican II, the Council’s
purpose was to lead us on
our journey of faith.
This is the first book of
the series and focuses on
one of the most significant
issues the Council fathers
grappled with—the relationship
of the Church and
the world in which we live.
At first glance, the two documents
that Tanner evaluates
here seem to have
little in common.
Gaudium et Spes (GS, the Pastoral Constitution
on the Church in the Modern
World) is one of the longest and most
significant of the Council’s documents.
Inter Mirifica (IM) is one of the shortest
and least remembered.
Inter Mirifica (Means of Social Communication)
carries very mixed reviews.
On the one hand, the document broke
no new ground, was only briefly discussed
and debated, and generated
more opposition as the voting deadline
neared. It is considered the Council’s
most incomplete document.
On the other hand, this document
led to renewed emphasis on the role of
the media and the means of communicating
the gospel message to the
world. The Council fathers no longer
demonized the media, but recognized
it as a tool that must be studied, understood
and properly used by the Church
in the world of today.
The legacy of Pope John Paul II was
enhanced by his effective use of the
print, audio and visual media in communicating
with Christians, the Orthodox,
Jews and other people of faith.
The pontiff’s funeral last April—in the
public square of St. Peter’s—indicates
that the Roman Church is presenting a
different media face to the world than
it did 50 years ago.
IM may be faulty, but it should be
noted that, after the Council finished,
the new office for communications
at the Vatican
(called for by IM) produced
a pastoral instruction, Communio
et Progressio (1971),
which elaborated thoroughly
themes that IM had
The opening lines of GS still carry a lot of power: “The joys and hopes, the
griefs and anxieties of the
men of this age, especially
those who are poor or in
any way afflicted, these are the joys and
hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the
followers of Christ” (GS, #1).
These words are still a powerful
reminder of the vision set forth by
the bishops and the magisterium. As
Tanner writes, this document’s importance
was more than the sum of its
parts. Much of its power lay in its overall
tone and its approach rather than in
the details of what it said (or failed to
say). It presented a different way to
approach the world. “Us versus them”
became as outmoded as a black-and-white
For many, GS could be seen as the
crown of the whole Council because of
the number of issues it touched upon.
Furthermore, of all the documents of
Vatican II, it seems to have most closely
captured Pope John XXIII’s original
vision of a pastoral council.
And that is a key point to emphasize,
the pastoral nature of the council and
of GS. Part I contains general principles
while Part II treats more particular and
concrete issues. In Part I, the Church
develops its teaching about humanity,
the world in which we live and the
Church’s relationship to both. In Part
II, it concentrates on concerns which
seem particularly urgent today: marriage
and the family; culture; social,
economic and political life; and peace,
avoiding war and promoting international
Tanner notes that GS’s approach to
the human person has been criticized as
old-fashioned, too individualistic and
based upon an outdated body/soul dualism.
Some of today’s key issues (roles
and rights of women, globalization, ecology,
migration issues, to name a few)
were only partly envisaged back then.
Overall, this book is a welcome
reminder of the strength and power of
the documents of Vatican II 40 years
after their appearance. Father Tanner
has a done an excellent job of presenting
a very balanced analysis of
these two works. By understanding
more of their development, I was able
to understand better what has to be
done to make certain that they do not
lose their staying power.
I hope that every diocese and parish
uses the anniversary as a time for prayer
and reflection on the mission and ministry
of the Church today. This series
might be a useful tool in setting a tone.
Reading the opening lines of Gaudium
et Spes reminded me of my youthful
idealism for what the Church should be.
It also reminded me that anything less
than that is not good enough for the
Church or for the world.
You can order THE CHURCH AND THE WORLD: Gaudium et Spes, Inter Mirifica from St.
OF OUR FATHERS: Reflections on Catholic Tradition, by Eamon
Duffy. Continuum. 187 pp. $19.95.
Reviewed by the REV. MICHAEL P. ORSI,
Ed.D., research fellow in law and religion
at Ave Maria School of Law in Ann Arbor,
CATHOLIC HISTORIAN Eamon Duffy’s
view could best be summed up as a
lament for the loss of poetry in the
post-Vatican II Church. By no means a
traditionalist or antiquarian, he has an
acute sense of how folk religion helped
create a metaphysics which lent itself to
a Catholic sacramental worldview.
Duffy believes that the cultural richness
of the faith has been obscured by present
theological expression and the
somewhat sanitized and didactic rites of
the contemporary liturgy.
These insightful articles provide historical
perspective on Catholic devotion,
along with an explanation of the
religious and psychological utility
found in various Church traditions.
For example, he shows how developments
in Mariology have reflected
the shifting emphases that characterize
different periods of Church life. Duffy
notes the 19th-century emphasis on
Mary’s chastity and how it was used
to bolster the Victorian moral code. In
contrast, the current thrust in Marian
theology and devotion—which is a
scripturally based emphasis on Mary
as a model of perfect discipleship—is
consistent with Vatican II’s ecumenical
outreach to Protestants.
Duffy’s focus on the “cult of the
saints” in Catholic life is both theologically
enlightening and spiritually
uplifting. He gives us a greater appreciation
for the place of sainthood in
Catholic ecclesiology, and shows how
the late Pope John Paul II was pastorally
wise in recognizing the value of the
saints in promoting the Church.
Duffy notes how the virtues of particular
saints have been used both for
inculturation of the truths of the faith
and for strengthening the Church’s
presence in the regions from which various
canonized figures have come. The
saints serve as reminders of each person’s
call to holiness. Seeking their intercession
and relying on their tactility
(through the use of relics) highlights
for believers the porous state which
exists between this world and the next.
Duffy bemoans the present state of
the new rites for Christian
death. He argues that current
funeral liturgy which,
he says, speaks only about
the joy of the Resurrection,
lacks the quality of the old
rites that spoke to the
cacophony of emotions—
sorrow, anger, fear—afflicting
all human beings at the
loss of loved ones. He sees
this as something close to
Protestantism which, by
rejecting purgatory and the
intercession of the saints, ends our conversation
with those beyond the grave.
The current Catholic expression,
Duffy believes, limits our theological
appreciation for the interaction that
exists in the full Body of Christ—Militant,
Suffering and Triumphant—in the
work of salvation. His essay on praying
for the dead is a masterpiece in the
development of doctrine, and reinvigorates
the importance in Catholic theology
of having Masses celebrated on
behalf of the deceased. Pastors
would be wise to reeducate
on this aspect of the faith.
Duffy offers an excellent
assessment of what he sees
as the root problem confronting
the priesthood. He
says that today’s priests are
expected to live a Tridentine
model of priesthood
without the support structures
that once upheld and
Promoting the role of laity in the
Church (with the increased presence
of lay participants in the reformed
liturgy) has, in effect, removed the
priest from his unique place in the
Church’s hierarchical structure.
Indeed, Vatican II egalitarian reforms make the former type of separation
impracticable, forcing the contemporary
priest to live a schizophrenic existence.
Duffy contends that this
confusion in priestly identity was at
the heart of the priest sexual-abuse crisis.
The data would tend to corroborate
his assertion, since the number of abuse
cases dramatically increased after the
Council. Duffy investigates the
Church’s response to the scandal, and
wisely cautions that no adequate
response can be given unless the current
severely compromised identity of
the priesthood is examined.
These essays are rich fare, and should
be read by all thoughtful Catholics.
They emphasize the importance of
building on tradition while recognizing
the necessity for shedding what is superfluous
and no longer meaningful.
The reader will be challenged to look
more deeply into Catholic discipline and
the rituals used to present Catholic truth
in the new millennium. In fact, this
book should be a must on Pope Benedict
XVI’s “Things to Read” list.
You can order FAITH OF OUR FATHERS: Reflections on Catholic Tradition from St.
STRANGERS TO THE CITY: Reflections
on the Beliefs and Values of the
Rule of Saint Benedict, by Michael
Casey. Paraclete Press. 208 pp. $15.95.
THE WISDOM OF THE BENEDICTINE
ELDERS: Thirty of America’s
Oldest Monks and Nuns Share Their
Lives’ Greatest Lessons, by Mark W.
McGinnis. Blue Bridge Publications.
281 pp. $14.95.
A BENEDICTINE LEGACY OF PEACE:
The Life of Abbot Leo A. Rudloff, by
Brother John Hammond. Weston Priory.
316 pp. $19.95.
Reviewed by MARY ANN VERKAMP,
O.S.B., currently serving as librarian at
Monastery Immaculate Conception, Ferdinand,
Indiana, where she has been a
professed member since 1963.
WITH A POPE named Benedict, now
seems an opportune time to look at
three books that explore the values St.
Benedict and his followers hold dear.
The focus of Strangers to the City is
captured in the title of Chapter 1: “Distinctiveness.”
Our way of acting as Benedictines
(and indeed as Christians)
should be different from the world’s way.
In the sixth century a young man
named Benedict left the city of Rome
where he was studying.
Benedict rejected the decadent
beliefs and priorities
dominant in his day and
began a journey that would
gradually align his life with
gospel values and ultimately
lead him to union
Do you experience a lack
of balance, stability, moderation
and peace in your
life? Casey’s book may well
be the compass that will
point you in a new direction. In so
doing, you may discover an exhilarating
freedom that comes from choosing
the priorities that Benedict found helpful
in his search for God.
This is a deeply challenging book for
anyone discerning a call to monastic
life or desiring to deepen a monastic
commitment made years ago.
The second book asked Benedictine
elders to share their wisdom, something
we seldom do in our culture
which glorifies youth. These 30 men
and women monastics interviewed are
among those who were “not daunted
by fear at the outset” of their monastic
journey, but rather have “progressed
in this way of life and run with their
hearts overflowing with the inexpressible
delight of love” (Rule of Benedict).
In the Foreword to The Wisdom of the
Benedictine Elders, Joan Chittister says
our culture is stuffed with knowledge
but lacking in wisdom. Where is a better
place to seek wisdom than among
monks and nuns?
“Balance” is the word which all interviewed
mention as very important in
Some of the biographical data made
for tedious reading at times. Additional
anecdotes, nuggets of wisdom in the
tradition of the Desert abbas and ammas (fathers and mothers), would have
given the reader more to “chew on.”
All of the people interviewed were
profoundly impacted by Vatican II.
Their lived experiences in those turbulent
years reflect how they never lost
sight of the essential question in Benedictine
life: Am I truly seeking God?
I would recommend this book be
added to a reading list for those inquiring
about the Benedictine
life, whether that be for
membership or an oblate
or associate of a Benedictine
The third book, by Brother
John Hammond, longtime
confrere with Abbot
Leo Rudloff in Weston Priory,
shares in an honest,
straightforward style Leo’s
life journey based in great
part on his “Reminiscences.”
A Benedictine Legacy of Peace depicts
a man who was passionate about three
things: reconciliation between Christians
and Jews; a lasting Benedictine
presence in Israel; and a profound
desire to see his “baby,” Weston Priory,
flourish with a genuine spirit of
Leo Rudloff did not believe that
monastics should live in splendid isolation,
unaware of the difficulties facing
the world, but rather be attentive to
what is happening around them, read
the signs of the times and speak a
prophetic word when necessary.
Leo did not want monasteries to be
like submarines in water but rather like
sponges soaking up the suffering of
those around them while offering them
a place of refuge and dialogue.
He wanted to introduce a new
approach to monasticism in America, saying, “Let us give room to the Holy
Spirit.” This new approach would be
characterized by egalitarian relations, a
more contemplative lifestyle, manual
work, hospitality and prayer.
Most of the Benedictine foundations
prior to 1950 in the United
States were deeply involved
in parishes and schools.
Weston Priory in Vermont
would be a new expression
of Benedictine life in America,
but such would not
happen without great pain
The book is a positive
addition to the history of
Benedictine foundations in
the United States as well as
Israel. An index and a
chronological chart of major events in
Leo’s life would have been helpful.
You can order STRANGERS TO THE CITY: Reflections
on the Beliefs and Values of the
Rule of Saint Benedict, THE WISDOM OF THE BENEDICTINE
ELDERS: Thirty of America’s
Oldest Monks and Nuns Share Their
Lives’ Greatest Lessons and A BENEDICTINE LEGACY OF PEACE:
The Life of Abbot Leo A. Rudloff from St. Francis Bookshop.
THE LURE OF SAINTS: A Protestant
Experience of Catholic Tradition, by
Jon M. Sweeney. Paraclete Press. 237
Reviewed by PAT McCLOSKEY, O.F.M.,
editor of this publication. He has written
two books about saints and twice made
major revisions to Saint of the Day (St.
Anthony Messenger Press).
“THIS BOOK is written,” explains
Sweeney, “with the overriding conviction
that the stories of the saints are
actually stories of God at work in the
world in and through us, that the truth
of Christianity can only be known in
imitation of Christ and those faithful
who have gone before us, and that to
try and be a saint is definitely a role
He continues: “When we contemplate
saints, we are really thinking
about our own lives. They reflect what
we wish for, what we desire most
deeply, and the direction we are headed
in....The very human emotions of even
the most famous and revered of saints
are an indication that saintliness is still
much closer to humanness than to godliness.”
Once a student at a Bible college,
Sweeney sometimes found himself in
the Art Institute of Chicago, gazing
with fascination at paintings of saints: “The world of Catholic imagination is
different than the world of Protestantism.”
He discovered saints as
“guides to multifaceted faith.”
Interspersed with this
volume’s 13 chapters are
12 sections on spiritual
practices related to the
saints. Some of these are
quotations from authors
and reviewers regularly
appearing in this column:
the late Basil Pennington,
O.C.S.O., Mitch Finley,
Murray Bodo, O.F.M., and
the late Wayne Teasdale.
Marek Czarnecki, an icon
“writer” featured in our
December 2003 issue, is also here.
One “Practice” section offers ideas
for home celebrations of saints.
Sweeney does not restrict himself to
officially recognized saints: Dorothy
Day, Mother Maria Skobtsova and Cardinal
Joseph Bernardin appear as examples
of saintly living and dying.
According to the author, “If you
allow God to become as close to you as
to enflesh you, being a saint, living
your vocation, will become natural.”
Though Sweeney praises Kenneth
Woodward’s classic Making Saints, he
overlooked Woodward’s explanation
that the “Devil’s Advocate” role in the
process for identifying saints was eliminated
Eight pages of endnotes, a five-page
glossary, suggestions for further reading,
an index of names and an index of
subjects complete this engaging volume.
You can order THE LURE OF SAINTS: A Protestant Experience of Catholic Traditions from St.