“What We’re Reading”

The variety of projects and obligations occupying me have had me reading across a range of scholarship. Here’s a sampling.

Before taking my current research leave from Vanderbilt back in the summer (I’m on sabbatical this semester and in a visiting chair at Fordham for the spring), I had a couple meetings with Dr. Keith Meador, Director of the Center of Biomedical Ethics and Society, with a view to my getting involved with his/their activities upon my return next August. I recently read Keith’s co-authored book, Heal Thyself: Spirituality, Medicine, and the Distortion of Christianity (Oxford, 2003), wherein Meador (MD, ThM, MPH) and Joel James Shuman address our culture of individualism, market dominance, and increasingly generic spirituality with theological rigor, boldly countering the “idol of the therapeutic” with a “Christian politics” of sickness, care, and healing. A dense read in places, the text certainly offers much to ponder.

Over the years I have found that responding positively to requests from book review editors has greatly enriched my knowledge and imagination of things theological.  This fall I completed reading Scanning the Signs of the Times: French Dominicans in the Twentieth Century (ATF Theology, 2013), wherein American Dominican fathers Thomas O’Meara and Paul Philibert have penned informative and insightful short biographies of seven of their elder confreres, four of whom were theological advisors at Vatican II (M-D Chenu, Y. Congar, L-J Lebret, and P-A Liege). I found those men’s stories downright inspiring, as six of the seven suffered various degrees of censure from the Vatican through the early 1960s but also for the freedom, courage, and vision they had as each made so utterly practical and pastoral their varied work in the resourcement characteristic of la nouvelle theologie.

Worship‘s book review editor’s request that I review O’Meara and Philibert’s text could not have been more fortuitous, as my own current book project (with Paulist Press) is the construction of a narrative theology integrating the late Bernard Cooke’s unpublished memoir (graciously entrusted to me) with excerpts from his prodigious bibliography. While best known and identified with work on the sacraments and ministry, Cooke’s was a practical fundamental theology relentlessly exploring the work of grace in history, human experience, and relationships (personal and societal). He completed his doctoral studies in mid-to-late 1950s Paris at the Institut Catholique (while also serving as an adjunct on the faculty at St. Sulpice). The influence of those French Dominicans, especially Liege and two others leading the Catechetical Institute at the Institut Catholique, has become clearer to me. In any event, “What I’m Reading” entails close study of Cooke’s two dozen books and monographs and scores of articles and essays with a view to introducing to a younger generation the life and thought of a key player in the emergence of American Catholic theology from Vatican II through the new millenium. By the way, Cooke’s last book, Power and the Spirit of God: Toward an Experienced-Based Pneumatology (Oxford, 2004) consistently proves a helpful synthesis for closing the course on suffering and liberation I regularly teach to masters students.

With a view to the next book I hope fully to author — on the theology and practice of the seven sacraments in the American Catholic context — I have been chugging through such studies as Peter McDonough’s The Catholic Labyrinth: Power, Apathy, and a Passion for Reform in the American Church (Oxford, 2013), which I found a bit idiosyncratic but nonetheless yielding of several helpful insights and summary observations in its two closing chapters.

Prepping for the one seminar I’ll teach at Fordham next semester (an undergrad course on their books, “Eucharist, Justice, Life”) I’m finally getting to Living the Justice of the Triune God by Michael Downey and the late David Power (Liturgical, 2012). My hope/expectation is that the book will also help me shape a grad seminar I’ll teach next fall at Vanderbilt, wherein we’ll explore the concept of participation both theologically (koinonia, communio as trinitarian, ecclesiological, sacramental-liturgical) and social-scientifically (via ritual and performance theories).

Next in the queue of book reviews to which I’ve committed are Praying to a French God: The Theology of Jean-Yves Lacoste by Kenneth Jason Wardley (Ashgate, 2014) and Hope in Action: Subversive Eschatology in the Theology of Edward Schillebeeckx and Johann Baptist Metz by Steven M. Rodenborn (Fortress, 2014). But in the meantime will surely be the papers of the fine young scholars from whom I learn so much in the Emerging Critical Resources for Liturgical Studies seminar at the annual January meeting of the North American Academy of Liturgy (NAAL). January 1st will be here before we know it!

One comment

  1. What a privilege to study with both Bernard Cooke and Bruce Morrill, who rubbed clay into my eyes, washed them and lo! I could see. Looking forward to the new reads and nd reviews and completely envious of anyone who studies with Bruce Morrill, S.J. Cannot begin to describe how this priest, scholar and did friend has defined my work and nd did my life as a Catholic Christian and pastoral minister.

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