Brief Book Review: Signs of Grace

Signs of Grace: Sacraments in Poetry and Prose
By David Brown and David Fuller

Who should read this? Preachers, Theology/Catholic Studies professors, catechists and adult faith formation specialists looking for inspiration and useful quotations when preaching or teaching sacraments and sacramentality. 

What difference will this book make? All too often sacraments are presented prosaically, concentrating on various theories about how sacraments “work”.  This collection of short excerpts from authors ranging from Lancelot Andrewes and W. H. Auden to Walt Whitman and William Wordsworth sparks the imagination, inviting us to enrich our sacramental imagination. 

What will you (the reader) like the most?  Placing individual treatment of baptism, confirmation, eucharist, ordination, marriage, forgiveness, anointing and death in the context of a sacramental appreciation for the natural world, other human beings and art. 

What will get you (the reader) thinking?  The number of citations that question the claims made for sacramental experience. 

Kudos.  Rather than being caught in futile debates over the number of the sacraments, the compilers cite St. Augustine defining a sacrament as “the visible form of invisible grace” and note that “[a]s late as the twelfth century as many as thirty [sacraments] were identified.”  They organize their material into nine chapters, following the contemporary trend of extending of the term “sacrament” to Christ and/or the Church as sacrament(s) and addition to the classic two or seven.  Best of all, the contextualizations the compilers offer for each of their citations sometimes reinforce a sense of visiting old favorites, sometimes startle with new insights into half-remembered quotations and frequently delight with introductions to completely new authors or perspectives. 

REVIEWER: Michael Joncas

David Brown and David Fuller, eds.  Signs of Grace: Sacraments in Poetry and Prose
Forward by P. D. James.  Ridgefield, CT: Morehouse Publishing, 1995.
xii + 178 pgs. ISBN 0-8192-1654-2.
 

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