Arts and Culture

Theology Deals With What Is Most Real

by Father Lauder

First in a Series
MY EXPERIENCE has been that occasionally a book gains my attention at just about the right moment. What I mean is that the book comes to my attention at a time when the content of the book speaks to what is on my mind and perhaps to problems occupying my thoughts. It provides answers and insights to questions that I have at the time when I discover the book.

When I read a review of Jesuit Father Michael Paul Gallagher’s Faith Maps: Ten Religious Explorers from Newman to Joseph Ratzinger (New York: Paulist Press, 2010, 158 pages, $16.95), I became interested. The title of the book intrigued me. Even more than that, I thought that a book that had chapters devoted to some of the greatest Catholic thinkers of the last 150 years might be useful in some of my classes at St. John’s University and perhaps in some discussion groups with which I am involved.

The book exceeds my highest expectations. I hope eventually to write a note expressing my gratitude to Father Gallagher, who teaches fundamental theology at the Gregorian University in Rome. At one point while reading the book, I thought that I was marking so many passages that I found interesting, that I might just as well mark every line! Faith Maps really speaks to me in relation to where I am in my life at this moment. It also speaks to me concerning others, especially 20-year-olds who seem to have abandoned their Catholic faith.

In his Introduction, Father Gallagher says why he wrote this book:

“I hope to offer others the fruits of my reflecting on faith, a personal adventure that has lasted half a century. More specifically I want to gather from the wisdom of ten major writers, and to let their wisdom reach people who cannot devote so much time to reading. The aim is to capture what these ‘giants’ say in today’s language and in a non-academic way. I am convinced that many people, whether they think of themselves as religious believers or not, are looking for nourishment of this kind – a mixture of intelligent and spiritual wavelengths. Each of these authors has explored questions of meaning and of faith, with depth and creativity, but most of them can, at least at first, seem unreadable for a non-specialist public. My objective is to make the riches accessible for more people.” (p. 2)

Father Gallagher has succeeded. Faith Maps is filled with great insights.

Each chapter focuses on a different thinker’s approach to faith and the emphasis is less on the content of faith and more on how we can move toward religious faith. He reports that many of his unbelieving friends find God-talk a language that does not speak to their experience. I also know such people. My impression is not so much that they have freely rejected God but more that questions and statements about God do not have any interest for them. Father Gallagher hopes that people in that situation will get in touch with their own deeper questions. If they do then perhaps reflections on the mystery of God may take on not only some meaning but the most important meaning.

In addition to Newman and Ratzinger, Gallagher deals with the thought of Maurice Blondel, Karl Rahner, Han Urs von Balthasar, Bernard Lonergan, Flannery O’Connor, Dorothy Soelle, Charles Taylor and Pierangelo Sequeri.  Quite a lineup! Pointing out that today few people simply inherit the faith of their parents, Father Gallagher believes that the thinkers he presents, whatever their differences, have tried to re-think and re-present faith in ways that speak to people today.

He links the insights of the thinkers to the spirit and approach of the Second Vatican Council. He views his book as an attempt to help people see “how God invites us to imagine our lives as grounded in a Love beyond all imagining.” (p. 3) What he is attempting is basically what the new evangelization is attempting.

Anyone who thinks of theology as an ivory tower activity that has no relationship with real life as it is experienced by people who are not professional theologians should read Faith Maps. Those who think that theology is irrelevant could not be more in error. There is no study more relevant. Theology deals with what is most real. [hr] Father Robert Lauder, a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn and philosophy professor at St. John’s University, Jamaica, writes a weekly column for the Catholic Press.

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3 thoughts on “Theology Deals With What Is Most Real

  1. “Gallagher deals with the thought of Maurice Blondel, Karl Rahner, Han Urs von Balthasar … Quite a lineup! Father Gallagher believes that the thinkers he presents, whatever their differences, have tried to re-think and re-present faith in ways that speak to people today.”

    Blondel, Rahner, von Bathasar, du Lubac, et al. were targeted in Pius XII’s 1950 encyclical “Humani Generis” ominously subtitled “Cetain Errors Which Threaten to Destroy the Catholic Faith”.

    In “Humani Generis” Pius XII warned to abandon the scholastic theology would leave Catholic faith and morals as a “reed blowing in the wind”.

    Foresightful considering the weakening of Catholic faith and morals in the wake of the Vatican II “renewal”. There was no area Catholic faith that was not questioned/rejected/attacked.

    Instead of the classical definition of “the matching of mind and reality,” Blondel’s definition is “the real matching of mind and life.”…Truth evolves…with nothing ever determined or fixed.

    Incredibly, in the polical wind change that occurred at the death of Pius XII in 1958, these censured theologians surfaced as “theological experts” (periti) at Vatican II.

    No question the current disconnect between the pre/post-Vatican II Church is due to the contradiction between Pius XII’s magisterium as expressed in “Humani Generis” and “Mediator Dei” and Vatican II.

    Benedict XVI’s “hermeneutic of continuity” appears to be a futile attempt to reconcile the magisterium of Pius XII and his predecessors with the Vatican II “reform”.

  2. What does “have tried to re-think and re-present faith in ways that speak to people today” translate into?

    Justifying Catholic divorce called an annulment, gay marriage, abortion?

    There are priests and religious who support these things and the bishops/pope do very little about it.

  3. “It also speaks to me concerning others, especially 20-year-olds who seem to have abandoned their Catholic faith.”

    And whose fault is that?

    These 20 year olds got little/no religious instruction/formation in their Catholic faith in the climate of Vatican II when priests and religious were openly questioning or rejecting Catholic faith and morals.

    You can’t lose something you never received.