Summer 2003: Christianity Today: Perils and Prospects
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The Summer, 2003 issue of Communio opens by taking stock of
Christianity Today: Perils and Prospects. This title not only relates Christianity to the present hour of the crisis of modernity, but also
places the present hour itself before the eternal “today” of Christ who is the same “yesterday, today, and forever.” The result of this
two-sided encounter, as the three articles gathered under the theme all suggest in different ways, is a new experience of the perennial
novelty of the Gospel that gives light and guidance for the road ahead.
In “Is God at the Center of Life?,” Javier Prades departs from the oft-used strategy of (uncritically) celebrating so-called
“post-modernity” as an opportunity for Christian faith. True, God —the God and Father of Jesus Christ—alone gives contemporary
man what he most sorely lacks: the courage to say “Yes” to the positivity of his finite existence as gift. And yet the Father can do this
because his paternal love is not merely at the limits of human existence, but, precisely, at its center.
Angelo Scola, writing in “The Nuptial Mystery: A Perspective for Systematic Theology?,”
confronts the fear of saying “Yes” where it is most acute in our culture, in its inability to enter into the “nuptial mystery” that links
love, sex, and procreation at the heart of elementary human
experience. In response to this fear, Scola proposes the nuptial mystery as a perspective for systematic theology—a suggestion whose
legitimacy he argues for carefully in the present piece.
Finally, in “The Modernity of the Middle Ages,” Olivier Boulnois mounts a historiographical argument to expose the ideological character of the almost universal assumption that “modernity” represents an absolute
starting point of progress. In so doing, Boulnois clears away an obstacle to the encounter of the historical today and the eternal today of the Gospel.
The second theme of Summer, 2003, Finding God in All
Things, is closely connected with the first. In “Finding God in All Things,” Jacques Servais demonstrates this connection by showing how Ignatius of Loyola’s injunction to find God in all things
translates into a comprehensive way of being Christian that knows how to discover the presence of the divine even in the seemingly “God-less” world in which Christians, especially laypeople, find
José Noriega Bastos takes up the same theme from a different point of view. In “The Origin and Destiny of
Freedom,” Noriega shows that freedom does not consist primarily in the capacity to choose among particular desires, but rather in the
ability to live that choice as a wholehearted personal embrace of a destiny that shines through and gives meaning to all the particulars of one’s life. But such an ability, Noriega shows, subsists thanks only
to the grace of the Spirit orienting man from within to communion
with the Father.
Finally, William L. Portier’s “‘The Eminent
Evangelist From Boston’: Father Thomas A. Judge as an Evangelical Catholic” underscores the link between finding God in all things and what Vatican II called the “apostolate of the laity.” Noting that
the dissolution of the immigrant Catholic subculture forces
Catholics in America to come to grips with the religious volunta rism of the surrounding culture, Portier presents the life and work of Thomas Judge (1868–1933), founder of the Cenacle family, as a guide to what the new “evangelical Catholicism” must achieve: a
rediscovery of the evangelical imperative, not in terms of Protestant
religious voluntarism, but from the heart of ecclesial faith, and as a
presence of the core of the Church in the center of the world.
Turning to Spirit and History, the present issue of Communio features Luis Sánchez Navarro’s “The Testimonial Character of Sacred Scripture.” Arguing that testimony is the category best suited to accounting for the literary specificity of the Bible,
Sánchez shows how it overcomes at the root the opposition
between historicity and religious meaning that has bedeviled
modern scriptural exegesis.
Retrieving the Tradition remembers the tenth anniversary of the death of Thomas Prufer (1929–1993), a brilliant Catholic philosopher who taught at the Catholic University of America from 1960
to 1993, with an early essay that speaks to the question of the nature of the modern (and post-modern) today. In “A Protreptic: What Is Philosophy?,” Prufer offers a comprehensive interpretation of the
history of Western philosophy in terms of its relation to divine revelation. Modern philosophy, far from a return to the Greeks, is a secularizing appropriation of theolegoumena that philosophy itself
cannot justify, but can only receive from God’s own Word. Closing
with an evocation of Heidegger, Prufer suggests that the essence of philosophy is to embody man’s constitutive openness to a revelation that he cannot produce for himself.
Notes and Comments closes the issue with Russell L. Ford’s
“Sowing Seeds and Feeding Ant Hill,” which recalls the theme of finding God in all things. Ford writes of prison evangelism as an extension of God’s love to the most abandoned. If we can find God
“in all things,” even in prison, it is because God’s love has already sought us out in all of our unlikely hiding places.
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