The Climate of Monastic Prayer by Thomas Mertora (Shannon 35s.).
This posthumous book is one otf the most important Thomas Merton ever wrote and it is to he hoped that its title does not inhibit its circulation. Many people outside religious communities, whether or not they have the gift for contemplative prayer, will welcome this scholarly and experienced account of the nature of contemplation and its place in the life of the church.
Those in doubt, and those who feel they are only enquirers should read first the last two chapters where they will discover the contemplative spirit which is vital 421 all Christian life. The book gives a precise and economic account of the stark anatomy of prayer which is a confrontation in faith and in the dark with God whom we cannot name, describe or even delineate, but who is there pervading our lives and sustaining the whole world.
This is a book at once terrifying and reassuring. Equally important and clear is the description of the relation between personal prayer and the liturgy and of the oft quoted equation of prayer and work. An outstanding and invaluable book.
Grace in Freedom by Karl Rahner (Bums and Oates/Herder and Herder 40s.).
This is a pocket encyclopedia of Rahner meditations. The first section is a piece of balanced wisdom about the post-conciliar church. Rahner will of course, be accused of sitting on the fence. If this is the place to live the unchangeable truths of Christianity which invites men to "to entrust themselves to that mystery of life we call God in faith, hope, love and unconditional confidence in Jesus Christ" while still building the future, then I am content to sit with him. Conservative or progressive, radical or reactionary, it means unconditional surrender, prayer, Iove of Christ, silence and suffering; and above all to realise that our own insight is bound to be a partial though necessary contribution to the developing mystery of salvation. There are 64 essays ranging well beyond Vatican H, and over half of them are concerned with freedom— freedom of personal piety, freedom in one's spiritual context, the theology of freedom, freedom and grace. Rahner has that rare gift of writing scholarly work that is deeply moving.
Modem Mission Dialogue Commissioned by Pro Muneld Vita, Brussels, (Shannon 40s.).
This is nineteen essays on contemporary Christian attitudes to non-Christian religious and ideologies. It is no dry ecumenical treatise but a first hand account of field work by experts, and is quite absorbing. Typical, though rare, is the account of work among atheists in Scandinavia by Father Gregoire, O.P.
This is an atheism we don't meet here; the blank-faced atheism which can say, "My good friend, I do not understand. You work intelligently on the embryology of the brain, and you are a Catholic," This was actually said by a Danish professor of biology to a colleague.
In this setting we see the ultimate in ecumenical work, Christianity starting from scratch. It does happen. And it is witness of 'the most absolute and humble kind.
Sacraments and Secular Man by George McCauley, S.J. (Burns & Oates/Herder & Herder 40s.).
Father McCauley sets the sacraments in the much discussed context of the secularised world. This is a work of pastoral rather than academic significance, e.g. the, practical conclusions relating baptism to Christian education and the Christian society, and the relation of infant baptism to subsequent "conversion".
Although the style is verbose there are flashes of condensed wisdom, e.g. on marriage. "to place all one's honour, all one's dignity henceforth in another fragile and free human person is no small ideal".
Priests for Tomorrow by Ruud J. Bunnik (Shannon 45s.).
Father Bunnik teaches in the seminary at Apeldoorn. He puts in cold print the sketch plan of the future church that we often hear about—I:silty/priesthood dis tinction; part-time priests; women priests; celibacy; temporary priesthood. Rather Bunnik is not extreme and does not seek too eagerly to persuade.
He works from a basis of scholarship and offers both sides of an argument Wiith detachment. The scope is ecelesiological and social, so in the description of the Christian of the future we hear little of his personal relationship with Christ.