Truth in the Religions. by Montgomery Watt (Edinburgh University Press, 30s.).
Holiness in Action, by Roland Cluny, trans. by D. A. Askew (Burns & Oates, 9s. 6d.). Talks to Legionaries, by Rev. Francis Ripley (John S. Burns & Sons, 5s.).
Retreats, by Fr. Dignam, SJ., Compiled by Mother Mary Magdalen Taylor (Hows & Co. Ltd., 35s.).
ONE important and distressing feature of the controversy which still rages over Teilhard de Chardin's Phenomenon of Man is the failure of a great many presumably intelligent people to appreciate the terms of reference which the author set himself. I do not suggest that if these terms were appreciated his work would be acceptable on all points, but I mean that with a thinker of his stature even his mistakes are important and a challenge to probe deeper into the problem.
Mr. Montgomery Watt has a high, but by no means uncritical, regard for de Chardin, and his "sociological and psychological approach" to religion makes no secret of its indebtedness to the method which de Chardin used in his broadly scientific approach. I must say at once that those who find the Phenomenon of Man hard to stomach had better keep away from this formidable descendant.
Anachronism There is much in it which will seem 'offensive to pious ears', yet if we allow the author his terms of reference, an expert writing for sociologists and psychologists, there are many suggestions here which Christian theologians and philosophers must take note of.
Impossible to summarize such a book in a paragraph, but the general thesis, that religious truth must be distinguished from the vehicles which the human mind invents to express it, is supported by wide knowledge and acute observation of religious beliefs and practices, particularly among Christians and Muslims, The author suggests that the theologians' identification of God with the Aristotelian first cause is an anachronism, and that the concept of Life (beloved of Saint John) has richer possibilities.
While I would say that many passages betray a lack of understanding of some fundamental Christian beliefs, I was delighted to see the significance of Ephesians 5, 22 seq. brought out in a way rarely perceived by Christian commentators (pp. 169170). Crowded "The world today needs saints of genius" says Simone Weil, quoted in the Introduction to Holiness In Action. Roland Cluny sets out to show the significance of holiness in the life of the Church and of the world by five short studies of saints who were geniuses in their several ways, Paul, Augustine, Bernard, Francis, Ignatius, and by a final brief, rather crowded survey of outstanding saints in history.
Apart from the generous quotation from Augustine and Bernard there is little new in these lives and the book as a whole is not up to the high standard of this series.
Organized "Young people are • . turning to secular movements to find there the exciting work, the active idealism and the organized enthusiasm for which they are craving. They should find these in the Church" says Father Ripley. How true. Talks to Legionaries provides material for the Allocutio for a year and is itself an excellent study of the spirituality of the Legion of Mary.
Five editions testify to the perennial popularity of Father Dignam's Retreats, with its appendix of spiritual letters and sermons. Evidently a 'must' for spiritual reading bookshelves.