SAVING AMERICA?: Faith-Based Services and the Future of Civil Society, by Robert Wuthnow. Princeton University Press. 352 pp. $29.95.
Reviewed by RACHELLE LINNER, a librarian and writer who lives in Boston. She has worked in both secular and faith-based social-service agencies.
ROBERT WUTHNOW, the director of Princeton University’s Center for the Study of Religion, is the author of more than 20 books about religion and public policy, books that elegantly convey statistical information and survey results in a way that is accessible to the educated lay reader. These qualities are amply evident in Saving America?, a book written out of “exasperation” with the debate over federal funding of faith-based social-service programs.
Saving America? draws on more than 15 years of primary research about religious involvement in service to the needy, including three national statistical studies and an in-depth community study of the Lehigh Valley.
Wuthnow’s focus is on religion as it is “embedded in the wider society”—“in social norms, in cultural values and understandings, and in arrangements of resources and power that fundamentally shape it and cause it to be the way it is. Tinkering with faith-based programs in ways that do not take account of these larger arrangements is done at the risk of both unforeseen and negative outcomes.”
The debate over federal funding of faith-based initiatives has conflated service programs initiated and run by congregations and those administered by faith-based nonprofits. Wuthnow analyzes their differences and shows how misguided that conflation is. Faith-based service agencies function in much the same way as nonsectarian nonprofit organizations. “The ‘secular’ influences of government regulations, bureaucratic structure, and professional norms appeared to outweigh the influences of being associated with religious traditions and practices.”
These organizations “generally emphasize religion much less than congregations do, which underscores the importance of distinguishing the two.” Congregational service programs are more explicit about religious motivation but tend to be limited in scope; they are effective in addressing social needs because they rely on long-term relationships in a community focused on worship and spiritual growth.
“What congregations do best generally cannot be replaced by or even reinforced through government support. Yet there is considerable evidence to suggest that specialized faith-based service agencies function just as well as nonsectarian agencies and, for this reason, should not be discriminated against in receiving government support.” Congregations “mobilize people, support them spiritually, remind them of their moral responsibilities, and reinforce their commitments by putting them in contact with like-minded believers.”
The diverse American religious experience contributes to the health of civil society, and Wuthnow cautions that the “informal, personal relationships” that are the “hallmark of religious congregations” would be diminished by federal contracts and “legally enforceable relationships.” Congregations serve a bridging function “between ordinary citizens and people in their community who have power, wealth, or other kinds of influence....When democracies work well, there are ways of bridging the chasm that often exists in more hierarchical societies between the haves and the have-nots.”
Wuthnow’s canvas is large, and includes issues of trust, religious volunteerism and the relationship between caregivers and clients. He notes the connection between volunteering and spiritual practice (“people who are more actively or traditionally religious are more likely to be engaged in charitable or service volunteering...”) but finds that “confessional traditions seem not to matter very much....We know, for instance, that many of the doctrinal ‘distinctives’ separating religious traditions in the past do not matter as much nowadays in shaping the behavior of individual members.”
In fact, doctrinal differences do matter, and in omitting them from consideration Wuthnow overlooks two areas of Catholic expertise and experience. One is the formative influence of the witness, manner and theology of ministries carried out by apostolic women religious—surely an impressive legacy and an ongoing venue in which to study the faith-based provision of services to the needy. It also neglects the rich influences of Catholic social teaching, with its emphasis on subsidiarity, the common good and distributive justice.
Noting this omission is not meant as a criticism of Wuthnow’s prudent and valuable book, but to state the hope that these Catholic contributions to American civil society would become an explicit part of this important national dialogue.
You can order SAVING AMERICA?: Faith-Based Services and the Future of Civil Society from St.
PSALMS & CANTICLES: Meditations and Catechesis on the Psalms and Canticles of Morning Prayer, by John Paul II. Liturgy Training Publications. 285 pp. $24.
Reviewed by WILLIAM R. BURLEIGH, a Catholic layman who is chairman of the E.W. Scripps Company. He lives in Union, Kentucky.
FROM 1979 TO 1984, John Paul II, that great mystic of our age, devoted 129 weekly audiences to biblical reflections on marital love, revolutionary in character, that collectively have become known as his theology of the body. Then, beginning in 2001 and extending for 30 months, he once again turned to his Wednesday general audiences as the vehicle for another round of meditations, this time on the psalms and canticles found in the Liturgy of Lauds, the morning prayer of the Church.
In both instances, this extraordinary pope chose to plumb largely unexplored territory in contemporary Catholic life.
In the case of morning prayer, he was dusting off an ancient practice that had fallen into disuse. In the early centuries of the Church, it was a universal custom for both clergy and laity to attend communal prayers at the start of each day, as well as in the evening. Gradually, though, the practice migrated to monastic communities until the Divine Office, of which morning prayer is an integral part, became mostly a private prayer for religious only. It seemed foreign to ordinary Catholics.
In a significant but initially overlooked reform, however, the Second Vatican Council sought to recover the original tradition of the Liturgy of the Hours by inviting the laity to enroll once again in this “school of prayer,” just as the early Christians did.
In more recent years, as the Council’s intent has become clearer and the Divine Office has been made more accessible to the laity, a growing number of Catholics are discovering the spiritual treasures to be found there. It is not an easy discovery, but the rewards far outweigh the required discipline and commitment.
When one recites morning prayer, in the same daily liturgical rhythm together with the pope and the whole universal Church, one is powerfully struck by the fact that he or she is meditating on the same words that Jesus used. The struggles and aspirations of the Jewish people recalled in these prayers become clear reminders of one’s own spiritual pilgrimage.
What John Paul II does in this book is to become the mentor of the faithful in analyzing each psalm and canticle that make up the four-week cycle of prayers said in Lauds. He meditates on their meaning, revealing along the way the deep and creative richness of his own spiritual yearnings. He identifies, often in fascinating detail, their original place in the prayer practices of Israel. He traces how they became the warp and woof of the Christian tradition.
The book is not for everyone and is not a volume to be picked up and read in one sitting. But for those laypeople who are struggling to learn how to recite the Office and to become immersed “in the waters of the Spirit,” the pope’s reflections serve as a valuable companion and helpful guide.
It is unfortunate that these translations are not from the New American Bible, the foundation for the breviaries most widely used in the United States. Thus, some of the most treasured lines of Scripture must be read in a strange cadence that robs their familiar import. It is a small price to pay, however, for what the pope has to offer.
You can order PSALMS & CANTICLES: Meditations and Catechesis on the Psalms and Canticles of Morning Prayer from St.
HISTORY OF VATICAN II, Vol. IV: Church as Communion, Third Period and Intersession (September 1964-September 1965), edited by Giuseppe Alberigo. English version edited by Joseph A. Komonchak. Orbis Books (USA)/Peeters (Belgium). 670 pp. $80.
Reviewed by MICHAEL J. DALEY, a teacher and writer at St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati, Ohio. He recently edited (with Bill Madges) Vatican II: Forty Personal Stories (Twenty-Third Publications, 2003).
BY THE FALL OF 1964, the initial euphoria of the first two sessions of Vatican II had worn off. The realization that being in Council was hard work had set in. It is this hard work, or maturing, of the Council that the authors of Volume IV of this History of Vatican II so ably describe.
Now firmly in the hands of Pope Paul VI, the goal of this session was to articulate how the Church understood itself. This was expressed in the Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium). That document balanced the heavily papal orientation of Vatican I with a more collegial vision of Church office.
Furthermore, instead of identifying itself exclusively with the Church of Christ, the document stated that “elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside” the Roman Catholic Church as well. These new directions would not come without resistance, however.
It is important to point out here that labels like conservative or progressive were not as easily defined then as now. A bishop’s view could be progressive on one issue, while more conservative on another. Throughout the Council, whatever the subject, a minority stubbornly (they would say faithfully) sought to retain the classic formulations of faith and saw any changes as a break with tradition.
It may surprise us today, but two new groups present at the third session were women and laity. Propelled by Cardinal Leon Suenens’s remark, “Women, if I am not mistaken, make up one half of humanity,” women made history by attending as “auditors” (listeners). Not allowed to speak in the Council hall, they were able to interact with their male counterparts outside the Council.
With respect to the laity, Vatican II realized that, instead of being in the Church, the laity are the Church. Building on this would come the affirmation of the priesthood of all believers and an awareness that the call to holiness applies to all the faithful, regardless of their standing within the Church. (Many would say that these important ecclesiological insights have yet to be integrated fully, however.)
Throughout this session, the periti (theological experts) continued to exert a powerful influence. None figured more prominently than French Do-minican Yves Congar, who could rightly be called the “Council’s theologian.” Working behind the scenes, he played a role in the formation of many Council documents.
The other major achievement of this session was the Decree on Ecumenism—the working toward Christian unity. No longer considered schismatics or heretics, Orthodox and Protestants now were seen as “separated brethren.” Rather than as the exception, dialogue between the Catholic Church and other Christian communities soon became the norm.
Given this new relationship, many were confused when Paul VI decided at the close of the third session that the Council’s document on Mary should become the final chapter of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church.
The session would end on a disturbing note as well. During the week of November 14-21 (known as the “Black Week”), a series of actions were taken which greatly disturbed the Council majority and added to the tension during the intersession. As it had been throughout the Council, the last intersession became the “invisible Council” with various parties jockeying for position and, at times, the ear of Paul VI.
Though many people wanted the third session to be the last, issues like religious freedom, the Church’s relationship with Jews and the standing of the Church in the modern world were far too contentious to be settled quickly and would have to wait until the fourth and final session.
Like its predecessors, History of Vatican II, Volume IV allows the reader to get inside the many faces of the Council: the general body, the various congregations, the many informal groups and the public at large. Throughout, one is able to see a Council still evolving and shaping itself.
Looking back some 40 years, we might be tempted to think that everything was smooth sailing. This work reminds us otherwise.
Like the first three volumes, this is a demanding read, though one’s patience and attention are richly rewarded.
You can order HISTORY OF VATICAN II, Vol. IV: Church as Communion, Third Period and Intersession (September 1964-September 1965) from St. Francis Bookshop.
PRAYERS IN TIMES OF CRISIS, compiled by Mary Caswell Walsh and edited by Lorie Simmons. Liturgy Training Publications. 57 pp. $4.
PRAYERS DURING THE NIGHT, compiled by Kathleen Spears Hopkins and edited by Lorie Simmons. Liturgy Training Publications. 56 pp. $4.
Reviewed by SUSAN HINES-BRIGGER, an assistant editor of this publication.
I MUST CONFESS: I’m a sucker for small prayer books that you can tuck in your purse, briefcase or nightstand. So I was more than happy to see these two books.
Despite the fact that the format and length are identical, the content isn’t. Each book tackles its own topic, providing the reader with the most appropriate prayers for that book’s theme.
Both books offer a Foreword to give the reader a sense of what the book hopes to offer. For instance, in Prayers in Times of Crisis, Mary Caswell Walsh writes that the book “is a resource for anyone facing crisis or recovering from trauma, be it a national trauma such as September 11th, or a personal crisis.”
The books are broken down to address specific subjects the reader might be facing, such as “Prayers for Safety and Protection” in Prayers in Times of Crisis, and “Night Work” in Prayers During the Night.
The selection of prayers ranges from Bible passages to prayers from other faith traditions.
Since this reader is already a fan of this style of book, these two selections required no hard sell. Nonetheless, I was still impressed. The prayers—both modern and ancient—were engaging, and the organization made it easy to find an appropriate passage to fit my particular need.
I was so taken by these books that I went online (www.ltp.org) to see if Liturgy Training Publications offered this style of book on other subjects as well. I was pleased to find out that they do. And the inexpensive price makes them appealing as gifts.
You can order PRAYERS IN TIMES OF CRISIS and PRAYERS DURING THE NIGHT from St.
A FAITH FOR GROWN-UPS: A Mid-life Conversation About What Really Matters, by Robert P. Lockwood. Loyola Press. 300 pp. $17.95.
Reviewed by MARK M. WILKINS, a religion teacher, baby boomer and cradle Catholic living in Cincinnati, Ohio.
THIS BOOK IS for those who revel in the “glory days” of the 1940s and 1950s of the U.S. Church, rather than the confusion of the 1960s and 1970s, or the scandals of the last two decades.
A well-known Catholic journalist, Robert Lockwood is the former president and publisher of Our Sunday Visitor Publishing. His columns and articles have appeared in publications as diverse as National Catholic Register and U.S. Catholic. Currently, he is director of communications for the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
From the start, Lockwood frames his chapters with a question or two from the Baltimore Catechism, words that will resonate with nearly everyone in the 50-plus generation. The tack he uses, however, is to tell stories about the moments that those kinds of questions became real in his own life.
For example, the introduction header “What is a sacrament?” is followed by “A sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace.” Rather than launch into a didactic unfolding of the theology imbedded in that text, Lockwood has two brief episodes about attending a baptism and a funeral on successive days in his parish.
He suggests that many baby boomers live today between the baptisms of their friends’ grandchildren and the funerals of their friends’ parents. The reality of life’s journey stares us in the face. This is where the abstractions of texts become the realities of our lives. It is in this place that we live (or struggle) with faith, theology and religion.
With all the recognized weaknesses of the Baltimore Catechism, the most significant is that the rote memorization of general knowledge of what constitutes the body of the Catholic faith was never transformed into any kind of adult catechesis. It created a strong sense of being a cultural Catholic if not a committed believer.
Lockwood wants to take an adult look at faith not by ignoring the formative years, but through trying to understand the grace that was there.
He organizes the book around the Apostles’ Creed and presents it through stories that trace his own journey from New York to Fairfield University to his married and professional life. He acknowledges throughout that it is not the intellectual comprehension of the teachings with which we struggle as much as what all this means in our lives and in how we are meant to live.
I wish I had more space to explain how a reminiscence of the neighborhood bar leads into a wonderful meditation on the nature and the marks of the Church. The story of a ballgame with Chickie, Mulroy and the gang connecting to how the Church is “holy” was a real delight. And there are plenty more stories to make you smile, make you frown, then make you think a little differently about what it means to be Catholic in the very depths of our being.
I was prepared not to enjoy this book because of the heavy emphasis on the “pre-Vatican II” era and on the Baltimore Catechism. What happened as I read was that I was pulled into the great stories of life at “The End of the Line” neighborhood in Yonkers, New York. Even though I grew up in different kinds of neighborhoods, the stories resonated with experiences I have heard repeated over and over from fellow baby boomers.
I would take another point of view regarding some of Lockwood’s explanations, but any extended analysis would take away from the wonderful stories and insights he shares.
If you want an upbeat, engaging reflection on a mature faith, I would highly recommend this book. Take the time for a stroll down memory lane that might lead you to see the way of grace in your life today. You might have a different take on the journey ahead.
You can order A FAITH FOR GROWN-UPS: A Mid-life Conversation About What Really Matters from St.
DOROTHY DAY: Portraits by Those Who Knew Her, by Rosalie G. Riegle. Orbis Books. 212 pp. $22.
Reviewed by FATHER ROBERT J. KUS, pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church in Wake Forest, North Carolina. He is also an associate consulting professor in psychiatric mental-health nursing at Duke University Medical Center.
AFTER HAVING READ several books about Dorothy Day, I wondered what I could learn from yet another book about Dorothy. After reading this book, the answer is “plenty!”
Dorothy Day: Portraits by Those Who Knew Her is a treasure trove of nuggets about Dorothy and her life. The author, who did an oral history of the Catholic Worker movement, weaves reflections of people who knew Dorothy Day into a beautiful tapestry of a remarkable human life. Earthiness and humor, love and passion, radical adherence to Christian love, profound humility and strength are all found in this biography.
The book is organized into seven sections: Dorothy and the Catholic Worker; Politics and Protest; Love Is the Measure; Family and Friends; What Was She Like?; Later Years; Epilogue. An incredibly valuable nine-page bibliography is worth the price of the book just in itself.
This book is an intimate look into the many facets and stages of development of Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement. Via reminiscences of those who knew her, Professor Riegle is able to show Dorothy to be a down-to-earth person with a terrific sense of humor. Like Thomas Merton, she was very amused by those who take themselves too seriously. Like all self-actualized persons, she was passionate about something greater than herself, a Christlike passion for helping the poor of society.
The book also shows the stages of Dorothy’s spiritual development from her wild days as a young person to her conversion to Catholicism, to her radical activism and to her deepening contemplative side.
My favorite quote in the whole book was that given by Michael Harrington who said, “When the history of America and Catholicism in the 1950s is written, Francis Cardinal Spellman will be a footnote and Dorothy Day will be a chapter.”
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of Dorothy Day and those interested in biographies and saints. The book is also a wonderful testimony to the laity and how powerful they can be, something that Catholics tend to forget from time to time. It is a great sourcebook for teachers and preachers, and it would be an excellent choice for book study groups.
Finally, it is a highly inspirational book for those who love peace, joy and putting Christ’s words into practice.
You can order DOROTHY DAY: Portraits by Those Who Knew Her from St. Francis Bookshop.