May 15, 2013

Books Briefly Reviewed

Online Edition:
May 2013
Vol. XIX, No. 3

Books Briefly Reviewed

by Helen Hull Hitchcock


The Word Made Love:
The Dialogical Theology of Joseph Ratzinger
Benedict XVI
by Christopher S. Collins, SJ
2013. Collegeville, Liturgical Press.
181 pages (paperback) $24.95

In The Word Made Love: The Dialogical Theology of Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI, Jesuit Father Christopher Collins provides a lucid description of the theology of Joseph Ratzinger, which he describes as “dialogic” — meaning that the Logos/ Word is constantly throughout history communicated to each person. Father Collins thoroughly explores Ratzinger/ Benedict’s works — from scholarly books to papal documents and homilies — which consistently show that Christianity is about a Person and our encounter, our communion with Him. God is the Word, the Truth, who speaks in the person of Jesus Christ to human beings, who hear the Word, receive the Truth, and respond to it. The Christian vision articulates the radical transformation that happens when we enter into this divine dialogue. Collins argues that this dialogical, communicative structure is a distinctive aspect of Ratzinger’s thought and a unique contribution to the renewal of theology in our day.

The book begins with a useful chapter on Joseph Ratzinger’s theological formation. Here Father Collins notes that while Ratzinger’s thought was considered “progressive” at the time of the Second Vatican Council (at which he served as a peritus or expert), he has been described as “conservative” in recent decades. Often this apparent change is ascribed to social or political factors (“the sixties”).  However, Collins writes, a more persuasive explanation for the development in Ratzinger’s thought is the way in which “one is called into the tension of living within this dramatic narrative of the salvific dialogue of God with humanity.”  God’s love is unchanging, but different circumstances in actual human history may require different emphases to communicate this truth.

This “dramatic narrative” in which God and human beings interact in “dialogue” is revealed first in Scripture (Revelation, Word), and in the liturgy, which joins the Liturgy of the Word with Eucharist, the sacrifice of Christ, in an intimate communion between God and man. The final chapter, “Word Spoken from Beginning to End: Creation and Eschatology,” focuses on the Word of God unfolding in history — each person’s history as well as the history of the world.

Father Collins entered the Society of Jesus in 1995, and was ordained in 2006. He received an MA in history from St. Louis University, and completed further academic work at Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge and at Boston College.  He is currently assistant professor of theology at St. Louis University.


A Sense of the Sacred:
Roman Catholic Worship in the Middle Ages
by James Monti
2012. San Francisco, Ignatius Press.
684 pages (paperback) $34.95

This book is a comprehensive explanation of medieval liturgical celebrations. It is a careful, detailed, and eminently readable account of medieval liturgical rituals and fascinating allegorical explanations drawn from original sources.  James Monti has exhaustively researched medieval liturgical manuscripts, printed missals, and the writings of medieval scholars.

The book explains the origin (or first recorded appearance) of a wide range of ritual customs and ceremonies of the Church in western and central Europe, and it includes sections on each of the seven sacraments, the feasts and seasons of the liturgical year, as well as special rites, such as the coronation of a pope. The author gives particular attention to the liturgical texts of medieval Spain. He frequently cites contemporary scholars — notably William Durandus (Guillelmi Duranti) of Mende (died 1296), author of the invaluable Rationale divinorum officiorum.

The history and development of the Church’s worship and ritual traditions reveals the “language” of the liturgy — the symbolic meaning and scriptural sources that underlay ritual words and actions — as they emerged during this very fertile period of the Church’s complex liturgical history. As an example of the author’s thorough exploration of these sources, three chapters, or nearly 200 pages, are devoted to the development of liturgical rituals from Palm Sunday to Easter.

Reflecting on this symbolic “language” and its unfolding over time can lead us to a greater appreciation of the real continuity of Catholic worshp.

The author is a regular contributor to the monthly missal Magnificat, and is the author of The King’s Good Servant But God’s First: The Life & Writings of St. Thomas More and other books.


The Voice of the Church at Prayer: Reflections on Liturgy and Language
by Uwe Michael Lang
2012. San Francisco, Ignatius Press.
206 pages (paperback) $18.95

“This is a propitious time to write a book about liturgy and language,” writes Oratorian Father Lang in his introduction to this book. He explains that this is not only because Pope Benedict placed the liturgy at the center of his theology, or because we now observe the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and the priority given by the Council fathers to the Constitution on the Liturgy; rather it is essentially because “it is at Sunday Mass that the vast majority of practising Catholics experience Church…. [T]he Church’s lit-urgy is an expression and witness to her infallible faith, and it should help us to understand in a way surpassing all verbalization that our aspirations for goodness, for truth, for beauty, and for love are grounded in the all-surpassing reality of God,” as the Council said.

Father Lang delves into a historical and theological study of the changing role of the Latin language in the liturgy through the Church’s history. The gradual change from Greek to Latin for the Mass (or Divine Liturgy), with the cultural and political influences that affected this dev- elopment, is well described in the early chapters of this book. The transition from “classical” Latin to a distinctively Christian sacral idiom that took place during the middle ages has a nuanced history — and recent scholars do not always agree on every detail of how this transition came about.

The author devotes a chapter to the history of the Roman Canon, and another to Saint Thomas Aquinas on liturgy and language. A final chapter — on the history of the challenges presented by the revision of the Roman Missal after the Second Vatican Council and the recent English translation  — is a succinct and readable summary.

Archbishop Augustine DiNoia, OP, former secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship (CDW), and current president of the Ecclesia Dei Commission,  comments that this book “presents the key issues within a wide historical and theological perspective. Father Lang is able to explain the reasons that motivated the current revision of vernacular translations produced in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council as well as the factors that drive the broad movement towards a more extended use of Latin in the Catholic Liturgy.”  Father Lang, a priest of the Oratory in London, until recently served on the staff of the CDW, and he is the author of Turning Towards the Lord.


Saint Edmund Campion
Missal & Hymnal
Jeffrey Ostrowski, editor
2012. Corpus Christi Watershed.
980 pages (hardbound) $22.96

The Saint Edmund Campion Missal and Hymnal is a convenient one-volume resource for celebrating Mass in the extraordinary form. Intended for individuals as well as parishes, it contains the complete text of the 1962 Missal (for both solemn and low Masses), music for 18 Gregorian chant Masses, and 160 metrical hymns for congregational singing. The book also includes many illustrations, including photographs of the extraordinary form Mass being celebrated by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP).

The editor/publisher is Jeffrey Ostrowski, the talented young Catholic composer/musician who is president of Corpus Christi Watershed. Mr. Ostrowski also produced the Vatican II Hymnal for the ordinary and extraordinary forms of the Mass (which was published with the approval of the Diocese of Corpus Christi).

Mr. Ostrowski has also composed several musical settings of the Mass texts as well as music for the Psalms. For detailed information about the contents and ordering information for both the Campion Missal & Hymnal and the Vatican II Hymnal, as well as many downloadable music files, visit the Corpus Christi Watershed website:



Helen Hull Hitchcock

Helen Hull Hitchcock (1939-2014) was editor of the <em>Adoremus Bulletin</em>, which she co-founded. She was also the founding director of Women for Faith & Family and editor of its quarterly journal, Voices. She published many articles and essays in a wide range of Catholic journals, and authored and edited <em>The Politics of Prayer: Feminist Language and the Worship of God</em> (Ignatius Press 1992), a collection of essays on issues involved in translation. She contributed essays to several books, including <em>Spiritual Journeys</em>, a book of “conversion stories” (Daughters of St. Paul). Helen lectured in the US and abroad, and appeared frequently on radio and television, representing Catholic teaching on issues affecting Catholic women, families, and Catholic faith and worship.