Nov 15, 2013

Briefly Reviewed

Online Edition:
November 2013
Vol. XIX, No. 8

Briefly Reviewed

by Helen Hull Hitchcock

The Transforming Power of Faith
by Pope Benedict XVI 2013. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 109 pages; $14.95 (hardcover.)

Only a few months before his historic resignation from the papacy, Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed a Year of Faith for the Church, providing an important opportunity for Christians to reflect upon and deepen the life of faith within them, to renew their belief in and relationship with Jesus Christ, the one Savior of the World, and to revive, as the Holy Father said, “the joy of walking on the path he pointed out to us, and bear witness to the transforming power of faith.”

Faith means taking the transforming message of Christ into our lives, receiving the revelation of God, who makes us know that He exists, how He acts, what His plans for us are, and how much He loves and cares for us.

Part of Pope Benedict XVI’s catecheses for the Year of Faith included a series of 16 addresses given at his weekly audience from October 2012 to the end of his papacy in February 2013. These last audiences of Pope Benedict XVI are his parting public gift to the Church. And all are in this book, The Transforming Power of Faith.

These talks explore how and why faith is relevant in the contemporary world. How can we come to certainty about things that cannot be calculated or scientifically confirmed? What does God’s revelation mean for our daily lives? How can the hunger of the human heart be fulfilled? 

Offering the guidance of biblical exegesis, pastoral exhortation, and fatherly/ brotherly encouragement, Pope Benedict seeks to answer these questions and many others in The Transforming Power of Faith.

“We do not only need bread, we need love, meaning, and hope,” Pope Benedict explains, “a solid foundation, a solid terrain that helps us to live with an authentic meaning even in times of crisis, in darkness, in difficulty, and with daily problems.…”

Faith is not a mere intellectual assent of the human person to specific truths about God; it is an act with which I entrust myself freely to a God who is Father and who loves me… Faith is believing in this love of God that is never lacking in the face of human wickedness, in the face of evil and death, but is capable of transforming every kind of slavery, giving us the possibility of salvation. Having faith, then, is meeting this “You” God, who supports me and grants me the promise of an indestructible love that not only aspires to eternity, but gives it; it means entrusting myself to God with the attitude of a child, who knows well that all his difficulties, all his problems are understood in the “you” of his mother. And this possibility of salvation through faith is a gift that God offers all men….

We must be able to proclaim this liberating and reassuring certainly of faith with words, and show it by living our life as Christians. 

“With faith everything truly changes,” Pope Benedict says. 

A more urgently needed — and consoling — teaching from our revered Pope Benedict can hardly be more timely as we close this eventful Year of Faith. 


Collects of the Roman Missals of 1962 and 2002
by Lauren Pristas  2013. New York: Bloomsbury Press (T & T Clark). 272 pages; $49.95 (paper—available in other formats.)

Subtitled A Comparative Study of the Sundays in Proper Seasons before and after the Second Vatican Council, this detailed scholarly study examines the collects (opening prayers of the Mass) that are assigned to the Sundays and major feasts of the Church’s liturgical seasons, in both the ordinary and extraordinary forms of the Roman rite. The Latin collects assigned to each day in the typical editions of the two Missals are compared and contrasted, both as to their respective sources and with one another.

The author, Lauren Pristas, is Professor of Theology in the Department of Theology and Philosophy at Caldwell College in New Jersey. Following publication of four leading articles on the processes by which the 1970 Roman Missal was edited, in 2006 she was awarded the first Society of St. Catherine of Siena Research Fellowship in Liturgical Theology and this book represents the results of her research arising from the fellowship.

Dr. Pristas’s critical analysis of the collects also considers pertinent discussions and decisions of the two study groups (coetus) of the Consilium responsible for these changes: 1) De Calendario (liturgical calendar) and 2) De Missali (Mass collects).

(The Consilium [council] for the Implementation of the Constitution on the Liturgy was responsible for making the post-Vatican II liturgical revisions. Organized in 1964, its work concluded in 1969 with the completion of the new Missal, and the establishment of the Congregation for Divine Worship.)

The goal of Dr. Pristas’s study is to determine whether the two sets of collects present the same picture of the human situation, approach God in the same way, seek the same things from Him, and, where they do not, to identify significant changes in theological and/or spiritual emphases in the pre- and post-Conciliar Missals.

The first section of the book describes the Consilium’s organization and working methods, the policies governing the revision, and the source materials used by the study groups. Then there is a series of chapters on the liturgical seasons, analyzing the changes in the collects for Advent, Christmas, Septuagesima (which was suppressed), Lent, and Paschaltide.

The author concludes the book with her reflections on the uniqueness of the post-Vatican II liturgical reform, and a critical comparative evaluation of the changes reflected in the collects. The book includes a bibliography, an index of prayers and scriptural citations, and a general index.




The Layperson’s Distinctive Role
by Francis Cardinal Arinze 2013. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 118 pages; $9.95 (paper.)

The role of the laity in the Catholic Church is an oft-debated topic. The Layperson’s Distinctive Role, an important and timely new book written by Cardinal Francis Arinze, describes in positive and simple terms what the layperson’s distinctive role is in the Church, and how the lay apostolate distinguishes the lay faithful from clergy and religious.

The call of lay people to be witnesses of Christ in the ordinary areas of secular life — such as family, work, recreation, politics, and government — shows how demanding the apostolate of lay people is. The book draws from the dynamic teachings of the Second Vatican Council, the riches of the 1987 Synod of Bishops on the Lay Faithful, and recent popes’ emphasis on the lay apostolate. It stresses the call for laity to witness to Christ in society.

Leaders and members of lay groups and movements will find this book encouraging. Clerics and religious will find these considerations by Cardinal Arinze of great help, both in appreciating the limits of their own apostolates and of seeing how to put before the lay faithful the demands of their calling.

Cardinal Arinze explains, “It is important for all in the Church to have a good understanding of the apostolate specific to the laity… In order to think more deeply about the role of the laity, reasons are given for the urgency of lay initiative, together with what it has de facto achieved in some countries… It is important to have a clear idea of the different roles in the Church and to formulate a sound and dynamic theology of the laity and also of their spirituality.”

Cardinal Arinze, who grew up in Nigeria, became the youngest bishop in the world. He served as president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (1985-2002), and was prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (2002-2008). His book on liturgy, Celebrating the Holy Eucharist, was published by Ignatius Press in 2006. 


Celebrating Mass According to the Roman Rite
Training video with commentaries by the Rev. Douglas Martis.
DVD (37 mins.; Midwest Theological Forum:

An excellent instructional video for celebrating Mass authentically according to the third edition of the Roman Missal. Father Douglas Martis, director of the Liturgical Institute at Mundelein Seminary, is the priest-celebrant, and the ceremony is accompanied by Father Martis’s instructive commentary on every part of the Mass. The Mass takes place in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception at St. Mary of the Lake, Mundelein Seminary — and the readings, music, chants, and people’s responses are done by the Mundelein Seminary schola.

This video is the collaborative effort of  the Liturgical Institute and Midwest Theological Forum. It provides a model to follow in preparing to celebrate the Sacred Mysteries in a way befitting their dignity. This well-thought out video will be an especially helpful instructional resource for seminarians; and it will be of use to all who are involved with parish liturgies.





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.