In Christianity on May 3, 2009 at 4:47 pm

Spent the last several days mostly in bed with some sort of respiratory issue. Sickness is never fun, but it does provide time to read.  Since the number of books at my bedside (yours, too?) always exceeds the time available to read them, I took this opportunity to do some catching up.

John W. O’Malley’s What Happened at Vatican II was mentioned in a previous post and I promised to return to it.  O’Malley’s book includes so much that is helpful, it requires a post of its own.  But don’t miss this book.  O’Malley offers a balanced account of the Council’s work.  He avoids emotionally charged terms like “conservative” or “progressive,” preferring simply “majority” and “minority.”  Yet a clear and wonderfully heartening picture of the Council’s work emerges, accomplishing his stated goals: To provide a brief, readable account that (1) summarizes the events of the Council, (2) puts the issues that emerged into context, and (3) suggests some keys—a hermeneutic—for grasping what the Council accomplished (p.1, from the “Introduction”).

O’Malley’s book was a pleasant contrast to The Rule of Benedict, by David Gibson.  Gibson is among those who are less than pleased with the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI.  At various points accusing Benedict of an “inherently pessimistic outlook” (p.166) and “radically rereading” Vatican II (p.324), Gibson’s account ends up giving the impression of a long-harbored polemic, rather than any sort of carefully considered look at the Holy Father and his work—whether at Vatican II or since.

Finally, I’ve not yet finished Eamon Duffy’s, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England 1400-1580, but have found much profitable even in the book’s early pages.  I am indebted to Fr. Benedict Kiely (Blessed Sacrament Church in Stowe, VT), for pointing out this book during his lecture, “The Witness of the English Martyrs.” Duffy’s focus on the faith of the laity, his emphasis on the importance of the communal, and his understanding of symbol and liturgy all offer great insight for our times—which was, in fact, the point of Fr. Kiely’s good lecture.

Enough, for now.  I miss being here at Christianity Richly when I am away for more than a day.  With apologies for the lapse over this past week, I hope to see you again soon—and regularly—in the days to come.

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