March 2003By Thomas Ellis
Saints of Africa. By Vincent J. O'Malley, C.M. Our Sunday Visitor Books. 224 pages. $11.95.
Though today its often forgotten, Africa played a key role in the growth of the Catholic Church; many, the current Pope included, believe that Africa will again play an important role in the Church. Some of the most celebrated saints, as well as some of the most obscure, come from Africa. In Saints of Africa, OMalley covers both, from SS Augustine and Anthony of the Desert to SS Arcaduis and Armogastes. Organized in order of feast days, the sketches of the saints lives are enjoyable. In some cases OMalley conveys an epic life in but a few exciting and inspiring pages. The book concludes with an instructive history of the Church in Africa that shows telling evidence of the Holy Spirit at work.
How Christian Faith Can Sustain the Life of the Mind. By Richard T. Hughes. Eerdmans. 172 pages. $18.
The notion that one must set aside or abandon ones faith in order to be an intellectual has taken deep root especially in todays colleges and universities. Hughes attempts to dissuade the reader of this notion by showing how the Christian faith underlies and fortifies the life of the mind. Examining four different Christian traditions, including the Catholic tradition, he finds that each, rather than limiting inquiry, calls one to a rigorous and open study of the world.
While Hughess enterprise is noble and at times illuminating, it has its shortcomings. First, the book approaches the life of the mind with Cartesian overtones, far too frequently invoking Descartess universal doubt. Given this Cartesianism, its not surprising that Hughes never suggests that faith should guide scholarship. Second, Hughes describes how open Christianity is to other cultures and religious traditions, which is problematic and ends up in multicultural mush.
In sum: Hughes might provide some insight to those who already agree with him, but I doubt that he will reach anyone steeped in the reigning separation of faith and reason.
Julian of Norwich: Journeys Into Joy. Edited by John Nelson. New City Press. 184 pages. $12.95.
Julians Journeys Into Joy is sometimes difficult to read given its often mystical character. In this edition, Nelson provides a great aid to understanding what Julian conveys. Julians words are followed by texts from the Catechism, which situates the reader within a context for better understanding the timelessness of Julians message of Divine Love.