July-August 1996

The Rosary of Our Lady.  By Romano Guardini. Sophia Institute Press. 150 pages. $11.95.

In a letter dated December 26, 1954, Flannery O’Connor wrote to Sally Fitzgerald, “I am reading everything I can of Romano Guardini’s. Have you become acquainted with his work? A book called The Lord of his is very fine.” By the next summer, O’Connor may have been reading Guardini’s The Rosary of Our Lady, first published in English in 1955. Guardini, then almost 70, remarks in his preface that he tried to write “this little book” for half a lifetime, “but the right words never came.” Only in his ripe old age, that period of life when wisdom eschews the complex and expresses deep truths with utmost simplicity, did he find the words he sought.

Guardini’s concept of the Rosary is unique; for him the Rosary is a place. When a person utters the sacred words of the “Hail Mary,” he moves into a room, where the figures of Mary, in unity with her Son, “appear as the immediate content of the prayer” — the two together, for Mary is “the woman for whom Jesus Christ, the Son of God and our Redeemer, became the main purpose of life.” To enter the Rosary, Guardini writes, is to enter “a world filled with tranquil life, a world in which we would meet, serene and benevolent, the holy images of faith.” The world he speaks of is Mary’s heart, the images all those things she saw and experienced and pondered so “carefully in her heart.”

Each time we step into this holy place, we gaze upon significant moments in the life of a mother and her Child and thereby deepen our awareness of the human qualities of Mary’s relationship with her Son. But reading Guardini we discern something deeper still: what it means when we say “Holy Mary, Mother of God.” Mary’s Child, Guardini reminds us, “is also her Redeemer, and that another child cannot be for its mother.” What happened to Mary happened to no other human being. Guardini makes us fully aware of the remarkable privilege the Rosary prayer grants us, enabling us as it does to enter that world in which Jesus lived and to see His life as it was experienced by Mary, the Mother of God.

Guardini writes beautifully and perceptively of the individual mysteries of the Rosary, his procedure being to distill, first, the essence of Mary’s experience, and then to show how that experience is repeated in our own lives. In writing of the Nativity, for example, Guardini makes us see how the emotions of Mary change from the experience of “expectation” of the birth of the living God, which was prevalent during the Visitation, to the new reality after Jesus’ birth, the heretofore inconceivable experience of “living communion, face to face,” with “unutterable truth.” And this mystery of the Nativity is related to our own experience: “In every one of us Christ is born as often as He penetrates, as essence and standard, into any deed or happening.”

Moving with Guardini through this place that is Mary’s life, one experiences it with deep understanding — e.g., one feels how the single-minded determination of Jesus to follow the will of His father became time and time again “a terrible blow [that] struck deep into her maternal heart and took her Child away” — as when she found Him in the temple after searching for three days, only to be asked, “Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” Again the parallel experience in our own lives is recognized. So it is, writes Guardini, that Christ is at the center of our lives, but then withdraws or “disappears for a while, often suddenly and apparently without the slightest reason,” leaving a void, and then one day returns “in such circumstances that the power of the Father’s will becomes evident to us.”

How fitting that this new edition of Guardini’s meditations on the Rosary is heralded by an O’Connor — John Cardinal O’Connor — who says he recommends it “highly.”

- Elaine Hallett



Ties That Stress: The New Family Imbalance.  By David Elkind. Harvard University Press. 260 pages. $19.95.

Elkind identifies “postmodern” families as those that are parent-centered rather than child-centered, which value autonomy rather than togetherness, where parents depend on technique rather than intuition, where children are urged to be competent rather than innocent, where adolescents are encouraged to be sophisticated, and where the stress felt by youth leads to a “new morbidity.” Elkind’s ideal is, in contrast, the “vital family,” which integrates the best features of the postmodern family with those of the more traditional family, though Elkind acknowledges that his ideal “is not significantly distinguishable” from the latter. Elkind’s book should be read for its contribution to understanding recent changes in the American family, and for its important, yet debatable, application of the concept of postmodernism to the family.

- James T. Mathieu



The Pummeled Heart: Finding Peace Through Pain.  By Antonelle Bosco. Twenty-Third Publications. 128 pages. $14.95.

This is a book about handling the kind of pain that seems unbearable, but which through trust in God and prayer can help us grow.

Bosco’s life was disrupted by a series of tragedies which included the suicide of a son and the senseless murder of another of her sons and his wife, all within a two-year period. The Pummeled Heart is by no means a glib group of formulas, but a book that works by its cumulative power as it describes the stages of grief, anger, resolution, and peace through the recognition of love — God’s love. Bosco describes the process by which she found equilibrium and peace, and shows that it can happen for others. Pain is the prelude to wisdom and can be transformed by and to love. But pain is hardly welcome when it comes. Bosco writes, “Even Jesus in the garden asked to have the chalice of pain taken away. That’s the human way. But God’s way is different. It’s the way of mystery….”

In the epilogue she writes that when the murderer of her son was found, she felt no anger, no need for revenge, but “only sadness.” That really is what the message of Jesus is about.

- Aaron W. Godfrey



Thomas Aquinas: The Gifts of the Spirit.  Edited by Benedict M. Ashley. New City Press. 144 pages. $8.95.

The modern tendency to view Thomas Aquinas as a pure intellectual is tempered by the publication of recent studies on the importance of love in his work (e.g., Paul Wadell’s The Primacy of Charity) and now by this small work which presents his spirituality. As Dominicans well know, Aquinas was not only gifted intellectually, but graced with a spiritual vision which his sophisticated texts do not often reveal to the uninitiated. If past readers have considered Aquinas’s texts as the domain of the trained scholar, present readers can rejoice to discover the spirituality of the man behind the ideas. In Thomas Aquinas: The Gifts of the Spirit, Benedict Ashley, O.P., has edited texts which have never before appeared in English. These texts are drawn from the Commentary on the First Letter to the Corinthians, Chapters 12 and 13, from the Commentary on Isaiah, Chapter 11, the Prologue to his Commentary on the Psalms and Psalm 45. The volume concludes with an English version of the well-known eucharistic hymn, “Adoro Te Devote” (Devoutly I Adore Thee). It also includes the text on the cardinal virtues taken from the Disputed Question 1, a. 1, in order to illustrate that, for Aquinas, no spiritual gifts develop in the absence of natural virtue.

The texts are well-translated and introduced with a brief life of Aquinas and a presentation of his spirituality as one of “the love of truth.” This work is for anyone who seeks to understand more of the spiritual vision of Aquinas. For the scholar, the book provides English translations of important texts. For the uninitiated, it is an easy introduction to the thought of a man who is often seen in dry, technical categories of Aristotelian philosophy. Too often overlooked is the fact that Aquinas was as devoted a student of Scripture as he was of philosophy.

The present volume may be the beginning of a renaissance of interest in Thomas as a spiritual guide.

- Mary Beth Ingham





Back to July-August 1996 Issue


©