Friday, June 17, 2005

Reading for Year of the Eucharist

Before he passed from this life, Pope John Paul II declared this the Year of the Eucharist. Throughout this year, not only His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, but many local bishops are calling Catholics to renewed attention, study, faith, devotion and adoration of the Blessed Eucharist. Our diocese is hosting a major Eucharistic congress in Charlotte in September. We have already seen a new focus on Eucharistic teaching in homilies, as well as in our diocesan newspaper (The Charlotte News & Harold). We have even seen a number of Eucharistic processions in local parishes. A number of my friends have purchased copies of books of Eucharistic theology written by the Holy Father himself while he was known to the world as Cardinal Ratzinger. Among these, pride of place likely belongs to God Is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life (Ignatius Press, 2003). But there are also the earlier related volumes, also by Cardinal Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy (Ignatius Press, 2000), and, much earlier, Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy (1986). One should also mention his contributions in Looking Again at the Question of the Liturgy With Cardinal Ratzinger: Proceedings of the July 2001 Fontgombault Liturgical Conference, edited by Alcuin Reid (St. Augustine's Press, 2004), reviewed with keen interest for Ratzinger's favorable remarks about the traditional Latin Mass by the late Michael Davies before his passing.

Not to be missed:

Abbot Vonier's A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist

Without wishing to detract in the least from these excellent choices in reading, I would also suggest a book to which new attention is being called after many years, Abbot Vonier's A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist. Vonier was a bestselling Catholic author in England during the 1920s -- that golden age of Catholic letters when writers like Chesterton, Knox, and Belloc flourished (you know, writers of the sort that contemporary dissenters have "outgrown" and traded in for the "more substantial" dreamy fantasies of Teilhard de Chardin & Hans Kung). After his death in 1938, Vornier's work fell out of print and was largely forgotten. Yet his writing on the subject probably remains about as clear and fresh and orthodox as can be found anywhere. And it is succinct: his book is a mere 196 pages long. But the work is substantial. Don't take my word for it. Read the Introduction by Aidan Nichols, O.P., who is no theological slouch himself. Then read the book and see for yourself! You will be glad you did.

For one thing, just look what they're saying about this book:
  • "A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist is one of the few classics in Catholic theology composed in English.... This book, remarkable for its balance, depth, and accessibility, should never be out of print." -- Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J.
  • "Stephen Langton, the 13th-century Archbishop of Canterbury, famously said, 'If you wish to learn, five things are necessary: purity of life, simplicity of heart, and attentive mind, a humble disposition, and a gentle spirit.' Abbot Vornier's book onthe Eucharist exemplifies the beauty and radiance of all five of these virtues. Not since St. Thomas Aquinas's treatment of this sacrament in the Tertia Pars of his Summa Theologiae has there been a more lucid and serene presentation of the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist than this book. It should be required reading in every course in sacramental theology in every Catholic seminary and college in the nation." -- Edward T. Oakes, S.J.
  • "I have seldom read such a convincing, clear, and comprehensive study in Eucharistic theology as A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist. Its theological depth comes largely from its fidelity to, and its power to illuminate, the Church's sacred Tradition concerning the Eucharist. The most stunning effect this book had on me was the realization of the shallow and ephemeral nature of most current theology, by comparison. We don't seem to produce theological thinkers like this anymore. Perhaps this book will begin to remedy that lack, by instructing apprentices and stimulating us to imination. We dwarfs had better start standing on the shoulders of giants like this, as Father Vonier himself clearly has done." -- Peter Kreeft.
  • "One could wish most earnestly that every Catholic -- and every Protestant for that matter -- would read Abbot Vonier's book. Both the mystery and the richness of the Eucharist are here: but the book is splendidly readable -- no small achievement." -- Thomas Howard, author, On Being Catholic.
  • "Profound insights.... I recommend this excellent book to all Catholics." -- Fr. Kenneth Baker, S.J., Editor, Homiletics & Pastoral Review.
A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist by Abbot Vonier, Preface by Peter Kreeft, Introduction by Aidan Nichols, O.P. $12.95 retail. ($10.36 from Amazon links above)

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