by Mary Frohlich
Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D. Profiles in Catholicism
This book is part of a series of books about catholicity. The concept of catholicity became established in Christian thought through its appearance in the Nicene Creed, adopted in 381 by the First Council of Constantinople: “I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.” As part of the series on catholicity, the assigned focus of this book is “catholicity and the Spirit.” Basically, the purpose of the book is to explore the trajectory of the relation between human spirit and divine Spirit. Part 1 of the book is entitled “discovering Catholicity from within.” Chapter 1 explores the theological foundations as well as the methodological implications of the concept of catholicity from within. Chapter 2 explores an analysis of a variety of experiences that people assert are ‘spiritual’. In Part 2”In Search of Catholic Personhood” includes four chapters which includes a wide range of sociological assessments of the impact of modernity on how people form their sense of self. In Chapter 4 the author examines briefly the theological proposals for a ‘catholic personality; that can bear the tensions of both strong individuality and radical inclusivity followed by current debates on the nature and formation of human selfhood. Chapter 5 surveys how some of the concepts of quantum physics that offer new perspectives on what it means to be a spiritual being, and how spiritual change may occur. It provides us with the question of whether ecological patterns of the earth and cosmos can be developed as a way of life. In Part 3, focuses on the Spirit’s “breathing in” which is experienced in human life as being drawn radically beyond oneself into communion. The next section focuses on “breathing-out” which is experienced by human persons as the necessity of constructing a narrative of the self as the scaffold of action in the world. The final chapters explore how spiritual experiences can blossom into a sense of vocation and the discovery of personal charisms that contribute to the ecclesial and social projects of building communion among people. This section further purports that trauma interrupts this self-construction but can also clear the way for deep transformation. Development of skills for prophetic and contemplative dialogue is a key to such projects. On the whole this book seems to want to draw all who read it to a sense of mysticism.
By taking the stance of catholicity from within, we commit ourselves to looking for the Spirit at work within creation. Both the results of the human and physical sciences and the testimonies of human experience became resources for our quest. More traditional biblical and theological resources were brought into play at a second stage to interpret and amplify the discoveries from ‘within’.
This interplay continues as we reflect on what differences the insights developed in this project may make for our own spiritual lives, our churches, and our societies. The author continues by exploring what may be learned of the Spirit through human experiences. A biblical perspective, however, strongly affirms that an experience of the Spirit is not given to a person simply for the sake of having an experience; it is rather, the urgent impetus of divine life filling one with the vitality, energy, and desire to participate in the Spirit’s own mission. If we were to name that mission, it might be communion. All the Spirit’s work is to bring all creation to an intimate and consummated communion in the loving heart of God.
Our personal spiritual experiences afford us a glimpse of that beautiful vision and light a spark in our hearts that may fuel lifelong efforts to do our part, however small, in fulfilling it.
This book fills our lives with the hope that each life makes a difference and that together we form the beauty of communion as the Body of Christ. As the Holy Spirit continues to reveal Himself through the experiences of people and of the saints, we see the importance of taking part in the mission of the Church both now and forever. The Bibliography and index add to the seriousness and importance of this book in the series.