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  • Writer's pictureProfiles in Catholicism

Why Go to Church?

Updated: Mar 18

by Timothy Radcliffe, O.P.

Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D. Profiles in Catholicism




It is rather bold of me to review a book written by a man/priest/Dominican who led the Synod of Synodality retreat for all those attending the Synod. On the back of the book the Archbishop of Canterbury states: “Many people find going to church to be boring and pointless.  Why bother? Timothy Radcliffe suggests that the Eucharist works at a deep level. Transforming our humanity, so that we share God’s life. Listening to the readings, the homily and the creed all take us through the crises and challenges of faith.  From the offertory through to the end of the Eucharistic prayer we are caught up in the hope that was Christ’s faced with Good Friday. From the Our Father until we are sent on our especially in perceiving communion, we are formed as people who are capable of love.” In the Introduction, the Archbishop continues: “As Radcliffe leads us through one of the two most important events that ever occur in church – the celebration of Holy Communion – he shows us how the journey into the heart of Jesus’ self-giving is also a discovery of what we are and who we might become in Jesus. The drama at the core of our humanity is about our reluctance to be human: and the gift that the Church offers is the resource and courage to step into Jesus’ world and begin the business of being human afresh – again and again, because our reluctance keeps coming back. But if we do take such a step, the look of the country changes; strangers are less threatening, it becomes possible to live more with our own failure and humiliation, and we may even be able to have a faint idea of what it means to claim that human life is created for joyful sharing in God’s life. And more – we become ambassadors for this new world, seeking wherever we are to let men and women know that violence and death do not have the last word where humanity is concerned.

While Radcliffe uses contemporary cultural references “(at one point he even concludes that Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings was a Dominican)”, he is careful to separate our faith from society’s emphasis on individualism and consumerism. Throughout the book, community is emphasized over individual: We may come to church with our own problems, but we leave as part of the whole. We are also tied to the community of believers who have gone before. Radcliffe often returns to the theme of emptiness. We can’t fill our emptiness by buying more stuff. Instead, we bring our emptiness to church and know that God will fill us up with the Body of Christ. In true Dominican style, Radcliffe packs each paragraph with so much.

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