July/August/September 2019

Angels. A Visible and Invisible History

Author: Peter Stanford
ISBN: 978-1-4736-2208-1
Hodder & Stoughton 2019. Hardback £20.00.
Pastoral Review bookshop £18.00

Angels are part of the Christian imagination. Who could imagine Western art without them? Think of Fra Angelico’s Virgin of the Annunciation, Raphael’s cherubs in San Sisto in Piacenza, or even the Pre-Raphaelites – angels are everywhere. And where would theology be without the ‘angelic doctor’, Thomas Aquinas, who thought them so important that he made angelology a core part of the theological curriculum – in fact, they were one of the few things he and Bonaventure could agree on.

Closer to home, there is of course the guardian angel, central to the prayers of many a Catholic childhood, or the one played by an eager child in last year’s nativity play.

And angels are not just part of the Christian story, there at the beginning, at the annunciation, and at the end, moving away the stone after the resurrection. In Islam, the angel Jibr’il plays a key part in the revelation to Mohammed.

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Christ the Heart of Creation

Author: Rowan Williams
ISBN 978-1-4729-4554-9
Bloomsbury Continuum 2018. 304 pp
hardback. £25.00
Pastoral Review bookshop price £22.50

We are fortunate that Archbishop Rowan Williams is gradually publishing hitherto unpublished seminar papers and lecture notes, such as those in his masterful work of a few years ago about Augustine.1 He has now brought out an expanded version of his 2016 Hulsean lectures delivered at Cambridge. The running theme of this collection is this: ‘A great deal of what has been said about Jesus across the centuries is shaped by a very particular concern, which has to do with how we think about the relation between God and what God has made.’ (p. xii) So we are being asked to connect our understanding of Christology - and many in the churches have a very vague Christology - to our theology of creation, which is rightly occupying more of a centre stage than in the past for Christian moral discourse.

This is historical theology, and the signs of chronological development are important: but perhaps surprisingly the very substantial introduction (40 pages) starts our journey with Thomas Aquinas; it is only after this that we enter part one of the book and an exploration of Christology from Paul to Augustine (‘Formulating the Question’). The second chapter in this section (‘Refining the Vocabulary: The Contribution of Early Byzantine Theology’) fill gaps which many have in terms of Byzantine theology in the sixth and seventh centuries, concentrating on the confusingly named Leontius of Byzantium and Leontius of Jerusalem, together with Maximus the Confessor and John of Damascene. Thus we are brought back to Aquinas, and part two of the book examines the many reactions to Aquinas’ vocabulary about the person of Christ – first from other medieval figures such as Scotus, and then at the Reformation Luther and (in much more detail) Calvin. This leads us to the modern period, and primarily Dietrich Bonhoeffer (‘Christ, Creation and Community: Christology in the Shadow of Antichrist’) – Williams points out that the latter’s Christology is a neglected area of study.

Williams is not an easy author from whom to extract easily a short extract for use in a review to give the reader a flavour of his writing, as his sentences are full and ‘packed’, but I will attempt in these snippits to give the reader an idea of his view of Bonhoeffer’s complex Christology:

‘So I cannot think about Christ except as involved with me; a conclusion that, so far from implying an individualistic theological perspective, puts my selfhood in question at its foundation.....what must die in the encounter with Christ is precisely not finitude or createdness but the delusion that we can live in denial of our finitude, our dependence on infinite agency’.

The notions of finitude and dependence has to be crucial to our contemporary theology of creation.

Williams is in my view one of the best commentators on Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’, shown in an important article2 and in a public lecture, as yet unpublished, given at St Mary’s University on 12 February 2018.3

This is an outstanding work which needs to be on reading lists for courses both on Christology and the theology of Creation.

Ashley Beck
St Mary’s University, Twickenham

1 Williams, R., On Augustine (London: Bloomsbury 2016), reviewed in the Pastoral Review vol.12 issue 4 (July/August 2016), based on seminar papers from his time in Oxford.
2 Williams, R., ‘Embracing Our Limits The Lessons of Laudato Si’’ Commonweal 23 September 2015.
3 ‘The Neighbourhood is my Neighbour: Christian love and ecological perspective. Further thoughts in the wake of Laudato Si’ While the lecture has not been published it was filmed and can be watched at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4s2ru

Ethical Questions in Healthcare ­Chaplaincy

Author: Pia Matthews
ISBN 978-1-78592-421-7
Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2018. Paperback 192 pp £19.99. Pastoral Review bookshop price £18.00

The title of this book is very precise – the emphasis is on questions not answers, and the focus is the working hospital chaplain, not a sixth-former or degree student. This defined purpose means that one can be very specific on whether the book achieves its purpose and the judgement of this reviewer - who is a chaplain in a large hospital two days a week - is that it does.

Matthews lays out the field of values pertaining to various types of ethical questions common in healthcare chaplaincy, along with at least one vivid case study illustrating the tensions round the relevant question. The questions include dignity of the human person, consent, confidentiality, beginning of life, end of life, and particular questions in respect of babies, children and young adults.
There are also chapters on loss, bereavement and conscientious objection.

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Love in Action. Catholic Social Teaching for Every Church

Author: Simon Cuff
ISBN 978-0-334-05793-2
SCM Press 2019. Paperback, 216 pp. £15.99.
Pastoral Review bookshop price £14.40

Last year in this journal we reviewed Archbishop Justin Welby’s book about the future of this country, Reimagining Britain1 in which the Anglican Primate unapologetically draws on Catholic Social Teaching. This growing endorsement of the theological tradition by all Christians (without simply describing it as ‘Christian social ethics’ or the like) is a significant new development. It is encouraging for Catholics teaching in the field, since even now there is so much ignorance of social teaching even among clergy. Some of the best material about Catholic Social Teaching is from other Christians.

Such would be a new book by Fr Simon Cuff, who teaches at St Mellitus College, a large non- residential ministry programme for the Anglican and Free churches. The book is laid out around various principles of social teaching, drawing extensively on basic sources and also focusing on key specific issues. Two issues which Cuff draws attention to, which the Anglican and Catholic Churches respectively have prioritised, are high interest ‘loan sharks’ and human trafficking and slavery. In an introductory chapter Cuff also makes extensive use of certain key figures in the tradition such as St Thomas Aquinas, Henry Manning, Joseph Cardijn and Dorothy Day.

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Saint Oscar Romero. Pastor, Prophet, Martyr

Author: Kerry Walters
ISBN: 978-1-63253-265-7
Franciscan Media 2018. Paperback 192 pp. £11.95. Pastoral Review bookshop price £10.80

The canonisation of Oscar Romero in October 2018 has brought, as one would expect, a good new crop of studies. While there remains a gap for a new and full-scale biography, the smaller books which are appearing are of a good quality. Professor Kerry Walters, formerly of Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, has produced an accessible and lively new biography.

Among well known sources and earlier works Walters draws on the 2015 study by Roberto Morozzo della Rocca1 which is important because it is said to have influenced Pope Benedict XVI, part of the process by which barriers to Romero’s beatification were gradually removed. Another feature of Walters’ book is that the passage of time and the fact that Romero is giving biographers and commentators more freedom when looking at some of the tensions in the story – both within Romero’s own life and personality, and within the Church. To be blunt: nobody has to prove now that he was a good and loyal Catholic, since he’s been made a saint.

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Saintly Feasts. Food for Saints and Scholars

Authors: Martina Maher & Colette Scully with Dries van den Akker SJ
ISBN: 978-1 7881-2027-2
Messenger Publications 2019. Paperback £17.95.

It goes without saying that feasting is as much part of the life of faith as fasting. And there is no good meal without a dedicated cook. And many foods, whether it be specific ingredients or particular dishes, have associations with the saints. Some of these associations are more tentative than others, but they help to fuel the imagination, as does a new cookery book.

This colourful new book, written by two dedicated cooks, offers both. Martina Maher and Colette Scully have been cooking Sunday lunches for the Jesuit Novitiate in Birmingham for many years. They take pride in finding new recipes to delight both residents and visitors and finding an interesting twist to add to an old favourite. The book is by no means the first of its kind or the only one on the market, but it shares the joy of a meal well prepared, ingredients cherished and good food being so much more than sustenance.

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Michael A. Hayes 1957 - 2017


Michael A. Hayes 1957 - 2017

It is with deep sadness that we announce the death of Rev. Professor Michael Hayes editor of the Pastoral Review.

Many friends and readers of the Pastoral Review and The Tablet will have been shocked and deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Michael Hayes early on Easter Saturday.   Read More


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