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BOOK REVIEWS 147 Christian Totality: Theology ofthe Consecrated Life. By BASIL COLE, O.P., and PAUL CONNER, 0.P. New York: Alba House, 1997. Pp. 336. $18.95 (paper). ISBN 0-8189-0798-3. The revised edition of this book appeared in 1997 and has gone largely unnoticed by theological and religious reviewers. In its first edition (Bombay: St. Paul Publications, 1990), the text was perhapstoo narrow, but in its present form it provides what is probably the most comprehensive theological manual on the consecrated life today. Coauthored by two theology professors, the book skillfully integrates theological themes with documents of the magisterium in such a way as to restate the classical theology ofthe consecrated life in a manner accessible to the contemporary reader. Firmly grounded in the theological perspective of Vatican II, the revised edition pays careful attention to the provisions ofthe 1983 Code ofCanon Law, the post-synodal exhortation Vita consecrata, and other documents pertaining to the religious and consecrated life issued over the last thirty years. For this reason, as well as for its style, I refer to the work as a "manual," for it contains, in summary fashion, a comprehensive understanding of the consecrated life from "scriptural, historical andtheological perspectives." For good measure, the authors include a good bit of sensible pastoral guidance, particularly in the sections on the three evangelical counsels. The vision of the "vowed life" portrayed in Christian Totality is that of an all-encompassing way of life. Based not on moral obligation, but on God's initiative and the mystery of transformation in his love, the authors draw upon the theology of the "states" of life to explain how religious profession places one in a new relationship with God. All of the observances of that way oflife are orderedto the transformation of the person into the likeness of Christ, and in Christ to contemplate the Father. In their insistence on the centrality of the life ofvirtue and the relationship between virtue and vow, the authors manifest their clear reliance on the teaching of St. Thomas. While their account of the vow of obedience is less emphatic regarding its sacrificial nature, they are always fundamentally in accordwiththe Angelic Doctor (cf. Summa Theologiae 11-11, q. 186, aa. 5, 7, 8). Given Conner's and Cole's Thomistic background it is important to note their careful and even-handed portrayal of other lines of thought and traditions , which makes the book useful to a wide range of persons and traditions. Perhaps the best example of this is found in the chapter on obedience. Building on the biblical data, and teasing out a theology of consecrated obedience, the authors are careful to portray the various traditions of obedience with accuracy and respect, while never relinquishing their basic Thomistic orientation. They view obedience as the central act of religious consecration, embodying "a religious attitude of wholehearted, unconditional cooperation with and submission to the saving plan of the Father, even when it confounds human judgment" (176). 148 BOOK REVIEWS The authors claim that the heart of the book is to be found in their treatment of the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty, and obedience. It is here that they are at their best. Their positive theology ofthe vows is clear and serves as a corrective for the more negative accounts of the post-Reformation era and the confused explanations found in some contemporary books on the religious life and the vows. The wide range of material included in the text, from biblical and patristic reflections to historical references drawn from the ancient and medieval periods, evidences scholarship and a breadth of theological perspective. In an age preoccupied with matters sexual, the exposition ofthe vow ofchastity (75-110) is especially helpful. The underlying anthropology here, a mixture of St. Thomas and John Paul II, renders a view of the Christian person vowed to chastity as creative, productive, and optimistic. There is no doubt, in their theological view, that humankind has been made for happiness. While the authors are careful to respect the current distinction between religious life and other forms of consecrated life, particularly secular institutes and societies of apostolic life, their principal intention is to address institutes...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2473-3725
Print ISSN
0040-6325
Pages
pp. 147-149
Launched on MUSE
2017-04-05
Open Access
No
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