God Has a Dream: Man Fully Alive
MAN'S DESIRE FOR GOD
by Brian Mullady, O.P.
1st Books, 2003
143 pages, $10.50
To order: (800) 839-8640
Dominican Father Brian Mullady starts out Man's Desire for God with a glance back at the 1960s, when it was fashionable to use a quotation of St. Irenaeus on banners in church: “The glory of God is man fully alive.” He concludes his book 127 pages later, regretting that many Catholics today do not believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
There's a connection between the two. Father Mullady, who's been a priest for some 30 years, points out that the St. Irenaeus quotation was taken out of context, making it seem like religion is man-centered. He proceeds to show in a variety of ways the necessity of including the forgotten second part of the saying: “But man's life is the vision of God.”
One finds in this book a number of examples of the consequences of forgetting the second half. The book, indeed, is an examination of the unraveling of integrity—in theology, in man, in society, in the family and in our attitudes, as Catholics, to the Eucharist and our ultimate destiny.
“Man needs an experience of the knowledge of God,” Father Mullady writes, “which goes beyond his natural powers and requires the grace of revelation to be complete.”
Liturgical abuses—such as priests failing to purify the sacred vessels after Communion, lest any particles be lost, or assistants pouring unconsumed Precious Blood down a sink—arise, he points out, “from a bad metaphysics, in which all is reduced to appearances, and from a subjective celebration of humanity, in which all is horizontal.”
The author goes through various aspects of what it means for man to be “fully alive.” He begins with what he admits might be the most difficult question in the ology—and yet the most important—the basis for the ordering of man to God. “Just why is man fully alive fl when he sees God?” he asks.
This discussion requires the author to review a difficulty in Thomistic philosophy that many thinkers took up in the early 20th century—the problem of the “natural desire to see God.”
Here is one drawback to the book. Chapter 1 will, I'm afraid, leave many readers scratching their heads—at least the many readers who missed out on Thomism because the Catholic colleges they attended had by the mid-1960s stopped teaching it, serving up instead some of the modern theologians Father Mullady criticizes. The author might have done well to give us a more basic primer.
But it is worth struggling through the discussion, for ultimately Father Mullady shows us where more modern theologians, notably Karl Rahner, took a wrong turn in their thinking.
And beyond Chapter 1 there is excellent commentary on many of the social ills we are suffering from today—the culture of death or the loss of the father in the family and the simultaneous clamoring for egalitarian models to replace the hierarchical one Our Lord gave the Church.
Father Mullady's final chapter I is a meditation of I the Eucharist, with the help of a hymn I St. Thomas wrote for / the feast of Corpus 5 Christi, “Lauda Sion.” I His meditation takes 7 us deeply into the mys-I tery of the Real I Presence, through a r philosophical/theological examination of tran-substantiation. If one has stayed with the book this far, he will benefit much from the discussion. But it helps to brush up on your Thomism first.
John Burger is the Register's news editor.