Tuesday 24 March 2020

The Reason for the Seasons - Fr. James V. Schall - Why Christians Celebrate What and When They Do

The Reason for the Seasons:
Why Christians Celebrate What and When They Do
Fr. James V. Schall
Sophia Institute Press
ISBN 9781622826902
eISBN 9781622826919

This version of this book was published in 2018. It looks to be a revised and expanded version of Rejoice and Be Glad (ISBN 9781622822966) that was published in Match of 2017. The subtitle of that earlier edition was ‘Celebrating the Great Feasts of the Church’. Both subtitles work. I will admit the book is not nearly what I was expecting, I was expecting something along the lines of The Church's Year: Unfolding the Mysteries of Christ by David W. Fagerberg. But this book is a collection of 52 essays and articles. And there are some real gems in this collection. Many of the pieces appeared previously across 10 publications and websites. The pieces had appeared in:  The Catholic Thing, Catholic World Report, Gilbert Magazine, Crisis Magazine, MercatorNet, Aleteia.org, The Hoya, National Review, Inside Catholic, and The University Bookman. And as with any anthology or collection like this one there are pieces you will absolutely love, some you will like and maybe a few that just do not do it for you. I can state that many deeply impacted me and I will likely return to the volume and reread it following the seasonality of the pieces.

In the introduction Father Schall states:

“Over the years, I have written a number of relatively short essays on various Church feasts. These feasts are always an occasion to ask: “What is the point of the celebration?” “Why is it a case, not just of rejoicing, but of knowing the truth that makes real joy possible?” We cannot be joyful without ultimately knowing why we should be joyful, without having something to be joyful about.

In particular, I have written (and include here) many reflections on Christmas, Easter, and the days surrounding them. Also in this text are considerations of Pentecost, All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day as well as of the “End Times” that come up in the last Sundays of the Liturgical Year.”

And that is evidenced by the weighting in the sections. The book is broken into 5 sections, and the sections have between 21 and 3 reflections. They are:

Part 1 From Christmas to New Year’s (21)
Part 2 From Ash Wednesday to Easter (15)
Part 3 From the Ascension to Pentecost (5)
Part 4 Ordinary Time (3)
Part 5 From All Saints to the Immaculate Conception (8)

At the end of each piece that was previously published it references the source and publication date. In the conclusion Schall states:

“At the beginning of this book, I quoted five authors — Josef Pieper, G. K. Chesterton, Samuel Johnson, St. Augustine, and Karl Adam. My selections were not arbitrary. They are designed to anticipate, to alert the reader to the flavor and thought that goes into the various texts that follow. As the reader goes through the book, the themes found in these initial citations keep recurring.”

And he does just that. There is part of me that wishes the sections in the volume were more evenly balanced. Or that Lend received as much weight as Christmas. But Father Schall has his reasons. And as the author of over 70 books there is much I could read across other subjects. In that conclusion he also states:

“Each year the liturgical cycle, in contrast to the chronological counting of days, but reflective of it, leads us through the history and nature of our salvation. No doubt, in one year, we can but touch on the riches that are found in each of the events of our redemption. As can be seen in these chapters, each year, each feast or memorial becomes a new starting point. We look again, with the new events of our own life and times, at the fact of Christ’s presence in this world, during the time of Caesar Augustus.”

And further along:

“No better way can be found to make sense of our own lives than to see them in the light of the drama of God’s calling us through Abraham, through the Incarnation and Redemption of Christ on the Cross, through the awareness we have that neither we ourselves nor the world itself is made fully to satisfy us, even though it can satisfy us in many good things.”

One of the pieces that impacted me most was his essay on Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson’s novel The Lord of the World, and that pieces and some of his references to C.S. Lewis have stirred in me a desire to return to the writings of Lewis, Benson and Chesterton.

This was one of those books I could hardly put down. But it is also one that I should have taken more time with. I will likely return to it and next time only read an essay every day or two. It is an excellent volume that any Catholic would benefit from reading.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2020 Catholic Reading Plan!

No comments: