Sunday, June 03, 2007

A Challenging Read

A few days ago I finished reading Into the Deep: A Journey through Turbulent Times in Church and Society, by Fr. Thomas DeMan, OP (McKenzie Bridge, OR: River Publications). Fr. Tom was chaplain at the Arizona State Newman Center in the late '70s, where he was friends with my folks; ten or twelve years ago I met him at the University of Washington.

Into the Deep is a quick 162 pages; the challenge comes in its contents. Fr. Tom was ordained the year the Second Vatican Council opened. His memoirs are filled with the joy and excitement of those days, as he tried to build community and lead students to a personal relationship with Jesus. It was under Fr. Tom that the largest retreats in the history of the ASU Newman Center were organized by student leaders.

But Into the Deep also betrays the difficulties that have beset the Western Province of the Dominicans, campus ministry and large sections of the Catholic Church: doctrinal confusion, improper liturgical innovation and general disdain for anything predating the Council.

What makes Into the Deep a difficult read is that the blessings and curses have been thoroughly mixed up. Many Catholics will be intuitively frustrated with sections of the book; the difficult work is carefully thinking through its contents, separating the wheat from the chaff and being able to articulate the difference. I highly recommend the exercise for anyone involved in campus ministry, anyone trying to make the faith tangible and relevant, anyone interested in the state of the Church today.

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