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Journey into Light: The challenge and enchantment of Catholic Christianity by Roderick Strange

by
10 June 2022

Martin Warner enjoys an attractive apologetic

WHEN Roderick Strange, formerly Roman Catholic Chaplain to the University of Oxford, publishes a book entitled Journey into Light: The challenge and enchantment of Catholic Christianity, we might immediately think of John Henry Newman.

Newman’s hymn “Lead, kindly Light” featured prominently in the Pope’s sermon when Newman was canonised in 2019. And the atmosphere of Oxford, academic study, and the enrichment of many friendships pervades this book.

But the author’s motive reaches beyond mere reminiscence. This is also a very attractive apologia. Newman’s epitaph, “from shadows and images into truth”, is a statement about the truth that resides in the Catholic Church and to which numerous hints and influences might point us.

Strange wants to tell us how Christianity is naturally catholic. His exposition has a simple structure: the Church’s liturgical year. He starts with reminding us that belief in God is a reasonable thing, and then offers a series of reflections that go from Advent to the following November.

Part of the didactic skill of this wise teacher is that he understands how the experience of liturgy communicates a truth beyond itself. His account of Passiontide and Holy Week is a good example of how liturgical events open up what sustained the life and teaching of St Paul. Similarly, the feast of the Immaculate Conception is used as a hook on which to hang a meditation on the theme of mercy which Jesus reveals in the Gospels.

In an age when so much has been forgotten about our Christian inheritance of faith, Strange introduces saints and theologians of the past as though they were old friends. He does not labour the point, but offers the odd soundbite to remind us how thin our own discourse is becoming.

The warmth of human sympathy, the array of interesting and original people, and the range of places, circumstances, art, and literature all indicate how Strange has been nurtured by the ease and confidence of the Catholic Church.

He is the most reasonable of apologists. He faces the challenge of the empty tomb, but brings the risen Christ alive in his recollection of Christian people who exemplify its reality. He makes it seem obvious to refer to the ordination of women to the priesthood, while at the same time listing the achievements and reforms of 20th-century popes who have uniformly resisted it.

This is a book that you could give to any number of people who belong to a generation that has matured while simultaneously accumulating a deficit of Christian experience. Here they will find the encouragement to think again about that deficit.

And the Catholic dimension of Christianity is important. Beyond the discordant noise of issue-led agendas, this book speaks of the enchantment of angel worship in heaven and the liberating effect of its echo on earth.


Dr Martin Warner is the Bishop of Chichester.

 

Journey into Light: The challenge and enchantment of Catholic Christianity
Roderick Strange
Hodder & Stoughton £16.99
(978-1-529-38000-2)
Church Times Bookshop £15.29

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