Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Book Review: Many Are Called

The stack of books I'm trying to read is much larger than what my calendar allows for. When I do actually finish a book though, I want to use the blog to tell you what I thought about it. I'm happy to lend this or any other book in my library if you live near me and don't look like a hooligan.

Biblical scholar Scott Hahn has turned his incredible wealth of knowledge to bear on the Catholic priesthood to see what the Bible has to teach us about it in Many Are Called. Now, it may seem presumptuous or self-centered to recommend a book whose subtitle is "Rediscovering the Glory of the Catholic Priesthood," but I hope you don't perceive it as such. I read this book on a private retreat in hopes of strengthening and re-invigorating my priesthood, and now I would recommend it to all. It is an excellent overview of God has given us in the Catholic priesthood, not in Fr. Brian, he does it very poorly. But through the priesthood God has demonstrated his personal and close care for us.

In this book, Hahn explores the history of priesthood as it was practiced in the Old Testament, then perfected in Jesus Christ, then continued in the Church. With his typical humor and love of puns, Hahn reviews the basic roles of a priest as Father, Mediator, Provider, Teacher, Warrior, Judge, Bridegroom, and Brother.

I'd like to look at the priest as warrior just briefly, because it at first glance appears incongruous with the rest of the list. Hahn starts by telling the story of two priests who died in war while serving others, then goes on to show how much Christian language, like "Redeemer" and "Christ" have backgrounds in battle or conflict (you'll have to read the book to see how). Ancient Israel was constantly engaged in warfare, and the priests would actually offer sacrifice in advance of the battle and thank God in advance for delivering them. The physical battles of the Old Testament were foreshadows of the far more deadly spiritual battles we are engaged in today. St. Paul, being very worldly in his pre-Christian life, regularly uses battle imagery to explain his point. Priests today face huge spiritual battles to defend Christ's followers from an enemy that never rests and is endlessly working against him.

Scott Hahn's short book can help to inspire a renewed appreciation for the priests among us. The job is so much bigger than manager or administrator of a parish. It's father, warrior, judge, and brother all wrapped up into one. They are imperfect men, and they need your support (me, most of all). Many Are Called can help us to appreciate that anew.

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