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Books by ND faculty among great Catholic books

Author: Arts and Letters


Books by four Notre Dame faculty members have been included in the recently published survey, “One Hundred Great Catholic Books: From the Early Centuries to the Present,” by Don Brophy.

Brophy, former acquiring editor and managing editor for Paulist Press, admits to being idiosyncratic in his selection of books from two millennia of church history. In order to qualify for his list, a book must have been accessible to a general readership and beneficial to Catholic Christians over a long period of time. His list of short descriptions includes such classics as “The Sayings and Stories of the Desert Fathers,” “The Rule of Saint Benedict,” and St. Thomas More’s “Utopia.”

It also includes “We Drink from Our Own Wells,” by Rev. Gustavo Gutierrez, O.P., John Cardinal O’Hara Professor of Theology; “After Virtue” by Alasdair MacIntyre, O’Brien Senior Research Professor of Philosophy; “Catholicism,” by Rev. Richard P. McBrien, Crowley-O’Brien Professor of Roman Catholic Theology; and “A Marginal Jew,” by Rev. John P. Meier, William K. Warren Foundation Professor of Theology.

Praising Father Gustavo Gutierrez’ 1983 book, “We Drink from Our Own Wells,” Brophy says that it relies “on the experiences of Latin American people to unpack the basic Christian themes of conversion, grace, joy, simplicity and community.” He adds that the book is “less valuable as a sociopolitical analysis than for the spiritual themes it develops. And these continue to be insightful and timely.”

In his description of MacIntyre’s 1981 book “After Virtue,” Brophy observes that “Alasdair MacIntyre has done more than any other person in the last quarter century to energize debate about the dilemmas of ethical decision making in daily living.” He says that “because MacIntyre writes historical rather than technical philosophy, `After Virtue’ is accessible to nonspecialists. Still it is a book for serious readers.”

Describing Father McBrien’s “Catholicism,” Brophy says that in the years since its publication in 1980, the book “has established itself as a basic text on the Catholic faith in high schools and universities and as a reference work for general use. It was the most comprehensive narrative summary of Catholic belief in the years after the Second Vatican Council.”

Of the 1991 first volume of Father Meier’s projected four volume series, “A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus,” Brophy writes that “despite the complexities of argument” involved in Meier’s project, “his writing is always engaging, and the questions he raises are endlessly fascinating.”

In the book’s afterword, Brophy also recommends a 1991 anthology, “Thomas Merton: Spiritual Master,” which was edited by Lawrence Cunningham, Rev. John A. O’Brien Professor of Theology at Notre Dame.

Originally published by Michael O. Garvey at on September 21, 2007.