Thomas Rausch, S.J.: Educating for Faith and Justice: Catholic Higher Education Today

(Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2010, 164 pp)

Following on his Being Catholic in a Culture of Choice (2006), Father Thomas Rausch, SJ, T. Marie Chilton Professor of Theology at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, has written and edited a second volume that faculty, staff and administrators concerned with enhancing the Catholic identity and mission of their institutions will find helpful. Educating for Faith and Justice: Catholic Higher Education Today (Liturgical Press, 2010; softbound, 164 pages).

Five of the ten chapters were authored by Father Rausch himself. In Chapter One, he provides a succinct overview of the history of Catholic education from its European roots to the situation of Catholic Colleges and Universities in the United States today. He comments on the involvement of religious orders in higher education, and the various methodologies for integrating character and spiritual development with study in the humanities and the sciences. In Chapter Two, he explores the shifts in thinking and practice with regard to the role of theology in the university, and how those shifts have helped to bring us to the present moment of crisis and opportunity. In Chapter Three, he treats the shift from a focus on personal piety and morality to a greater concern for social justice that was ushered in at the Second Vatican Council with the promulgation of its Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudiam et Spes. In Chapter Four, Rausch recapitulates what we can learn from data in the social sciences about the situation of young adult American Catholics today.

For Chapters Five through Nine, Father Rausch identified scholars who were involved in what he believed to be interesting and promising projects around the sustenance of Catholic identity and mission, and invited those scholars to write chapters describing those projects. In this section, we are treated to a chapter on budding field of Catholic Studies by Professor Don Briel, the founding director of the Center for Catholic Studies at the University of Saint Thomas in Saint Paul, Minnesota, arguably the leading center of its kind in the United States. This wonderful interdisciplinary initiative has gone from being a small undergraduate minor in Catholic Studies in the early 1990's to being both a major and a minor offering, graduating hundreds of students each year. A masters degree in Catholic Studies was later developed, and the program now has a thriving Rome campus as well. The Center for Catholic Studies, further, sponsors a number of institutes and publications, as well as events throughout the year designed to foster and promote a conversation about the unique contribution that the Catholic vision of reality makes to culture and the intellectual life.

This reviewer authored a chapter on an immersion course that he developed for undergraduates, a three-week pilgrimage to Rome entitled Walking in the Footsteps of the Early Christians. This course seeks to use the model of the retreat or pilgrimage in which to give students the luxury of "a time apart" in a milieu very different from the one of their everyday world, one that might allow students to transcend kronos, or everyday time, and open themselves up to kairos, the graced moment in which they know God's presence in their lives. Kristen Heyer of Santa Clara University writes about Community-Based Learning and Transformative Pedagogies in Christian Ethics. Community-based learning, Heyer writes, is well suited to Ignatian pedagogy that puts academic rigor at the service of meeting the world's needs and promoting human flourishing. Mark Ravizza, SJ, also of Santa Clara, writes about Praxis-Based education, integrated community learning, and "the formation of a Christic Imagination" through his work at the Casa de la Solidaridad in El Salvador, a study-abroad program sponsored by Santa Clara University that integrates direct immersion among the poor with rigorous academic study.

Building on the work of William Lynch, Ravizza tells us that the Christic Imagination is one modeled on the kenosis of Christ in the Incarnation, one in which we are saved, not by fleeing human reality but by entering fully into it, by embracing human finitude and limitation even to the point of death. Finally, Stephen Pope of Boston College writes about the kind of personal transformation that students can achieve through immersion trips of various kinds. Citing Gustavo Gutierrez, Pope notes that to discover "the Other" is to enter fully into the Other's world, which means breaking with our own, with our own inward-looking absorption with the Self, and that in doing so we are embarking upon a process of conversion.

Father Rausch weaves the whole collection of essays into a rewarding and satisfying whole with his final chapter on "Meeting the Living God" in which he talks about the need for students to find a dynamic and personally meaningful spirituality within their religious tradition, and about the necessity of moving beyond a merely culturally determined faith stance.

With Educating for Faith and Justice: Catholic Higher Education Today, Father Rausch has once again made an important contribution to the ongoing discussion around how to animate and sustain Catholic identity and mission in Catholic higher education today. This book is highly recommended.
Dave Gentry-Akin (F'03, M '09), Saint Mary's College of California