An expanded and updated version of Thomas Rausch's well-received, Catholicism at the Dawn of the Third Millennium (1996), this volume is a welcome source for undergraduate classes and adult study groups. In his Introduction, Rausch indicates that the germ of the book was the realization that there was need for "a manageable book" containing "an adult account of Catholic faith and life" and connecting the tradition to what is happening in the Church and in society today. Rausch has provided us with such a book.
Each chapter in Catholicism in the Third Millennium covers a great deal of material, but it is well-organized, clearly outlined, and expressed in highly readable prose. The inclusion of Catherine Clifford's focus questions at the end of each chapter will help students particularly review their reading and understanding of the issues under discussion.
Particularly evocative is the final chapter, added in this revised edition, "The Unfinished Agenda." Rausch challenges all of us to look at the decades since Vatican II to see how far we have come and how far we still have to go. He gives his readers credit for both sincerity and intelligence, which makes this volume a good springboard for deep reflection and honest debate.
By combining historical context with critical theological reflection, Rausch strikes the proper balance between academic information and spiritual insights. He is faithful to the Church's teachings and traditions, while at the same time he asks his readers to think creatively about the intersection of the Church and the needs of the global society in which it currently finds itself.
In his first appendix, Rausch cross-references topics in his book with the relevant passages in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. A second appendix provides a very handy glossary of terms, while a third contains a list of basic reference works on Catholicism.
A personal footnote: after receiving the review copy of Catholicism in the Third Millennium, I decided to adopt it as the basic text for my undergraduate course on Roman Catholicism. It will be interesting to see if my students react to it as positively as I did.