Florence CAFFREY BOURG, Where Two or Three Are Gathered: Christian Families as Domestic Church. Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 2004. pp. 229. $22.00. Pb, USBB 0-268-02179.
Reviewed by Nathan KOLLAR, St. John Fisher College, Rochester N.Y. 14618

This is an important book because it stimulates us to think of our Christian Catholic way of life in the flesh and blood, time conditioned, mixed up world of the family. What a brilliant idea: start theology upon this earth, here and now, not in the sky by and by. Theology from the perspective of the family is what we have here. It has been done so many other ways. Why not from the perspective of that fundamental unit that we all live in: the family?

The Incarnation is foundational to the outline of the book and the exposition of the major themes. A review of the term "Domestic Church" is found in the first two chapters. An exposition of its use, purpose and relationship to sacraments is found in subsequent ones. The challenge of the meaning of the term "family" is taken up in chapters seven and eight. It is a particular challenge to Catholic theologians because church authorities seem to use it in a univocal sense. While avoiding some of the more difficult issues, the author discusses the topic in a sensible and sensitive manner. This sophistication of discussion is demonstrated by her support of baptism, not marriage, as the foundation for the domestic church. Such support would enable one to expand the definition of family beyond the supposed nuclear family unit of magisterial writing. With baptism as the foundation of family she adds Rahner's view of sacrament as the mean's of God's presence. With those two themes in hand she is able to make many important contributions to our understanding of family and family's role in building the Kingdom. Finally, in the last two chapters, the common sense, and scientifically demonstrated, view that the family is the primary school of virtue and thus the necessary foundation for the consistent life ethic are defended. Defended! It seems absurd that such views are not part of everyday Catholic theology and magisterial witness, yet there is such a parsimony of ecclesial literature recognizing her view that we are left wondering about the theological position supporting that literature, not her view.

Reviews, and contradictions, of official magisterial statements are provided in every chapter as well as summaries and responses to a great deal of writing on family matters. Forty-five pages of notes enables her to both provide us with short bibliographies upon a specific topic as well as added commentaries on themes taken up in the particular chapter. Although the index is brief, the bibliography is extensive. Everything is from the point of view of the family as it is, not as it might be or should be. This is the point of view of a theologian engaged in the challenging Christian vocations of parenting and marriage.

The conclusion claims four "points of convergence" among all authors dealing with the domestic church which may be summarized as:

1. Incarnation: All humans and all human activity are potentially sacred.
2. Community: We need others to realize this potential.
3. Tangible: If this potential is not put into action it is not real.
4. Laity: The baptized are the foundation of the church and its mission.
It is the family where two or three are gathered in Jesus' name through baptism to enflesh the necessities for building the kingdom of God. It seems that church authorities have viewed the family as the place of the "do nots" rather than of the "dos." "Do not" use contraceptives, abort, kill your weak and vulnerable. Only when it concentrates all its efforts on the family as the place of the "dos" Do love one another, care for the poor, make peace, practice virtue, instill life, put up with each other's limitations, talk about God, celebrate God's presence etc. will both church and society establish the Kingdom. Florence Caffrey Bourg has given us a start for building a theology of family that is thoughtful, practical, and action filled.


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