It is a happy coincidence that this book appeared during the centenary of Karl Rahner's birth. Part of the well-regarded Orbis Books "Modern Spiritual Masters Series," this volume offers a selection of Karl Rahner' spiritual writings. There are already on the market a plethora of collections of Rahner's writings, and more specifically, of his "spiritual" writings, and happily Endean's volume compares quite favorably with them, both in substance and style.
The editor, who has authored a book entitled Karl Rahner and Ignatian Spirituality (Oxford University Press, 2001), provides a very helpful introduction to Rahner. He begins with a short biography of Rahner (1904-1984), then expounds three principal theses of Rahner's theology, namely, that God can be experienced, that this experience is available to everyone, and that all theology is mystical theology. The first thesis, widely opposed in Catholic Counter-Reformation theology, is derived from St. Ignatius of Loyola; the second, which emphasizes the universality of God's self-communication, is characteristic of Rahner's notion of "anonymous Christianity"; and the third is evident in Rahner's opposition to the project of developing a "kerygmatic theology" parallel to the "academic" theology. Endean expresses well the intrinsic connection between theology and spirituality in Rahner: "It is not that Rahner was both a modern theological master and a modern spiritual master as a kind of extra, by coincidence as it were. Rather, the reflective activity we call theology, and the emotional and relational process we call spiritual growth, are two aspects of one fundamental reality: the growth of the whole human person toward God" (20).
Accordingly, one of the great merits of this selection of Rahner's spiritual writings is that it is not limited to texts that are conventionally regarded as belonging to the field of spirituality. Rather, they span the whole gamut of Rahner's theological corpus. The selections are divided into four sections. The first, "God and Human Experience," illustrates Rahner's conviction that God can be experienced by all in their everyday humdrum life (the Alltag). The second, "Turning Points," shows how the divine presence can be appropriated in one's life-transforming decisions. The third, "Jesus," speaks of Christian life as following Jesus and of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The fourth, "Church, Creativity, and Process," speaks of how Rahner sees Christian life as living out the faith in God in the midst of change and doubt. Of the four parts, the last is, in my judgment, the richest, offering Rahner's precious insights on how to live Christian faith responsibly in the post-modern age.
Endean's selection of key texts from Rahner's immense theological production that convey an adequate insight into Rahner's spiritual theology, and that within the narrow compass of 200 small pages, is a truly admirable feat. Of course, other authors may prefer other texts, but Endean's choice is fully justified. Furthermore, his copious explanatory introductions and his fresh translation are warmly welcome. I heartily recommend this volume for a course on Christian spirituality as well as for general readers seeking new ways of understanding and living the Christian faith in our time.