This collection of essays by Mark Searle (1941-1992) provides an appropriate memorial to him, exhibiting the scope of his interests and the richness of his contributions with regard to the study of liturgy and liturgical renewal. The editors of the volume, along with many of the contributors of the brief introductions to these essays, emphasize that Searle's "dreams for the liturgical life of the Church are yet unrealized and that the wisdom reflected in his work remains immensely valuable to liturgical scholarship and practice" (vi). The insights and challenges that he offered during his short but productive career continue to be just as relevant today as when originally penned, especially given the liturgical changes that are currently being implemented, having to do with language, postures, roles, and rubrics. Indeed, in these essays, the reader quickly realizes how much Searle anticipated, and how much his work could still contribute to, the ongoing liturgical reform occurring now nearly four decades after Vatican II.
Ten of Searle's key essays are gathered together in this book, each accompanied by an introductory piece by scholars of liturgy, including Lawrence J. Madden, S.J., Theresa F. Koernke, I.H.M., J. Frank Henderson, Gerard Austin, O.P., Gilbert Ostdiek, O.F.M., Margaret Mary Kelleher, O.S.U., Maxwell E. Johnson, Mark R. Francis, C.S.V., Jan Michael Joncas, and Paul Covino. In addition, there is an "Appreciation" at the outset by rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman. The editors also include at the end of the volume an interesting chronology of Searle's life (3 pages), a thorough bibliography of his published works (9 pages), and a useful index of names and topics (3 pages).
Subjects range from the relationship between liturgy and social justice (in the first chapter, "Serving the Lord with Justice") to marriage as it was understood and lived by Christians in different historical periods and places as evident in wedding liturgies (in the final chapter, "Marriage Rites as Documents of Faith: Notes for a Theology of Marriage"). Indeed, these two particular essays have been standard fare in my own work and teaching as a moral theologian. Between these beginning and concluding chapters are essays on liturgy as metaphor, the pedagogical function of the liturgy, liturgical reform in the wake of Vatican II, the creation of a third branch of liturgical scholarship Searle named "pastoral liturgical studies," worship as an act of the human imagination, infant baptism and a theology of childhood, the challenge posed by the liturgical inculturation of individualism in the U.S. Church, and the application of semiotic theory to liturgical studies.
Due to Searle's efforts to combine theory and practice, these essays, while still certainly timely, are also quite readable and therefore recommended for graduate courses in liturgy and pastoral ministry. For the scholar of liturgy, the book profitably brings together into one volume some hard-to-find essays that originally appeared as journal articles or chapters in edited books. The editors—one, the associate director of the Georgetown Center for Liturgy in Washington, DC, and the other, Searle's wife who is a psychologist in South Bend, IN—are to be applauded for this fitting tribute.