Marc Cardinal OUELETT. Mystery and Sacrament of Love: A Theology of Marriage and the Family for the New Evangelization. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans Publishing Company. 332 pages. ISBN: 978-0-8028-7334-7. Reviewed by Michael McCALLION, Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit, Michigan.
I am a sociologist studying the implementation of the New Evangelization (NE), especially as it relates to the family, in the Archdiocese of Detroit, and so when I read the title and especially subtitle of this book I was interested in reading and reviewing it. To my chagrin, there are only 3 pages (pp. 109-111) out of 315 pages of text that even mention the NE let alone go into any detail about it. Even the preface, introductory chapter, and concluding chapter mention nothing of the NE. Nor is there an index to the book that might list the term the NE and where to find it discussed in the book. Indeed, the term is mentioned in only 3 sentences: 1) in the title to this section of the book “Marriage and Family, an Essential Dimension of the NE” (p. 109); 2) “John Paul II was well known for his tireless and prophetic commitment to promoting marriage and the family as an essential dimension of the NE,” which is almost identical to the title mention in 1 above (p. 110); 3) “But scholarship in this area [nuptial sacramentality] will not bear fruit for the new evangelization unless the man-woman relation truly becomes the starting point for a new approach in systematic theology” (p. 111). Consequently, there is not much to glean from this book about the NE and its relationship to the family. I think sociologists and theologians will be disappointed on that front, but in other respects the book is profound and deeply imaginatively suggestive about social connectedness, which sociologist might find enriching, and a rich imaginative discussion about familial and spousal metaphors from a theological/trinitarian perspective that theologians will find rewarding, I suspect.
As I suggested above, the author’s discussion and description of what sociologists would call social connectedness or social solidarity I found interesting and provocative. The language of the “nuptial bond,” the “spousal relationship,” “the spousal relationship of the Eucharist,” a “nuptial Eucharistic model,” etc. made me think that perhaps my field of sociology speaks rather blandly about social connections – healthy and unhealthy ones. Also, Ouelett’s discussion of the ‘nuptial Eucharistic model’ shedding new light on the sacrament of marriage and the sacramentality of the family as to their mission in the world (with such terms as spousal, sponality, spousal mystery, ecclesial bride, bridegroom, etc.) was intriguing, especially as I thought of Durkheim and Toennies. Finally, I think some sociologists and certainly anthropologists and theologians will find the discussion of ‘symbol’ in chapter ten, the longest chapter (53 pages), an excellent summary review of the concept.