Patrick J. HARTIN, A Window into the Spirituality of Paul. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2015, pp. 142. $14.95 pb. ISBN 978-0-8146-3763-0. Reviewed by Wilburn T. STANCIL, Rockhurst University, Kansas City, MO 64110.
Patrick Hartin is a priest of the Diocese of Spokane and teaches courses in the New Testament at Gonzaga University. He has authored numerous volumes on New Testament subjects. Hartin’s purpose in this volume is to explore the spiritual vision of the Apostle Paul and offer guidance and direction for the spiritual lives of his readers. His definition of spirituality is that of biblical scholar Sandra Schneider: “Spirituality is the experience of consciously striving to integrate one’s life in terms not of isolation and self-absorption but of self-transcendence toward the ultimate value one possesses” (p. 2).
The structure of the book follows a model suggested by Gustavo Gutiérrez, who posits a threefold process in the development of a spiritual tradition: encounter, reflection, and prolongation. In the life of Paul, the experience of encounter occurred in his transforming vision of the resurrected Christ on the road to Damascus. Paul afterwards went through a process of reflection in which he had to interpret his Damascus road experience in light of the Scriptures and his traditions. The final stage, prolongation, occurred through Paul’s preaching and letters, his spiritual legacy.
After an opening chapter on Paul’s call and mission, subsequent chapters focus on the themes of the Cross and Resurrection, God’s transforming grace, faith in Christ, humanity renewed in Christ, and community oriented spirituality. Each chapter ends with a section on “Insights for Our Own Spiritual Journey.”
The final chapter, “Paul’s Spirituality for Today,” identifies four spiritual pillars or foundational themes that emerge from Paul. Following the comment of Pope Benedict XVI that “the saints are the best interpreters of the Bible” (p. 107), Hartin points to four individuals who in some way incarnated the principles of the four pillars.
The four pillars and their exemplars are: “The Cross and Resurrection of Christ: A New Creation in Christ” (St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American to be canonized); “The Transforming Power of Grace” (Father Stanley Rother, a 20th century missionary and martyr in Guatemala); “The Gift of Faith Responds in Works of Love” (Mother Antonia Brenner, a 20th century founder of a religious order dedicated to prison ministry); and “The Community of Believers as the Body of Christ” (St. Katherine Drexel, missionary and founder of communities).
Hartin’s scholarship is apparent throughout but not obtrusive in a book written for Bible study groups and college students. Hartin limits himself to seven of the thirteen letters attributed to Paul, the seven that are generally accepted as authentically Pauline by scholars. He explicitly states that his purpose in this book is not to focus on questions concerning the historicity and chronology of Paul’s letters and the Acts of the Apostles. Therefore, there are points at which Pauline scholars might challenge a particular interpretation of Hartin’s. However, the book accomplishes what it sets out to do: namely, delineate a spirituality from the life and writings of Paul with applications to the lives of readers today.