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Book Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

 

Practical Theology
"On Earth as It Is in Heaven"
Terry A. Veling
Orbis Books 11/05 Paperback $24.00
ISBN: 1570756147


Terry A. Veling is head of the McAuley School of Theology at the Australian Catholic University, Brisbane, and a Visiting Professor of Practical Theology at St. Thomas University, Miami. He has taught in the United States for many years, and was also a Golda Meir Fellow at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In this down-to-earth paperback, he challenges us to let some fresh air into the cob-webbed room of theology.

Veling is convinced that spiritual practice must take place in the midst of life where ethical decisions are made. This was certainly the case with the early Christian Desert Fathers and Mothers who were approached with questions that usually revolved around conduct. These elders taught ways to deal with sloth or gossip; they addressed the challenges of taming the ego and stepping aside to let others go first. Practical matters were the concerns of the day. Veling calls this kind of activity a craft more than a method. Theology schools would do well to be more attentive to this approach.

In chapters on scripture and tradition, reading the signs of the times, and the life of faith for the life of the world, the author covers a lot of territory with panache. But the best chapters cover the topics justice and mercy, dwelling poetically in the world, and how practical theology is "like a rolling stone." In the first, Veling discusses At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden by Yossi Klein Halevi, an Israeli journalist who charts his spiritually edifying encounters with his Christian and Muslim neighbors. In the last chapter, the author does a wonderful job explaining the importance of the spiritual practice of hospitality in a world of closed borders and xenophobia. Veling succeeds in his mission to have us rethink our concepts of practical theology.

 

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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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