Karl A. Schultz
A special concoction has been prepared for those seeking a slightly more advanced and in depth selection of spiritual reading titles. I’ll preface it with a basis for its conception.
Mediocrity has become a plague in American culture and church. People allow themselves to become swept up in mass society mentality and conformism, anesthetized by an unhealthy celebrity culture and an economy where the haves increasingly cast aside the have-nots. Talent, production, potential, and merit have been trumped by image, convenience, comfort, and connections. Consequently, a levelling effect occurs in which life is brought down to the lowest common denominator.
Even within the Church mediocrity and worse is rationalized and even excused. If necessary, biblical and traditional values are eclipsed out of a misguided attempt at accommodation. For example, haven’t most of the biblical passages regarding gender been neutered and robbed of their vitality and potency. Don’t we allow feminist-sympathetic scholars and teachers to relegate them to historical curiosities reflective of a repulsively patriarchal culture? As if our culture is superior!!!
Now that we can’t turn to Scripture in matters of gender identification and formation, where do we turn? Popular culture? Catholic popularizers and ideologues, who often unconsciously bring in remnants of their former traditions and lifestyles?
Intellectual life has been mostly cast aside, or relegated to academics. The quest for principle and progress has been eclipsed by practicality and comfort.
In the realm of spirituality, this consists of the rise of popularizers, in many cases an ideologically-based network of individuals with similar backgrounds, pedigrees, or perspectives who exclusively develop a largely closed network of self-proclaimed authorities on Catholic and biblical spirituality. As in the culture, popularity and image tends to obscure substance and reality.
One of the consequences in the American church has been the marginalization of two supreme resources, the works of Cardinal Martini and the publications of the Catholic Biblical Federation. Put simply, their resources on biblical spiritualty and lectio divina are unsurpassed in breadth and depth. Through collaboration with the Catholic Biblical Federation (headquartered in Germany), I have acquired permission to share over twenty of their finest articles on lectio divina from their quarterly journal Dei Verbum. This international assortment includes several by Cardinal Martini, and papers by Cardinal Kasper and other noted scholars and leaders. This is a wonderful resource for serious-minded individuals, DREs, bible study leaders, and parishes.
The articles are accessible but not dumbed down, a refreshing change from what has become the norm at the grass roots level within the Church. The Martini mix includes the complete set, which ways more than a pound!
The Martini mix includes two copies of my book “Journaling with Moses and Job”, which is based on Martini’s classic out of print book “Through Moses to Jesus.” It includes numerous extensive excerpts from it. Also included are several other Martini titles.
He is the most prominent promoter of lectio divina in the post-Vatican II church. He has over 40 titles published on the subject, and they have been translated into various languages.
Outside of the pope, he has the most impressive resume in the Church:
1) A doctorate in theology from the Gregorian and in Biblical studies from the Pontifical Biblical Institute, where taught for ten years.
2) Former rector of the Gregorian and Pontifical Biblical Institute.
3) Former member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, the pope’s advisory board on biblical matters.
4) A world class text critic (expert in the biblical languages and manuscripts) and former member of the American Bible Society’s committee for the establishment of the Greek New Testament.
5) Emeritus Cardinal of Milan, the world’s largest Catholic diocese.
6) Former president of the European conference of bishops.
7) A contender at the 2005 papal conclave, despite advanced age and having Parkinson’s disease.
What is most amazing about Martini is not his accomplishments, but his message and modality. He is able to integrate and communicate in an accessible manner his intellectual acumen and pastoral experience and understanding of the human sciences. It is rare for a renowned scholar to communicate accessibly, insightfully, and pastorally. Most simply can’t come down to earth, or if they do, they overcompensate and teeter towards “dumbed-down’s ville.”
Of his many literary, formational, and evangelical merits, four stand out for me:
1) He humanizes the Bible and its character, circumstances, and challenges, thereby enabling me to personalize it and recognize its timeless and personal applications.
2) He demythologizes the Bible, that is, he makes it a living, breathing document founded in timeless and existential values. He helps you read between the lines and recognize the continuity between ancient and modern times, and the unchanging qualities of the human nature and condition. Within biblical studies the term demythologize has been associated with the great twentieth century German exegete Rudolf Bultmann, but that is not the sense in which I use the word.
3) By reading his books, through a process of what I call spiritual osmosis, I gradually assimilate his methods, which are often spelled out, and at other times implicit in his writings. Thus I learn how to interpret and apply the Bible personally, confidently, and competently, but without pride, rationalism, or intellectualism.
4) He integrates biblical studies and spirituality with Ignatian spirituality, the human sciences, and pastoral sensitivity in a way that bears directly on grass roots needs, without ever compromising orthodoxy or intellectual integrity.
Frankly, I don’t think there are any resources in the Church, including mine, that hold a candle to the combination of Martini, the Catholic Biblical Federation, and Pope Benedict.
The resources of the former two are disseminated extensively in many third world countries, and much of the western world, with the curious exception of North America. I have spoken directly with the executive director of the Catholic Biblical Federation about this, and they are trying to assume a higher profile in the United States. I have spoken and written frequently in the media about this.
Incidentally, the CBF (website c-b-f.org) was established in 1969 by Pope Paul VI to further biblical study, spirituality, and ministry at the pastoral level. Though supported by scholars, it is not oriented towards academia or highly technical issues. It is in over 80 countries and over 130 bishops’ conferences are members. It is the official pastoral biblical ministry association in the universal Church.
Pope Benedict gave his seminal exhortation on lectio divina in a 2005 address to the Catholic Biblical Federation. He is increasingly promoting it, and his lucid addresses and writings are amenable to it. His message is a wonderful compliment to Cardinal Martini’s.
Reflecting their different backgrounds, they approach and communicate the Word differently, but with similar values and objectives.
So, if you want an unbeatable literary mix for combatting the mediocrity of modern life and mainstream politically correct spirituality, you can hardly do better than Martini, the CBF, and the pope. The Martini Mix is designed to bring these superior resources to you in an affordable and manageable package. Call Karl at (412) 766-7545 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for details. Also see karlaschultz.com for a more indepth discussion of available resources.