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   Volume II, Issue 2
November 2005   

Reading the signs of the times: Dr. Bernard P. Prusak latest book, The Church Unfinished, stimulates discussion of the Roman Catholic Church’s past and future

By Darren G. Poley

On November 3, an audience of more than seventy students, faculty, staff and others gathered in the first floor lounge of Falvey Memorial Library to hear Bernard P. Prusak, J.C.D., talk about his award winning book, The Church Unfinished (Paulist Press, 2004). While a significant work written by the chair of Villanova University's department of theology and religious studies is sure to catch the attention of colleagues and graduate students, some may read the book's subtitle, Ecclesiology Through the Centuries, and either scratch their heads or chalk it up as another dry academic tome on a subject alien to them.

Bernard P. Prusak, J.C.D.

Bernard P. Prusak, J.C.D.

Nevertheless, Dr. Prusak, in his trademark friendly and professional manner, tackled both the scope of his latest book, which won first place in theology in the 2005 Catholic Press Awards, and the multi-faceted personal and intellectual difficulties people have with the sometimes contentious subject of the Roman Catholic Church’s past and future. What was encouraging was the note of hopefulness that came from the insights Dr. Prusak offered, often in response to the audience’s questions.

Taking seriously the mission Pope John XXIII gave for a rejuvenation of the Catholic Church, brought to fruition in the documents of Vatican II, and the charge established by the words of Pope John Paul II and the recent actions of Pope Benedict XVI to encourage theologians, Dr. Prusak has demonstrated a way of faithfully coming to terms with the road of history the Church has traveled. He noted that the Second Vatican Council taught both that “the Spirit makes the Church ever young” and that “God has given humans a certain autonomy” to shape human history. Led by the Spirit, the bearers of Christ’s name and gospel are thus empowered to reshape the Church, so that it may face the issues of today and the future realistically, and even ecumenically, in order to construct the society of charity to which God calls all humans.

While interfaith dialog was not a focus, a paradigm was presented for not becoming “prophets of gloom” where Catholics perceive that the best days of the life of the Catholic Church have passed, as Dr. Prusak observed Pope John XXIII had said of those around him at the convening of Vatican II. Dr. Prusak finished powerfully with the quotation from Isaiah 43:18-19 that ends the book: “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”

After an engaging question and answer session, a reception sponsored by Falvey Memorial Library allowed for the conversation to continue in an informal atmosphere. The Falvey Faculty Book Talk Series provides a forum for faculty to share their research and publication experience.

Darren G. Poley is a librarian liaison to and adjunct faculty member of the department of theology and religious studies. Photograph by Natalie Tomasco