- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Sorin Books (October 1, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1933495251
- ISBN-13: 978-1933495255
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 7.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,165,604 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Things Seen and Unseen: A Catholic Theologian's Notebook Hardcover – October 1, 2010
From Publishers Weekly
Gleaned from a 20-year-old collection of notebooks containing his reflections, this latest work by Cunningham, a University of Notre Dame theology professor, is filled with short and provocative , if disconnected, tidbits, jottings, thoughts, and opinions. Cunningham's short takes on subjects spanning prayer, atheism, the disappearing independent bookstore, and a scholar's life are written in true notebook style; he sets down an idea and works out his thoughts. He is at his best when he takes an uncommon view, such as saying he is less bothered by "spasms of anti-Catholicism" in the culture than he would be if there were a total lack of interest in his faith. "It would be a sign of irrelevancy," he writes. In opening his private musings to public view, however, Cunningham has left intact an occasional but unfortunate condescending tone that seems out of character for someone who presumably supports a diversity of ideas. For instance, he expresses his distaste for the Catholic Tridentine Mass in a way that is less than respectful of those who prefer this worship form. His references to some of the new Catholic colleges and his treatment of TV reporters are similarly dismissive. Nonetheless, readers cannot help finding his writing thought provoking.
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"Reading Cunningham is like listening to an exceedingly wise, articulate, provocative, funny and, above all, compassionate man who passionately wants you to meet the God he knows so well. Everything he writes is worth reading--often over and over. Highly recommended!" --Rev. James Martin, S.J., Author of The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything
"Airplane travel is notoriously awful, but every so often the fates smile and you end up next to a sparkling conversationalist--erudite yet unpretentious, utterly hilarious, the kind of person who even hiccups in epigrams. Lawrence Cunningham is just such a personality, and reading Things Seen and Unseen is like taking the trip of a lifetime in his company. Settle in and enjoy the ride!" --John L. Allen Jr., Senior Correspondent, National Catholic Reporter
"Cunningham combines an intuitive sense of the holy and of beauty with care for the poor and a practiced life of prayer. His `jottings' demonstrate how delightful it can be to serve the Lord and others with full mind and heart and soul." --Patrick Jordan, Managing Editor, Commonweal
"Asked his goal as a teacher Cunningham first says `to convey a love of learning,' then shyly refers to a well-known text, `the love of learning and desire for God.' In these journal notes we meet a remarkable teacher who gracefully bears witness to that love and desire." --David J. O'Brien>, Professor Emeritus, Holy Cross College
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Things Seen and Unseen comes after an academic lifetime of producing books aimed at students and intelligent adult readers, combined with leading a constant stream of week-end and summer workshops. He has written, co-written and edited over a dozen titles, largely around western humanities, the nature of religion, Catholic experience and history, saints, spirituality, prayer and monasticism. He is a scholar of Thomas Merton and Cardinal Newman.
Now, sharing excerpts from his daily "Notebooks" over more than a decade affords an opportunity for those interested in his work to take a daily walk with him during a condensed year to find out what he is thinking about day in and day out. The "Notebooks" are a mix of reflective paragraphs, mini-essays, blogs on an event or a reading of the moment, and tweets on a random aha.
Cunningham is a voracious, inveterate reader and a name dropping teacher. The Notebook is a litany of references and reflections on what he has been reading. His style is marked by associations and consequently full of parenthetical remarks about how one topic or person reminds him of another.
The most frequently recurring figures include Augustine, Bonaventure, Newman, Merton, Benedict XVI, St. Benedict and monasteries, Julian of Norwich and mysticism, Karl Rahner and saints wherever they show up. His interests shared are catholic with a small "c" and broad enough to include Picasso, Wittgenstein, Heidegger and Bertrand Russell. In passing references, he gives short shrift to religious reformers and iconoclasts like Bishop Spong, John Dominic Crossan and noisy contemporary atheists.
On the more personal side, he shares thoughts about studying in Rome, appreciating his wife Cecilia and daughters Sarah and Julia in New York, sometimes reading in between innings of baseball games at Notre Dame or reflecting on the antics of fans along with the actions on the ND football field. To a friend, he describes himself, tongue in cheek, as something of an atavistic Catholic. Nearing retirement and still in good health, he confesses to generally avoiding reunions, eschewing the inevitable scrape with decrepitude.
More importantly for the theological fans, he intrigues these readers with passing thoughts on spirituality and religions, the concept of God and the idea of the holy, sin and forgiveness, prayer and mysticism--things seen and unseen.
A half a century ago, I was four years at university with him in Rome and have not seen him since. Reading Things Seen and Unseen was for me like receiving a two hundred page letter of what has been going on--between books and conferences. In another way, it was like several protracted walks around the campus and sharing some time at the library. Overall, it was a pleasant, warming, sometimes humorous and most times enlightening experience.
"Things Seen and Unseen" will appeal most to other theologians. These are short reflections, often referring to other theologians, religious works, etc. The text presumes a certain familiarity with them. One can certainly appreciate the text and the ideas without this knowledge, but one will be missing the fullness of it.
Cunningham certainly offers much food for thought. In these short commentaries, he touches on some wonderful quotes and reflects on them. He comments on public events, changes in life, and the world around him. Like every single one of us, he is attempting to figure out this gift of life. He certainly does not pretend to have all the answers and in many things he is still struggling, but there is much to be learned from his wisdom and experience.
One section that I greatly appreciated was on what it means to be a scholar, to take one's studies seriously, especially the study of God. "The brute fact is that the only way to become a scholar and to love its life is to sit down and study as a solitary act. Until one does that, he or she has no right to prattle on before folks without having first studied. The psalmist gets it right in the opening of the Psalter: 'their delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law they meditate day and night' - that is the counterpoint to those who 'sit in the seat of the scoffers.' The wise man knows where to plant his bottom!"
Cunningham writes that he hoped in his teaching to instill the "love of learning and a desire for God" in his students. "Things Seen and Unseen" is one more way for him to achieve that goal.