An impressive book (with numerous references to vast resources), from an inspiring and experienced member of the Congregation. It should be a fascinating book for many of us who would like to know more about our Congregation, especially the developments during the teething and nascent period. I am still a novice in so far as the knowledge of our history is concerned. I spent quite a few days to read the book through. Though this book was given a year back to me, I cast my sight on it only this June as I was gathering a few materials on the Spirituality of our Founder.
Fr. Norman, sss is trying to converse with his readers, particularly with younger generation of the Congregation. As the author puts it, “… it behooves us to know and understand our history so that we can appreciate the contributions of those who have gone before us and recognise the events that have shaped us”. This book contains 10 Chapters, 1 Epilogue and 3 Appendixes with so much of clarity and myriad of information.
The first part of the book is fairly chronological beginning with the death of Father Eymard, followed by General Chapter and the line of Superiors General, with a shaky start, their Administration with the given historical and testing period of surviving and consolidating through troublesome days in France, and redeeming experiences over The Marechal Affairs = The Benedictine Project. One notes that Fr. Norman, sss, has done enough justice to unpack the unfathomable emptions, the drama of those decisive years, unfinished initiatives, struggles, ambiguities resulted by the political upheavals and expulsion of religious, unavoidable conflicts and quarrels, days of depression, financial constraints, pros and cons of the conflicting situation and many more experiences of the nascent group of religious dedicated to live the Eucharistic Life envisaged Fr. Eymard.
These enormous ups and downs, the author observes, were the moments of living the Paschal Mystery, thus providing to the members a purpose and direction that paved fruitful for generations. At the same time, the author has given more space than otherwise, to highlight and recount the moments of God’s Grace and Blessings, guiding the Order during which the fathers exhibited the spirit of charity and love throughout such period to The Eucharistic Charism. The author is overwhelmed so, as he does not cease to omit to expound the steady growth in numbers and new foundations in Europe and elsewhere.
The second part of the 10 Chapters has abundant quoted materials of the Generals and leading personalities which are important for our collective identity. One will be happy to recount while reading through the transitions and progress made from the Constitution to Rule of Life of our Congregation. It is made clear to the committed readers that there is no secret formula for process of discernment to save the Congregation and its Eucharistic Charism than to listen to the voice of God in The Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
Obviously, though this book is not of the total history of the Congregation, it is a right book to acquire a birds-eye-view on which the members and scholastics alike may build up their own history and add volumes to this present contribution. Observations offered in the Epilogue is worth reading again and again thus reminding our identity with sure note of hope. Pope Francis reminds us thus, “Recounting our history is essential for preserving our identity, for strengthening our unity and common sense of belonging”.
Father Bangar Arputha Raj, sss