Last September, Richard Schenk, OP, published the book Soundings in the History of a Hope: New Studies on Thomas Aquinas as part of the Faith and Reason series of Sapientia Press, Ave Maria University’s academic publishing house.
Josef Cardinal Ratzinger, in reply to Schenk’s 1989 doctoral thesis, wrote that “the only way to bring fresh wind into systematic theology is to connect looking back at the great masters in the history of the faith with questioning anew and more profoundly in the horizon of our times.“ In Soundings in the History of a Hope, Schenk offers twelve essays as studies on how to answer Ratzinger’s challenge for a renewal of systematic theology by bringing the wisdom of the past to bear upon the issues of today.
The essays in Soundings present a sampling of Schenk’s research extending back over a period of twenty-five years. “Although it is generally agreed that systematic thought on important questions demands the historical awareness of how that question developed, and although a Christian theology of non-Christian religions is counted among the important questions for the Christian faith today,” Schenk comments, “too little is known about the historical controversies in the pre-modern theology of religions and what they might tell us about our concerns today.” This area where “too little” is known is one in which Schenk has focused his research, and the essays in Soundings place the fruits of his examination within a broader theological and philosophical anthropology.
Readers of Soundings can expect to uncover an alternative to many of the stereotypes that St. Thomas’ interpreters—both friendly and less so—have formed regarding Thomas himself and the related issues covered by Schenk’s research. “In particular,” Shenck explains, “the essays seek to show how a genuinely Catholic ‘theologia crucis’ addresses human hopes and doubts.”
When asked if he experienced any “breakthrough” moments during the course of his research, Fr. Schenk responds: “The results of medieval biblical exegesis are more difficult to access than those of medieval systematic works, but the essay on Thomas’ reading of the Gospel of John on Christ’s sadness in the face of death showed me the possible complementarity between medieval and modern exegesis. Each epoch can contribute something the other does well to receive.”
The title of Schenk’s collection, Soundings, was carefully chosen. Offering an explanation of his choice of the word “soundings,” Fr. Schenk speaks on how it “suggests the need to take measure of the depths and dangerous shallows of human hopes in quite different places and issues.” Continuing on, he says: “This need demands not just a systematic overview but a series of individual investigations.”
What Schenk offers in this collection of essays is exactly that—a series of individual investigations into the depths and shallows of human hopes.
Sapientia Press, the academic publishing house of Ave Maria University, publishes important works of scholarship that are consistent with Ave Maria University’s commitment to Catholic ideals and academic excellence. Sapientia Press’ titles include works by prominent authors, such as Avery Cardinal Dulles and Alice von Hildebrand. Two series of theological texts are published by Sapientia: Introduction to Catholic Doctrine, and the broader Faith and Reason: Studies in Catholic Theology and Philosophy, which features substantial works in Thomistic philosophy and theology. Ave Maria University’s academic publishing house is distributed by The Catholic University of America Press.