GOD is in the fabric of everyday life whether we were aware of it or not – this was the lesson Fr Anthony Mellor hoped readers might take away from his new book.
“And if we reflect on that, or find ways of expressing that, then that’s helpful to the Church and our present situation,” Fr Mellor said.
Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge launched Fr Mellor’s book entitled Karl Rahner, Culture and Evangelisation: New Approaches in an Australian Setting, at the Francis Rush Centre on September 6.
Archbishop Coleridg jokingly said he was astounded to find a theological work that began with a pastoral question.
“If the Good News is truly Good News, why is it not received as Good News in our western societies in this modern age?” Archbishop Coleridge said, reading the first sentence from the preface.
The book addressed the challenge of bridging people’s real-life experience and how they connected to religious mystery, Fr Mellor said.
He said people were interested in spirituality, but not necessarily Christian spirituality.
“So the question is: how do we bridge the gap between people’s lived experience and what we talk about as Church in terms of the content of our faith,” he said.
“How do we make believing more real for people?”
It was a question that went back to the early days of his priestly ministry, Fr Mellor said.
He wrote his doctoral thesis on the subject and that was adapted into the newly published book.
At the core of the book was Fr Rahner’s contention that the pastoral and the theological needed each other.
Fr Mellor said theology without a pastoral application was simply an abstraction and the pastoral without a theological basis was just sociology.
Fr Rahner himself attracted controversy – some Catholics called him a great theologian and others a heretic.
Fr Mellor did not downplay this controversy, but instead pointed to the honesty of Fr Rahner’s inquiry.
“I think Karl Rahner was asking the right questions,” he said.
“There’s always disputes about how he came up with answers; regardless if it was Karl Rahner or somebody else, the questions remain.”
Evangelisation was guided by these questions particularly.
Fr Mellor said too readily people get into “questions of content” when we tried to evangelise.
Instead, he said, a more helpful matter was how do we help people name their awareness of God in their lives and how do we help them respond to that awareness.
Being his first book, Fr Mellor said he learned a lot about writing.
He said the focus of putting something down on paper concentrated his ideas and helped him communicate those ideas and was a worthwhile skill on its own.
“In terms of the book, I’m grateful for all those who have helped me along the way,” Fr Mellor said.
He made particular note of Redemptorist Father Tony Kelly, Archbishop Coleridge and Marist Father Tom Ryan who helped make the book happen.
And he said, if there was a chance, he would like to do more writing in the future.