Reclaiming the Piazza II

ed. by Leonardo Franchi, Ronnie Convery, Raymond McCluskey; Gracewing, 192pp, £12.99

Two notes of realism sound out from the introduction to these essays on Catholic education and the new evangelisation. First, the new evangelisation is for the long term. There is no obvious short-term fix to the profound challenges facing Catholic communities in the “old” Christian lands. Second, Catholic schools and universities cannot replace the family and parish as the nuclei of the Church’s life.

Moreover, as one of the editors reminds us, 60 per cent of cradle Catholics never attend church. Other contributors observe that, for some children from nominally Catholic homes, school is the only place they really encounter Church teaching. One wonders where the supply of knowledgeable, committed teachers and leaders needed to realise some of the ambitions in the book will come from.

That said, the role of the Catholic school is strongly reaffirmed: “to live as an ecclesial body at the heart of the world”. In his foreword, Archbishop Rino Fisichella drums a little harder. Many now live “without ever noticing the absence of God as a real absence in their lives”.

This follow-up to a previous volume on Catholic education as a cultural project goes on to strike a very welcome balance between largely conceptual reflections on its main theme and more direct accounts of theory converted into practice.

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