In Fr Richard Leonard SJ's latest book, he continues to provocatively ask the huge questions of life, writes Fr Andrew Hamilton SJ on the Australian Jesuits website.
His earlier book, dealing with suffering and evil, asked Where the Hell is God? Having found God, he keeps on punching with Why Bother Praying? and What are We Doing for Christ’s Sake? And now he takes on the universe with, What Does it all Mean?
In this latest work he puts together in a revised form the heart of his previous three books. As his titles show he asks all the big, hard questions, introducing his enquiry with the in-your-face, I’m-out-of-here, slightly exasperated questions of a wary reader ready to give away the conversation at the slightest sign of a defensive or magisterial tone.
He responds by taking his conversation partners seriously, acknowledges the truth in their criticisms of Church, Catholics and weak arguments, but he also criticises weak and unfair treatment of Catholic life and faith by hostile critics. His conversation is never all give and no take.
He also deploys a wide range of stories, some funny and others very moving. Many are drawn from his own experience, some told against himself and others of encounters in which he was the catalyst of great change in people.
Many of the humorous anecdotes are placed in a way that betrays the part that encounters with live audiences in lectures and seminars have played in crystallising his thoughts. The light touches occur at exactly the time when the audience’s attention might be slipping. They are the work of a skilled communicator.
But the value of the book lies in its exploration of faith, the Christian life and the Church at a time of critical self-reflection and external criticism.
Book review: What Does It all Mean? (Australian Jesuits)