Moral Wisdom: Lessons and Texts from the Catholic Tradition / Edition 1

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At a time when religion and spirituality have been divorced from one another and morality and ethics are viewed as being confining rather than liberating, Fr. James Keenan offers an accessible book that beautifully reclaims the Catholic moral tradition and casts it afresh for a new age. "Moral wisdom," as Fr. Keenan calls it, is the distinctive gift of the Catholic tradition, a gift that helps us discern what values to pursue and which virtues to embody on the path to becoming who we really are and who God calls us to be. Writing in a conversational style filled with stories and examples, Keenan goes beyond the penitential, confessional, and moral manuals that too often define public perception of moral teaching and breaks open the treasure trove of resources in the Catholic tradition for developing moral wisdom. In the process, he reclaims four key texts that bishops and lay people alike appealed to in nurturing their moral wisdom—the person of Jesus in the New Testament, the ten commandments in the catechism, the practice of the corporal works of mercy, and the development of the four cardinal virtues—and lifts up the lessons on love, conscience, sin, and suffering within these texts that form the content of the Catholic moral tradition. By reflecting on each of these texts and lessons, readers get into contact once again with the formative influences of the Catholic heritage and appreciate and understand what gives meaning to our lives and what enhances our relationships with friends and family.

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Editorial Reviews

Theological Studies
[Keenan's books] read like very good sermons or college lectures by a priest both learned and engaged in the world. By making the Catholic tradition come alive, the books invite moral reflection and struggle.
Library Journal
Keenan (Weston Sch. of Theology) notes that, for the greater part of its history, Roman Catholic moral theology texts have been written to help priests in the sacrament of Penance. Moral theology has thus been a theology of sin and sinfulness and has had little to say about the array of factors that have formed the moral lives of the members of our churches and the heroes of the faith. Keenan proposes to examine some of these factors by considering four key "texts" that have served as the sources for developing our moral wisdom: the person of Jesus in the New Testament, the Ten Commandments, the corporal works of mercy, and the "cardinal virtues" of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. From these texts, he teases out lessons on love, conscience, sin, and suffering, ultimately producing a readable, uncommonly good book that should be required reading for anyone preparing for or engaged in pastoral ministry. Highly recommended for academic and church libraries, as well as for public libraries with a good religion circulation.-David I. Fulton, Coll. of St. Elizabeth, Morristown, NJ Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Theological Studies
[Keenan's books] read like very good sermons or college lectures by a priest both learned and engaged in the world. By making the Catholic tradition come alive, the books invite moral reflection and struggle.
Charles E. Curran
Moral wisdom is hard to come by because it is so complex. Most of us strive for moral wisdom throughout our lives but never totally attain it. In this book, James F. Keenan skillfully brings together deep theological knowledge, historical lessons, acute pastoral sensitivity, broad spiritual experiences, and true prudence in proposing moral wisdom for Christian life and spirituality today.
Tom Beaudoin
Fr. James Keenan is one of those rare contemporary theologians who compellingly weave together rich pastoral experience and masterful intellectual inquiry. To read him is to hear not only the considered wisdom of Catholic moral teaching, but to have the privilege of hearing a learned man struggling to work out his own moral practices. In this book, lay readers and scholars alike can see how Catholic moral tradition informs a life of discernment, love, and everyday courage.
Jean Porter
Father Jim Keenan is one of today's foremost moral theologians. Moral Wisdom reflects his distinctive combination of intellectual mastery of the tradition and sensitivity to today's concerns. He places the older, "sin-oriented" approach to moral theology within its proper context in a sapiential tradition of moral reflection, in a way that is at one and the same time intellectually satisfying and pastorally accessible. While this book is intended predominantly for a general audience, it is also rich in insights for professionals in the field. I recommend it highly and look forward to its publication.
Margaret A. Farley
Imagine a book that is at once a source of profound wisdom, a systematic presentation of a moral and ethical tradition, and a "page-turner!" This is what James Keenan's Moral Wisdom turns out to be. There is nothing facile about this volume, nothing superficial, nothing manipulative. It weaves together autobiography, the stories of others, interpretation of biblical and theological texts, and a deep understanding of what morality is and what the Roman Catholic tradition of moral theology has been and can be when it is at its best. Few will come away from reading this book without imaginative new hope, salutary appreciation for "hard sayings," new insight into the meaning of divine mercy, and perhaps experiences of both laughter and the "gift of tears." Thought-provoking and informative, opening questions and not shutting them down: here is a significant contribution to ongoing explorations of the moral life.
Lisa Sowle Cahill
This is a lovely book! Keenan probes his own experiences of struggle, suffering and love, interweaving them with biblical reflection and theological analysis. He looks fault and sorrow squarely in the face, yet sustains buoyant notes of hope and commitment. The content of this book is an exercise in the virtue of its title.
Stephen J. Pope
James Keenan puts "flesh and bones" on the abstractions of moral theory and demonstrates from his own personal experience how the Christian moral life is a pilgrimage of faith, hope and love. Keenan's book will be used widely in college classrooms and seminaries alike. His clarity, honesty and passion ought to be emulated by every moral theologian.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780742532021
  • Publisher: The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group Inc
  • Publication date: 6/10/2004
  • Series: Sheed and Ward Book Series
  • Edition description: Older Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 1,059,666
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.26 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

James F. Keenan, S.J., is professor of moral theology and director of the doctoral program at Weston Jesuit School of Theology. His recent books with Sheed & Ward include Practice What You Preach and Virtues for Ordinary Christians.

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Table of Contents

Part 1 Acknowledgements Part 2 Preface Part 3 Introduction: Moral Wisdom Beyond the Moral Manuals Part 4 Part I: The Lessons Chapter 5 Chapter 1: Love Chapter 6 Chapter 2: Conscience Chapter 7 Chapter 3: Sin Chapter 8 Chapter 4: Suffering Part 9 Part II: The Texts Chapter 10 Chapter 5: Jesus in the New Testament Chapter 11 Chapter 6: The Ten Commandments in the Catechism Chapter 12 Chapter 7: Practicing the Corporal Works of Mercy Chapter 13 Chapter 8: Cultivating the Cardinal Virtues Part 14 Part III: The Future Chapter 15 Chapter 9: Hope and Leadership Part 16 Conclusion: "To Live Likewise"

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