Telling It Right

Handing on the Faith
The Church’s Mission and Challenge
Edited by Robert P. Imbelli
Herder & Herder, $24.95, 240 pp.

Passing on the Faith
Transforming Traditions for the Next Generation of Jews, Christians, and Muslims
Edited by James L. Heft, SM
Fordham University Press, $22, 321 pp.

These collections are the fruit of two 2004 conferences held within a month of each other at Boston College and the University of Southern California. They cover generally the challenges and possibilities of communicating religious faith and identity from one generation of Americans to the next. In Handing on the Faith, the faith in question is Roman Catholicism; Passing on the Faith is about all three “Abrahamic” religions. The two books can appear, at first, to be different in at least one other way. Handing on the Faith seems very much occupied with describing and worrying over an American “cultural catechumenate” that is up to no good and to which the church must somehow respond. Passing on the Faith is mostly focused on “success stories.” As its editor, James L. Heft, writes, the book describes “how three religious traditions can pass on to their next generation a robust and vital understanding and practice of their faiths.”

In the end, the contrast between hand-wringing and high-fiving may not come to very much. In addition to all the success stories in Passing on the Faith, there is also a lot of concern about cultural circumstances that challenge the communication and formation of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim identity-including the circumstances of religious diversity and pluralism, which the authors of the Handing on the Faith largely put to one side. And while it is true that the latter collection...

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About the Author

William Werpehowski teaches theology at Villanova University.