Book Review: “The Liturgical Year” by Joan Chittister

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011 at 7:09 am

Some people fondly remember Saturday morning cartoons. I remember Saturday morning radio.

In my youngest years, it was Mr. Nick and Jungle Jam and Adventures in Odyssey on KGBI-our local Christian radio station. Later, it was Reasons to Believe’s weekly radio program streaming from my Dad’s laptop as he prepared his breakfast or took his shower.

RTB has since dropped its radio format–but I’m still listening. Now I’m listening to RTB’s resident theologian and philosopher Kenneth Samples on his “Straight Thinking” podcast.

I have a lot to learn about logic and philosophy and theology, but one thing Ken has taught me is the components of an argument.

First, an argument requires an assertion (a truth claim). Second, an argument requires facts to support its assertion.

If all you have is facts, you don’t have an argument–you have only information. If all you have is assertions, you don’t have an argument–you have only opinions.

Which is exactly what you’ll find in Joan Chittister’s The Liturgical Year: the spiraling adventure of the spiritual life.

Chittister makes plenty of claims about the liturgical year…

“…The liturgical year is one of the teaching dimensions of the church. It is a lesson in life.”

“In the liturgy, then, is the standard of what it means to live a Christian life both as the church and as individuals. The seasons and cycles and solemnities put before us in the liturgical year are more than representations of time past; they are an unending sign–a veritable sacrament of life. It is through them that the Christ-life becomes present in our own lives in the here and now.”

“In every age, the liturgical year exists to immerse its world in the current as well as the eternal meanings of the Christian life.”

“Like the voices of loved ones gone before us, the liturgical year is the voice of Jesus calling to us every day of our lives to wake our sleeping selves from the drowsing effects of purposelessness and meaninglessness, materialism and hedonism, rationalism and indifference, to attend to the life of the Jesus who cries within us for fulfillment.”

but she rarely, if ever offers any information to support her claims.

I explained/complained about this to my little sister when I was four chapters in–and Grace urged me to read the rest of the book. Maybe it would get better.

I was certainly hopeful that once Chittister finished her introduction she’d get down to presenting some real arguments–or at least some useful facts with which I could build my own arguments.

Alas, my hopes were futile.

I’ve forced my way through two-thirds of this book, feeling obligated to give it a fair shot since I’d received my copy free from the publisher in exchange for my review.

But the truth is, if I hadn’t received this for free, I wouldn’t have wasted my time. I’d have read my obligatory 50 pages and called it quits.

The few bits of actual information found within these pages are pretty interesting–or would be if they’d have been extracted and presented as a five page essay. As a 200 page book, split by Chittister’s continued ramblings and unsupported assertions, they’re worthless.

I can’t in good conscience recommend this book.


Rating: 0 stars
Category:Spirituality
Synopsis:Chittister gives lots of opinions about what the liturgical year is–without a lot of information to back it up
Recommendation: No.


I think it probably goes without saying that the views provided in this review are my own–but for the sake of full disclosure, I received this book for free via the Book Sneeze blogger program at Thomas Nelson.

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Reader Comments (3):

  1. Daniel says:

    You aren’t alone, read some of the other reviews on Book Sneeze

  2. I grew up in a church that observed the liturgical year and so it makes sense to me. However, if I had to give you an argument about why it’s important to follow it, I don’t think I could. I read this author’s opinions (grant it, they are opinions!) and I understand where she is coming from and what her mindset is. Saying that, I might have an easier time just accepting what she wrote but then again, as you point out, she doesn’t offer information to support the system – just her feelings and opinions. I might not have noticed that. But you make a very good point.

    I think there is a lot to be said for following a church calendar and it does keep the participant mindful of the life of Christ and draws you into particular times and seasons more easily and naturally. Celebrations feel more celebratory in a way.

    But again, I can’t argue factually why it must be so. All I can say is, “I like it.” Which, again, is just an opinion!

  3. Glad to see your review on this book. I had thought about getting it myself, but now I know not to since I trust your opinion. :-) Thanks for your honesty.

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