Religious Studies Faculty Publications


Review: 'Sharing God's Good Company: A Theology of the Communion of Saints'

Document Type

Book Review

Publication Date

Spring 2015

Publication Source

Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics


What is foe meaning of “communion” as it occurs in Christian references to the “Communion of Saints”? It clearly implies a particular social bond, but of what sort? David Matzko McCarthy observes that recent attempts to account for the saints and Christians’ relations with them tend to thin out the meaning of communion. Modern approaches turn saints into exemplars intended to inspire us as we live within egalitarian, leveled societies, whereas postmodern approaches turn the lives of the saints into texts, subject to interpretive play. In both approaches the possibility of real relationship is left behind as the saints become subservient to our modem sensibilities. What McCarthy seeks to revive is substantial, real relationships with saints that can draw us out of ourselves.

In chapters 1 and 2 McCarthy uses the family to indicate the strong bonds signified by the Communion of Saints (COS) — bonds that respond to our “social desire.” The COS extends such kinship across time and space, without banishing ordinary time and particular places. Yet the kind of social tie embodied in the COS has been rendered a problem by our modern biases with regard to knowledge, representation, and social life — in short, our sense of reality. If we are to enrich our participation in the COS, McCarthy implies, we must work the metaphysical ground to make it a little more hospitable to the lives of the saints. The remaining chapters consider how the reality embodied in the COS challenges modern sensibilities with regard to what is real. They do so by allowing literary and visual representations of the saints — in hagiography, scripture, statues, and painting —to interrogate modern forms of recantation and the assumptions about reality and time that underlie these forms.

Inclusive pages





Citation information for the book reviewed:

Sharing God’s Company: A Theology of the Communion of Saints, by David Matzko McCarthy. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2012.


Society of Christian Ethics





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