“The ‘One Thing’ Is Three” — Book Review

one-thing-is-threeI was excited about this book when I first heard the title.

This premise has been the cornerstone of my teaching strategy for the last 10 years.

Namely, that the Trinity is the foundational truth of Catholic Faith, and understanding the Trinity allows you to understand all Christian doctrine.

In the book’s title, “The One Thing” refers to the only thing necessary, the essential thing. The “Three” refers to the Trinity.

The Catechism #234 says the Trinity is the “source,” the “most fundamental and essential teaching.” If that’s true, then it should inform everything and everything should have it’s explanation in it.

So, needless to say, I was thrilled to see a book illuminating this idea.

Understanding the Trinity through communio

To explain this essential truth of the Trinity, Fr. Gaitley proposes the concept of communio as a sort of interpretive key.

Communio is a Latin word meaning communion, but it’s also a theological term that grew out of the Second Vatican Council and was further developed by Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI).

Superimposed on this investigation of communio is St. Thomas Aquinas’ concept of the “Great Circle of Being.” This is the idea that all of creation emerges from God and is destined to return to God. God is the source of everything and its final destination “making one big, circular movement.” Gaitley further explains:

“This circular movement, or Great Circle, can also be likened to a journey, the Great Journey, the great movement of all of creation from the Trinity and back to the Trinity.”

Gaitley takes the reader on this journey through three “Points of Communion” that form the three sections of the book.

Point One: Communion with the Trinity. We’re created in the image of God and therefore constantly yearn to be in eternal communion with him, which is our final goal.

Point Two: Transforming Communion with Christ. We have communion with the Trinity through the Second Person. He redeems us, unites us with himself, and transforms us into himself.

Point Three: Mission of Communion. United with Christ, we should desire to bring others into this union. So this drives us toward action and apostolate.

Misses the mark but filled with gems

While the concept is amazing, unfortunately the book doesn’t hold together well. It tries to do too much, and I found it difficult to stay focused on where it was taking me. I think Fr. Gaitley could have shaved off a hundred pages and accomplished his goal more efficiently.

That being said, there are some gems in this book that are worth the price of admission.

The whole concept of “The Great Circle of Being” is fantastic, and is really a way of telling the Gospel story. The appendix lays it out nicely along with an illustration to solidify it.

The explanation of salvation, the Passion, and how the Sacraments transform us on pp. 74-100 is excellent.

“God wanted to convince us fearful, skittish creatures of his love for us, and by the Passion, he proves it. In other words, being fallen, wounded creatures, distrustful of God, we needed a dramatic revelation of God’s love to convince us of it and to help us accept it. By Jesus’ suffering and death, ‘Man knows,’ says St. Thomas, ‘how much God loves him, and is thereby stirred to love Him in return, and herein lies the perfection of human salvation.'” pp. 74-75

Gaitley does a fantastic job of explaining what culture is supposed to be and what the Culture of Death is on pp. 192-209. There’s an amazing dialogue between the author and the personification of the Culture of Death. Very illuminating.

“[Culture of Death speaking] So, by convincing people that there’s no such thing as objective truth, I open the door fro them to choose their own truth. And when they choose their own truth, they inevitably become enslaved to their passions. For, if reason doesn’t rule a person, the passions will. Cut off the head, and the belly is king. Kill the truth, and the appetites dominate. That’s my game.”

The Enrichment of Faith

The absolute best concept in this book is the “Enrichment of Faith.” Gaitley weaves this concept throughout the book. It’s really one of the main themes…and is awesome.

It’s an idea that comes out of Vatican II and that Pope John Paul II used in implementing the teachings of the Council in his own Archdiocese of Krakow. You can see it present in his pontificate too.

It’s the idea that faith is not merely assent. That’s just the beginning. It’s the response to truth that wells up from inside a person and becomes his own personal act made with his entire being.

“For the enrichment of faith is not simply about agreeing to the truths of the faith as if superficially from ‘the outside’…but about bringing them to ‘the inside,’…into our conscious life and into our hearts such that our inner life, attitudes, and actions are changed by the truths we have cherished within.”

This concept is so amazing, I have to write more about it later because I think it has profound implications for the New Evangelization and how we should present the faith to people. In a sense, he’s talking about evangelizing catechesis!

Conclusion

Overall, The ‘One Thing’ Is Three is a good book well worth a look. It’s a bit long winded but has some great teaching if you can hang with it. I would recommend it to understand The Enrichment of Faith alone.

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Comments

  1. I love this concept! In fact, when I was teaching high school theology the kids knew that the default answer for most questions was “communion” instead of “Jesus.” At the time I was really into the Theology of the Body, which helped me understand the Trinity better than I had ever understood it before.

    • Marc Cardaronella says:

      Yeah, I love this concept too. It really is fascinating and does a phenomenal job of explaining the underlying core of what Christianity is all about. Everything really does come down to communion.

  2. Fred Lange says:

    Marc, nice blog that I found while Googling “the circle of life” mentioned by Gaitley in “The One Thing Is Three,” which I am currently now perusing after enjoying some of his early works.

    I am in contemplation and not currently there with you or him (from my smallest, briefest sampling) on objective truth and the description of people that “choose their own truth inevitably become enslaved to their own passions.”

    I can’t support that point of view of it goes on to deny how a well-informed conscience (steeped in the gospel and tradition) must make tough calls in how God’s truth shall be lived in an evolving world. Even if that point of view makes sources honored to traditionally define objective truths uncomfortable.

    It feels to me that the answer is a paradoxical blend of the two. Perhaps if “no objective truth” leaves it to the “belly decide when it’s hungry,” then acceptance of externally provided “objective truths” without a deep sense of personal accountability to the Lord leaves us blinding following truths not worthy of our allegiance- or for horrible example, embroiled in tragic clergy sexual abuse scandal perhaps due in part to unduly honoring clergical providers of “objective truths,” or confusing what things can truly be defined as “objective truth.”

    It’s kind of hard for me to sum up my point of view here, so I don’t mean to define your point of view after reading a couple sentences. Perhaps after I read the entire book, I will have a point of view better worth stating. Just thought I would share in the meantime.

    Blessings…

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