Father Tom is a Professor of Theology at Saint Vincent Seminary, a spiritual director to many, and a psychoanalyst.
Father Tom Acklin began putting thoughts into words as potential book projects during a sabbatical in 2000. Since that time, two books have been published and two more are in the pipeline.
Servant Books, an imprint of Saint Anthony Messenger Press, has published The Passion of the Lamb, released in January of 2006, with a foreword by Dr. Scott Hahn, who holds the Pope Benedict XVI Chair of Biblical Theology and Liturgical Proclamation at Saint Vincent Seminary. Emmaus Road Publishing released his book, The Unchanging Heart of the Priesthood, in February. Father Tom is also editing a book on Christology he’s been working on for a number of years, and outlining ideas for another book for Servant Books tentatively titled He Must Increase on spiritual and religious formation.
The Passion of the Lamb is about passion in a number of senses, Father Tom said. It’s about the passionate love of God for every person he created, as well as the passion of Christ’s self-giving love. In the face of the many challenges of modern society, including war, terrorism and poverty, Jesus Christ stands, crucified and risen, already victorious over the brutal realities of a world that rejects him.
Father Tom notes that our indifference to Christ and his call is really “a form of denial of him for whom we most passionately long. The world’s agenda seems to be trying to eclipse God, not so much by denying him as by making him irrelevant. God in Jesus Christ continues, however, to command our attention by refusing to abandon us, and by showing us he continues to save us starting with those most wounded and lost, the least, the last and the lowest. It is by himself becoming little and poor that he shatters the hardness of our hearts, through his passion which reaches into our passion, his suffering love which brings love into our suffering.
“It is the Good Shepherd who in fact reveals himself to be the lamb, showing us in his passion that unless we become little, like a little child, we will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. In a world where power and self-centeredness are extolled, we see the face of Jesus in the powerlessness of his self-giving love.”
The Passion of the Lamb helps answer the only question that ultimately matters: “Will we have faith in Jesus?”
Father Tom earned his doctorate in theology and psychology of religion from the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium, and trained in psychoanalysis at the Pittsburgh Psychoanalytic Institute where he is now a faculty member. He is also a spiritual director and psychoanalyst.
He used a combination of his experiences as rector, psychoanalyist and priest when he wrote The Unchanging Heart of the Priesthood. That book was his answer to a book on seminary life and the priesthood, written by another former rector, Father Donald Cozzens, called The Changing Face of the Priesthood, which was published in 2000, the year of Father Tom’s sabbatical.
“I was still rector of the seminary, and I found the book to have rather negative views of the type of man coming into the seminary,” Father Tom said. “I found it to be totally the opposite of my experience. So I began writing.”
He includes chapters on sexuality, the problems of priestly life, power, the theology of the priesthood and priestly spirituality, with much of his writing deriving from work he has done counseling and providing spiritual direction for priests.
“It’s a very hopeful book,” he adds, contrasting it with the Cozzens book.
The title he had in mind was “The Unchanging Face of the Priesthood,” a direct response to the Cozzens book. But Father Tom said a conversation he had with Most Rev. James A. Griffin, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Columbus, made him rethink that title.
“I was visiting with the bishop and told him what I wanted to call it and he said to me ‘if you look at the face, you don’t really know who the priest is. You must look into his heart, and there you must find the heart of Christ’.”
The foreword to this book was written by Bishop Donald W. Wuerl of Pittsburgh, and the preface by Father Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R. Emmaus Road, the book’s publisher, has mailed a copy of the book to each bishop in the United States.
Both books are available online at www.stvincentstore.com.