By David P. Lang, Ph.D.
ISBN 1-931709-34-3, paper, 206 pp., $11.95, 2002
Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750
Why does the Catholic Church insist that Baptism be administered with water
Why is the Sacrifice of the Mass invalid unless the Holy Eucharist is confected
using wheat bread and grape wine, instead of other grains and fruit beverages
(such as rice cakes and cherry juice)? Why is olive oil the most suitable oil for
Confirmation and the Anointing of the Sick? Does the Church practice unjust
discrimination in reserving priestly ordination exclusively to men? Why is
marriage impossible except between a man and a woman? In short, why does
the matter of the Sacraments really matter?
In this book, David P. Lang confronts a resurgence of the ancient Gnostic
indifference or disdain toward the relevance of material distinctions. He explains,
using philosophical and scriptural arguments, why the Sacraments must employ
specific material elements for their validity.
“This is a remarkably intelligent, convincing, and readable exploration, in clear
literary prose rather than the usual dull jargon of theological ‘scholarship’, of
perhaps the most neglected of all dimensions of the Catholic Faith in this newly
Gnostic age, and the dimension that most sharply distinguishes it from others:
matter, specifically the matter of the Sacraments. I haven’t had this good a
theological ‘read’ in many years, and did not dream the topic could be so
– Peter J. Kreeft, Professor of Philosophy, Boston College
“A highly insightful and careful work … highlighting the difference between
Catholicism and the ‘New Gnosticism’ that permeates much of American culture.”
– Oswald Sobrino, Traditional Catholic Reflections (,
December 2002
“An excellent book on the subject of the matter of the sacraments.”
– James J. Drummey, The Wanderer, January 30, 2003
“The priest, theologian, and lay reader all close the book better informed and,
indeed, inspired.”
– Rev. David J. Mullen, The Pilot, February 14, 2003
– Dr. Mitchell Kalpakgian, Homiletic & Pastoral Review, August-September, 2003
Also favorably reviewed in The Catholic Answer by Rev. Peter M. Stravinskas
(July-August, 2003) and in Theology Digest