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Like human life, the Catholic or universal Church is lived forward but understood backward. To appreciate the Church's past, however, does not require that we simply repeat it. Using such a framework, this book puts the present period of the Church in vast historical context. It traces how the Church came from the "community of unexpected persons" whom Jesus gathered around himself and was then shaped, over the course of centuries, by human decisions made in the Spirit. The Church's catholicity is seen to involve an ever expanding memory, embracing the immense richness of past and present times, places, and cultures, and at the same time an openness to assimilating, and possibly being transformed by, a future history in which God offers new possibilities. The book thus proposes that the Church's leadership would do well to nurture a renewed eschatological attitude that embraces a genuine openness to the newness and surprise of the future, leaving room not only for continuity but also for the important elements of change and transformation. For, what the Church is, only the entirety of its history will fully reveal.