The Confessions of X: (A Novel)

Suzanne M. Wolfe
ISBN: 978-0718039615
Thomas Nelson (Tennessee, US) 2016.
Paperback 304 pp $15.99 (available from Amazon)

One of the exciting things which has been happening in recent years in the world of academic theology is an outburst, seemingly inexhaustible, of new books about St Augustine or new editions of his work. This is partly the result of the vastness of his surviving works, much of which still awaits good translation into English or good critical study.

But there is one big gap in our understanding of the Bishop of Hippo: the unnamed woman (referred to by him as Una, ‘the one’) with whom he had a relationship before his conversion, the mother of his son Adeodatus. The English writer Suzanne Wolfe, now based in Seattle, has tried to fill this gap with a novel about her. In a note at the back of the book she explains that she was inspired to do it by studying the Confessions at her convent school in Manchester and being told by a nun that the saint’s concubine was ‘lost to history’.

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Contemplating the Camino - An Ignatian Guide

Brendan McManus SJ
ISBN: 978-1788120784
Messenger Publications 2019. Booklet 64 pp £4.50
Pastoral Review bookshop £4.05

This little book is an excellent introduction to the spiritual, mental and physical challenges one might face on the Camino de Santiago. Focusing on the walk itself, Brendan McManus SJ teaches the reader that the journey is just as, if not potentially more, important than the destination.

McManus, a Jesuit priest, is clearly an experienced walker, and appears to have undertaken several times what many people might hope to do once in their whole life. However, this book serves as an important guide for anyone – be they a seasoned Camino walker or a first-timer. As someone who has walked a section of the Camino, I can honestly say that I wish I had read this before I walked it, and I know that it will come in handy should I walk it again.

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Mass Exodus: Catholic Disaffiliation in Britain and America since Vatican II

Stephen Bullivant
ISBN 978-0198837947
Oxford University Press 2019. Hardback 336 pp £25.00
Pastoral Review bookshop £22.50

This informative and well-written book tells us about Catholic lapsation in Britain and the US from the 1960s to the present day. It covers both the disaffiliates themselves and the process of disaffiliation. In both respects the author offers a detailed and fascinating account which can be framed in different ways.

First it reflects a particular moment in the history and development of the Catholic Church. The starting point is the Second Vatican Council, which opened in 1962. An important question follows from this. Was the Council the primary reason for the disaffiliation that followed? Or were the subsequent attempts to draw back from the liberalising reforms set in motion by the Council a more likely explanation?

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Why the Irish Church Deserves to Die

Joe McDonald
ISBN: 978-17820183396
Columba Press 2017. Hardback 109 pp £10.99
Pastoral Review bookshop £9.90

The state of the Church in Ireland is of concern not only there, but for Catholics in the UK and the rest of Europe. In the UK we are bound closely to Irish parishes, Irish Religious Orders, Irish education and Irish families. So this provocative book is important. In the UK a book by the Canadian priest Fr James Mallon, Divine Renovation, has been enormously influential; it would be interesting to know whether in Ireland Why the Irish Church Deserves to Die has had a similar effect. This book, and the author, have attracted considerable controversy since it was written in 2017 in the months before Pope Francis’ visit to Ireland for the World Day of Families.

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From Hero to Servant to Mystic: Navigating the Deeper Waters of Priestly Spirituality

Fr Scott P. Detisch
ISBN: 978-0814644706
Liturgical Press 2019. Paperback 168 pp £12.99
Pastoral Review bookshop £11.70

Fr Detisch draws on his extensive experience of offering spiritual direction to seminarians and priests in offering his thoughts and reflections on the spiritual formation for clergy and seminarians.
He offers a depth of insight into how seminarians and priests proceed through various stages of development which is not too dissimilar to Jungian archetypes. In the book’s introduction he offers a wonderful vignette of a childhood memory which sets the tone for the rest of the book, i.e. that it is sometimes in the storms of life that Christ speaks to us most clearly. Fr Detisch also presents us with the challenge to see these storms as occasions of reaching to further depth in our spiritual life.

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