March/April 2018

The Art of Lent. A Painting a Day from Ash Wednesday to Easter

art of lentAuthor: Sister Wendy Beckett
ISBN: 978-0-281-07855-4
Year: 2017
Price: £6.99
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Publisher: SPCK

The Way of the Carmelites.  A Prayer Journey Through Lent

Author: James McCaffrey
ISBN: 978-0-281-07529-4
Year: 2017
Price: £8.99
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These two books offer an artistic and a spiritual guidance through Lent. The first book is a wonderful selection of famous paintings illustrating different states through which we go and which we attain during Lent such as silence, contemplation, peace, joy, confidence, and love. It is fascinating how much deep spiritual meaning Sister Wendy draws out of each painting. This beautiful book will lead one into a peaceful and prayerful state through contemplation of the beauty of art.


 

The second book is an introduction into the spirituality of the Carmelites. The author skilfully demonstrates the key tenets of the Carmelite way of life, introduces us to the major saints such as Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, ThŽrse of Lisieux, Elizabeth of the Trinity, and Edith Stein, and describes the method of contemplative prayer. At the end of each chapter one will find very practical contemporary questions which invite us to apply the Carmelite truths to our life. McCaffrey shows how we can imitate the spiritual advice and way of the saints without being put off by the esoteric nature of their experiences.

carmalitesThis book invites us to take up our cross daily and to follow Jesus through our Lenten experience, enter through his Passion and death into joy and glory of the Resurrection, guided and strengthened by the Holy Spirit. The author first looks at the spiritual origins of the Carmelites and their Rule. Then he focuses on Elijah, 'Father of all Carmelites', who is an embodiment of the Carmelite spirit both of solitary prayer and ministry to the world born from it. Carmelites emphasize prayer as a response to divine love, surrendering of our will to the will of God, and as the transformation of our heart. Then McCaffrey explores the integral place of Mary in the Carmelite life, calling her 'the Gospel woman of prayer'. Further, he follows an examination of Teresa of Avila's description of prayer as a friendship with God. In order to fight wandering thoughts Teresa followed the way of representing Jesus as within herself, where she could speak to him; making him present in faith, being aware of his presence. McCaffrey then looks at the weakness and vulnerability of Jesus which is one of the most human and appealing aspects of the Teresian spirituality. He also points to the mystery of God's unrequited love. Similarly, John of the Cross invites us to unite our sufferings with those of Christ and to realize that our sufferings are working in us to fashion us into the likeness of Christ. Finally, the author shows how the Spirit can transform us if we are open to his action.

Yulia Rozumna, University of Nottingham.

Feast or Famine? How the Gospel challenges austerity

feast or famineEditor: Simon Barrow
ISBN: 978-0-232-53261-6
Date: 2017
Price: £5.99
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Keeping Lent and Easter

Author: Leigh Hatts
ISBN:  978-0-232-53337-8
Date: 2017
Price: £9.99
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Both books published by Darton, Longman and Todd 

Last year I reviewed a collection of essays edited by Virginia Moffatt1, mostly written by people linked to the think-tank Ekklesia. Its director, Simon Barrow, has now brought out an excellent Lent course. This is designed to cover five weeks, comprising for each week Bible readings, prayers, a reflection by a particular writer, together with discussion and action points. Often Lent courses and Lent books are rather 'safe', seldom designed to shock or cause controversy. What is refreshing about this course is that it isn't safe. It focuses on a key controversial issue in contemporary Britain, austerity. Since the word has strong religious overtones, some people might think that Christians will view positively this characteristic of recent government economic policy.  This course challenges such a view and explores the inadequacy of policies which rest on falsehood. So Barrow writes in the introduction to the course: 'The biggest lie of and about austerity is that 'there's not enough money'. That is untrue. We live in a world, gifted by God, as Christians say, which has more than enough resources to sustain us - if we look after it, share it, and care for one another well. In fact it is not austerity but generosity which makes the world go round, and when we realise this we can genuinely begin to live well and to deconstruct the myths around the idea that the problem we face is a shortage which can only be addressed by cutting back.' (pp. 21-22).


 

So the themes for the five weeks are built around contrasts: 'Spending or Saving?', 'Hunger or Satisfaction?' Health or Wealth?', 'Security or Insecurity', and 'Cutting or Investing?' So often presentations of Catholic Social Teaching or the witness of other churches in relation to social justice are marked by blandness; worse still is a tendency to try and build reconciliation between incompatible outlooks. This Lent course, which deserves to be widely used in parishes and other communities, is rooted in the prophetic tradition and constantly challenges the reader.

Leigh Hatts' new book on Lent and Easter customs, following an earlier book on Advent and Christmas customs, is a wealth of accurate and well-researched information about every phase of both seasons in the Church's year and various days within them. The author describes carefully each day or observance, rooting his description in passages of Scripture and outlining the history; he also gives a thorough picture of distinctive celebrations in different parts of the world. He bases his description very firmly on the contemporary life of the Church of England and the Catholic Church, with some attention given to the Orthodox Church. Hatts is not afraid to remind us of recent controversies which show that some outward rituals can make life difficult for us - he cites how the MP Carol Monaghan, appearing before a House of Commons committee on Ash Wednesday, was invited to remove the ash from her forehead with which she had been signed earlier in the day. The detail and erudition in this book is very impressive, and Hatts seldom gets anything wrong (one small error: he claims in the sections dealing with the first three days of Holy Week that the vestments used in church remain red following Palm Sunday, which is only true in the Anglican Church).

The rituals and customs of our faith in the seasons of Lent and Eastertide should lead us to generosity of heart, both in relation to God and our neighbour - so one should really read both these books
together.

Ashley Beck
St Mary's University, Twickenham  

1    Reclaiming the Common Good  How Christians can help re-build our broken world (London: DLT 2017), reviewed in The Pastoral Review vol.13 issue 6 (November/December 2017)


lentLaudato Si': An Irish Response
Editor: Sean McDonagh
ISBN: 978-1-84730-749-1
Date: 2017
Price: 14.99 euros
Publisher: Veritas
Irish President Michael D. Higgins in the 2018 annual address to the Diplomatic Corps of Ireland began by looking forward to the potential visit of Pope Francis. In particular, he praised his 'very necessary reminders of our shared obligations not only to humanity but to biodiversity on our planet'. (Diplomatic Corps 2018 New Year's Greeting Ceremony, 24 January 2018)
They were not just platitudes offered to a distinguished audience, for he immediately went on to make reference to time spent in the days before with the contributors of Laudato Si': An Irish Response. Dr Peadair Kirby, author of one of the chapters, related, on the Columban Missionary website, that during the hour-long meeting, the President 'kept referring back to sections he had underlined in the text, showing the extent of his engagement with it. It was a memorable and intellectually nourishing encounter.'
Edited by the Irish Columban Sean McDonagh, there are indeed many ideas and inspirations worth underlining in this collection. McDonagh is a seasoned campaigner. He has spent much of his life raising awareness of the many detrimental problems besetting the environment and, as a result, the poor. Here, he is joined by theologians, academics, and activists  -  some indeed are all three  -  who represent the best voices in Ireland at the intersection between theology, social policy and the environment.
It is best read as a companion piece. As such, it contextualises, condenses and concretises the document itself. Laudato Si' is quite wide-ranging in style; descriptions, reflections, and exhortations are strung together relatively loosely. It appears far removed from the dense writing of his predecessor. To be fair to Pope Benedict, at the level of development of Catholic Social Teaching, I think it can be argued that he already put the ecological crisis on the agenda in Caritas in Veritate (2009). Yet, Laudato Si' is a game-changer because, from here on, there will be no side-lining these urgent challenges. Care for our common home will remain central to Catholic Social Teaching. For the most part, this will be due to the immediacy of the issues themselves but in no small way it is also due to the continued activism and awareness-raising of committed people such as the authors in this collection.
There are ten authors in all. They write in a very approachable style, covering a wide range of topics from theological and biblical reflections to data and plans of international social policy. I give only a taste of some of the contributions.
Sean McDonagh opens the collection. His chapter entitled 'A prophetic challenge for the twentieth first century,' reaffirms of the importance of the document. While it is vital for the world to hear, it is also challenging to how the Church is church. He argues that the Church can be a catalyst for change, not by simply teaching, but by educating itself and so transforming itself and thereby society. He concludes by proposing that this might be best done through through local, national and international synods on the topic. He writes: 'This would be a huge boost to ecological thinking and action around the world and the Catholic Church could play a vital role as a catalyst facilitating the whole process.' (p. 29)
Personally, I am drawn to the connection between environmental degradation and the economic system. It seems to me that this is the greatest challenge of all; to slow or reverse climate change, the extinction of species, or the destruction of biodiversity requires a radical transformation of the economic system. Brigid Reynolds and Sean Healy address this very topic in chapter five. They reflect on central themes such as property, work, and income inequality, drawing attention to the call of Pope Francis for a change of lifestyle and so consumer habits.
John Sweeney is perhaps Ireland's leading public intellectual on the subject of climate change. He contributed to many of the international conferences that led to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change (2016). His article outlines the structural difficulties of such accords. The international system is based on the priority of the nation state. Therefore, an accord will be vulnerable to the priorities of the state, which are too often economics, power and national esteem  -  as shown by the recent decision by President Donald Trump to withdraw the United States from the Agreement. He argues that the system needs to prioritise scientific evidence and ethical principles, both of which are capable of transcending boundaries. He admits that 'leadership and vision are the essential ingredients,' and where they are lacking or weak, 'people must take change of their own futures.' (p. 153)
The last chapter is by Catriona Russell. She tackles the issue of population growth. Some voices within the environmental movement see this as an immediate problem to be aggressively addressed. Yet, there are those who are cautious of anything that might undermine the Catholic pro-life culture. She unpacks paragraph 50 which addresses the issue by emphasising consumerism while acknowledging population pressures. Taking account of the evidence, she concludes that this 'is not misdirection or a false dichotomy but measured and prudent.' (p. 192)
A theme that regularly appears throughout the book is identifying the potential agents of change and how they might be empowered. On one hand, leaders and power-brokers are exhorted to be responsible; on the other, calls are made for the education, empowerment and transformation of communities. In the meantime, the individual Christian can feel somewhat lost, trying the best she can. In the end change will not come from just one source. Instead transformation will be 'polycentric,' to use a phrase of Russell, requiring a real solidarity. (p. 193) It was how President Higgins finished his new year remarks: 'In Laudato Si' a case is made for an integrated vision that will deliver Òa new and universal solidarityÓ in what is Òa ground-breaking moral statement not only for the Vatican but for the global discourse.Ó '
Michael Shortall, Maynooth


Laudato Si': An Irish Response

laudato siEditor: Sean McDonagh
ISBN: 978-1-84730-749-1
Date: 2017
Price: 14.99 euros
Publisher: Veritas

Irish President Michael D. Higgins in the 2018 annual address to the Diplomatic Corps of Ireland began by looking forward to the potential visit of Pope Francis. In particular, he praised his 'very necessary reminders of our shared obligations not only to humanity but to biodiversity on our planet'. (Diplomatic Corps 2018 New Year's Greeting Ceremony, 24 January 2018)

They were not just platitudes offered to a distinguished audience, for he immediately went on to make reference to time spent in the days before with the contributors of Laudato Si': An Irish Response. Dr Peadair Kirby, author of one of the chapters, related, on the Columban Missionary website, that during the hour-long meeting, the President 'kept referring back to sections he had underlined in the text, showing the extent of his engagement with it. It was a memorable and intellectually nourishing encounter.'


 

Edited by the Irish Columban Sean McDonagh, there are indeed many ideas and inspirations worth underlining in this collection. McDonagh is a seasoned campaigner. He has spent much of his life raising awareness of the many detrimental problems besetting the environment and, as a result, the poor. Here, he is joined by theologians, academics, and activists  -  some indeed are all three  -  who represent the best voices in Ireland at the intersection between theology, social policy and the environment.

It is best read as a companion piece. As such, it contextualises, condenses and concretises the document itself. Laudato Si' is quite wide-ranging in style; descriptions, reflections, and exhortations are strung together relatively loosely. It appears far removed from the dense writing of his predecessor. To be fair to Pope Benedict, at the level of development of Catholic Social Teaching, I think it can be argued that he already put the ecological crisis on the agenda in Caritas in Veritate (2009). Yet, Laudato Si' is a game-changer because, from here on, there will be no side-lining these urgent challenges. Care for our common home will remain central to Catholic Social Teaching. For the most part, this will be due to the immediacy of the issues themselves but in no small way it is also due to the continued activism and awareness-raising of committed people such as the authors in this collection.

There are ten authors in all. They write in a very approachable style, covering a wide range of topics from theological and biblical reflections to data and plans of international social policy. I give only a taste of some of the contributions.

Sean McDonagh opens the collection. His chapter entitled 'A prophetic challenge for the twentieth first century,' reaffirms of the importance of the document. While it is vital for the world to hear, it is also challenging to how the Church is church. He argues that the Church can be a catalyst for change, not by simply teaching, but by educating itself and so transforming itself and thereby society. He concludes by proposing that this might be best done through through local, national and international synods on the topic. He writes: 'This would be a huge boost to ecological thinking and action around the world and the Catholic Church could play a vital role as a catalyst facilitating the whole process.' (p. 29)

Personally, I am drawn to the connection between environmental degradation and the economic system. It seems to me that this is the greatest challenge of all; to slow or reverse climate change, the extinction of species, or the destruction of biodiversity requires a radical transformation of the economic system. Brigid Reynolds and Sean Healy address this very topic in chapter five. They reflect on central themes such as property, work, and income inequality, drawing attention to the call of Pope Francis for a change of lifestyle and so consumer habits.

John Sweeney is perhaps Ireland's leading public intellectual on the subject of climate change. He contributed to many of the international conferences that led to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change (2016). His article outlines the structural difficulties of such accords. The international system is based on the priority of the nation state. Therefore, an accord will be vulnerable to the priorities of the state, which are too often economics, power and national esteem  -  as shown by the recent decision by President Donald Trump to withdraw the United States from the Agreement. He argues that the system needs to prioritise scientific evidence and ethical principles, both of which are capable of transcending boundaries. He admits that 'leadership and vision are the essential ingredients,' and where they are lacking or weak, 'people must take change of their own futures.' (p. 153)

The last chapter is by Catriona Russell. She tackles the issue of population growth. Some voices within the environmental movement see this as an immediate problem to be aggressively addressed. Yet, there are those who are cautious of anything that might undermine the Catholic pro-life culture. She unpacks paragraph 50 which addresses the issue by emphasising consumerism while acknowledging population pressures. Taking account of the evidence, she concludes that this 'is not misdirection or a false dichotomy but measured and prudent.' (p. 192)

A theme that regularly appears throughout the book is identifying the potential agents of change and how they might be empowered. On one hand, leaders and power-brokers are exhorted to be responsible; on the other, calls are made for the education, empowerment and transformation of communities. In the meantime, the individual Christian can feel somewhat lost, trying the best she can. In the end change will not come from just one source. Instead transformation will be 'polycentric,' to use a phrase of Russell, requiring a real solidarity. (p. 193) It was how President Higgins finished his new year remarks: 'In Laudato Si' a case is made for an integrated vision that will deliver "a new and universal solidarity" in what is "a ground-breaking moral statement not only for the Vatican but for the global discourse." '

Michael Shortall, Maynooth

Mysticism in the Golden Age of Spain, 1500- 1650.

mysticismMysticism in the Golden Age of Spain, 1500- 1650. (The Presence of God, Volume 6, A History of Western Christian Mysticism)

Author: Bernard McGinn
ISBN: 9780824500900
Date: 2017
Price: £72.50
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Publisher: Herder and Herder: Crossroad

We live in a Golden Age of writing on Christian mysticism. McGinn's own monumental and era-defining study now sails triumphantly into Spain's own Golden Age and his galleon delivers us a wealth of riches to admire. From its origins in the 'Spiritual Exercises' of Abbot García de Cisneros in the fastnesses of the Abbey of Montserrat in Catalonia to the quarrelsome but brilliant Fray Luis de Léon - the professor of Hebrew at Salamanca University arrested for his controversial

translation of the Song of Songs - the book takes us on an incredible and dazzling journey through this incomparable era of mystical writing.


Thus, as well as the titans of the era, Ss. Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross and Ignatius of Loyola, we are introduced to a host of unfamiliar mystics, saints and seers who populate this fabled time and place. We hear of the early visionary and mystic, Juana de la Cruz (1481  -  1534) who ran away from home at the age of fifteen disguised as a man in order to join a community of Franciscan holy women. Here she became a local celebrity famed for her sermons which will seem rather provocative to twenty-first century sensibilities. Then there is the controversial figure of María de Jesús de Agreda (1602  -  1665) who had the remarkable ability of bi-locating between Spain and her transatlantic missions in New Mexico. I shall be praying to her from now on whenever I get on a Virgin Airways flight. As well as navigating us skillfully and tactfully through this colourful collection of characters, McGinn presents us with thoughtful and arresting surveys of the life and works of the major players of the period. There is very little secondary literature on the great saints that is not thoughtfully assessed, weighed and incorporated into three fascinating central chapters that summarise the state of play with regards to contemporary scholarship on these key figures of Western mysticism. For any serious student of Spanish mysticism this book will become a must-have. We have to go back to Edgar Allison Peers' three volume Studies of the Spanish Mystics, published in the middle of the twentieth century, to find anything comparable, and in many ways McGinn's work will now supersede that masterpiece. Indeed, there is very little to compare with McGinn's magnum opus. Now into the seventh volume, there are three more projected to come. In the present volume we already have signs of the 'Crisis of Mysticism' that will come with the Quietist affair of the seventeenth century and we await these last volumes with anticipation. In the meantime we pray for Professor McGinn's continuing good health so that the final ships of his fleet may be brought safely into harbour.

Peter Tyler, St Mary's University, Twickenham

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Michael A. Hayes 1957 - 2017

editor

Michael A. Hayes 1957 - 2017

It is with deep sadness that we announce the death of Rev. Professor Michael Hayes editor of The Pastoral Review.

Many friends and readers of The Pastoral Review and The Tablet will have been shocked and deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Michael Hayes early on Easter Saturday.   Read More

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