Recent books in brief

Recent books in brief
Rebuilding Confirmation

by Christopher Wesley (Maria Press, $US 10.95PRP)

This important little book is subtitled: ‘Because we need more than another graduation’. This will arouse echoes in the mind of pastors and parents, for there is certainly a great confusion it seems among Catholics about what Confirmation is.

Rites of passage are very important, and Irish society tends to make them less religious and more a party event. Young people seem to see Confirmation as an end to an engagement with religion rather than a beginning.  A ceremony which should be seen as the commencement of life as a full Christian is now a cul-de-sac.

Religion, too, is a matter of life-long learning, a constant encounter with the new. Christopher  Wesley is well aware of this, and here he shares his long experiences of small parish mentors and faith promotion groups. He wants to see Confirmation, not as an end point, but as the beginning of a full mature Christian life. That is not an easy task, but many involved with students in Ireland will find his American observations of great value in their own work.


Morning Homilies IV

by Pope Francis (Orbis Books, $US 18.00)

This is the latest in the series of little books that make available the morning thoughts of the Pope which he shares with the little community at St Martha’s Guesthouse where he lives in the Vatican.

The earlier books have proved very popular, and they certainly provide vivid insights to the Pope’s outlook and his cast of mind. Addressed to his own small cohort they have an air of family talk about them and will delight many of those who, in their own busy daily lives, think they would like to have a few moments of guided and insightful reflection to start their day.


Gospel Conversations

by Desmond O’Donnell OMI (Dominican Publications, €9.99pb)

In his new book Desmond O’Donnell has adopted a technique as old as literature, the idea of the dialogue (which was so much used by Plato, Landor, and many others).

It has always provided a natural unintimidating way of exploring a topic or theme. Here are some 20 dialogues between characters, actual and imagined, in the New Testament experience.

They range from John the Baptist to Mary the Mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalen. But there are also striking conversations involving Zacchaeus discussing his new way of life, Johanna, Susanna and Magdalen talking about the Resurrection, and towards the end, Judas and Barabbas reflecting on their failures – though paradoxically without those failures the drama of  salvation could not have been played out. I was reminded (perhaps irrelevantly) of that essay by Borges where he discuss that moment in Greek drama when Aeschylus “brought in a second actor”.

The single hypocrite was no longer alone; dialogue, and so drama, became the future, revealing  new horizons of insight. In a small way Fr O’Donnell’s dialogues achieve in their own way some of this impact of the new.