Saint Patrick: An Ancient Saint for Modern Times
by Edmond Grace SJ (Sacred Heart Messenger, €4.95)
At this time of the year we Irish tend to think of St Patrick as ‘our saint’, but Edmund Grace begins his brief book with a very insightful encounter far from Ireland. In St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York he observed a black American woman praying very devotedly before a statue of the saint.
Stepping outside, he suddenly realised that though he was Irish, she had a very different relationship with the saint. She saw him as a young man lifted from his life at home, and cast up in Ireland as a slave – just as her ancestors had been torn from Africa. She was able to avoid all the Irish nonsense and to grasp what ought to be an essential feature of our ideas of the saint: Patrick the patron saint of the enslaved.
This little book, by a Jesuit who has had many years of experience in the life of Dublin’s inner city, where he saw other kinds of slavery, is full of such insights and well worth reading for them, when much longer (and more complicated books) may discourage. He will help us all think about Patrick in very different ways.
Journeying in Joy and Gladness: Lent and Holy Week with Gaudete et Exsultate
by Kevin O’Gorman SMA (Messenger Publications, €4.95)
Lent is always seen as a time of penance and privation. So much so that it may well, Fr O’Gorman feels, obscure the real outcome for Chrstians, which lies beyond Good Friday in Easter Morning. The sense of joy felt on that day should, he thinks, be fed back into the season of Lent, and he proposes the use of Pope’s Francis’s exhoration Gaudete et Exsulatate as a means to that end.
Day by day he takes his readers through Lent, offering a passage from that document as a reflection for the day. This seems a novel and very worthwhile approach to what is the central mystery of Christianity. He reminds us that in these often tumultuous times the message of love at the heart of the faith should not be lost sight of.
Learning to Love: Journeys through Life with the Rosary
by Fr Nigel Woollen (Veritas, £8.72)
Fr Woollen is an English priest whose name may be familiar to some from his previous book on Knock, The Lamb Will Conquer: Reflections on the Knock Apparition. Here, for the same readership, he return to a long familiar, but perhaps neglected devotion, praying the mysteries of the Rosary.
He takes his readers through them set by set, showing how they can be related to the human journey through life, involving as it does new experiences, pain and set back, yet in the end a sense of joy and wonder. This is an easily read book which many individuals and parish groups may find an enhancement in their efforts to develop their prayer life.
It will make a very effective combination with Fr O’Gorman’s book above.