Recent books in brief

A Life to Live: Awakening to God’s

Abiding Presence

by Jim O’Connell MHM, foreword by Liam Lawton

(Columba Press, €14.99)

Some years ago, our reviewer, Angela MacNamara, wrote of an earlier book of Fr O’Connell’s that “it is as though someone is taking one’s hand and enabling one to face the real world of God in spite of all the distractions of consumerism and excessive individualism”

Much the same said can be said of this book. Organised in some nine chapters, his reflections – which draw very widely on the author’s own experiences both at home in Ireland and in Africa – fill two or three pages at a time, so allowing the reader to have a daily thought to sustain them. Each short section ends with an apercu from people such as Pope Francis and Richard Rohr that have influenced the author.

The general theme of the book is summed up to in the epigraph from C. G. Jung: “Invoked or not, God is present”. And that notion that the world is filled with a divine numinousness which lies open to us if we will raise our heads and hearts to experience it informs the whole text.

However, an important part of the book is to be found tucked away in the appendix, which describes some simple forms of mediation. Fr O’Connell had included this in his first draft of the book but removed it, only putting it back as an afterthought on the advice of a friend.

But what he has to say is not really an afterthought, but suggests for a way forward to his readers, which many will find of great value. For it is through these techniques perhaps that they will be truly be able to draw on the gentle wisdom contained in the earlier pages.


Being Human: How to Become the Person You Were Meant to Be

by Steve Chalke

(Hodder & Stoughton, £12.99)

The warning this book carries is about sleep-walking through life. How easy it is to let yet another week pass without doing what it is we really want to do. We fall into a routine which is actually imprisoning us rather than liberating us.

The author himself is in no danger of this. The founder of Oasis and a vigorous campaigner against modern slavery, he fills every moment of his life.

He suggests that it what we believe about ourselves that shapes us – our “story” makes us either heroic in action or abject in failure.  

He holds – and acts out – the notion that the “good news” Jesus brought about the Kingdom of God is “a practical expression of God’s plans for the world”, and that this provides for us the best story. This is a form of practical spirituality, finding salvation not so much in piety, as in the events of daily life.  

The ultimate question the book asks of its readers is “what kind of person do you want to be?”. The essential notion of the book is living not for ourselves, but for others.

That is a notion that lies at the heart of the gospels, and of the best traditions of the Christianity. This is an energising book, by a man whose example many might follow.