Recent books in brief

Recent books in brief
Alert, Aware, Attentive. Advent Reflections

by John Cullen (Messenger Publications, €4.95/£4.50)

From a background of service in Ireland and Kenya, John Cullen brings us some ideas about Advent. As the editor of Intercom he is a practised hand at communication. His little book will be an aid to many as Advent comes down on us to attend to the inner nature of things.

Near the end of this little pamphlet there is this insight: “Advent offers us a space in the tent of our hearts to connect the dots of ordinary goodness. These are the everyday Gospel signals of people who combine humanity, humour and holiness. In every parish and family we are blessed, anointed and graced by people who witness to a quiet presence of faithful love. They reflect God’s love – which never leaves us.”

Sacred Space: Advent & Christmas 2021

by the Irish Jesuits/Sacred Space (Messenger Publications, €4.95/£4.50)

The annual week-by-week collections of prayers and reflections will have, I suspect, a special relevance this year, these being uncertain times for everyone. The frustrated hopes of things ‘returning to normal’ pervade the thoughts of all.

Yet the present days concentrate the mind too, and in Advent this year more than ever people’s hopes for themselves and for everyone will have more importance than ever. But the promise of Christmas can be summed up in a few words: “Sometimes I wonder what I might say if I were to meet you in person, Lord. I think I might say, ‘thank you’, because you are always there for me.”


Pathways to a Decision with Ignatius of Loyola

by Jim Maher SJ (Messenger Publications (€14.95/£13.95)

Jim Maher spent his career as a Jesuit teaching and working with the young people at the Crescent College Comprehensive in Limerick, especially those in their last years there. These days with so much to learn, many issues are never given the time they need. One of these must be just how to learn to make what is the right decision for us. I suspect many blunder along, going with the flow, and hardly pausing to think about the wholeness of things.

However, in his new book, through a series of 10 chapters, he shows how the ideas of St Ignatius, the Ignatian way, can be applied to our everyday lives. His cover shows a path through a wood that brings to mind Robert Frost’s poem, by showing here at hand the path is clear, put further on the outcome is less clear.

In an uncomplicated way Maher tries to show just how, in a variety of life situations, such moments of decision, so important for both life and faith, can be made with greater confidence. It means taking time away from the hurly-burly.

In an odd way all this time of lockdown and restrictions will paradoxically provide many anxious people with that period of retreat, allowing them to redirect their lives into a more meaningful way for the future.