Recent books in brief

Recent books in brief
Time to Call Home

by Hugh O’Donnell (Veritas, €14.99/£12.90)

Fr Hugh O’Donnell SDB lives in Dublin’s inner-city, where he helps minister to the local parish. But in his writing and poetry he explores what he sees as “ecological spirituality”.

Doubtless the cityscape that surrounds his daily life sharpens the contrast with what should be the true ecological environment of both body and soul. This little book completes a trilogy by “inviting us to fall in love with the earth and to respond to her endangerment with passion” (echoing here the words of Hildegard of Bingen).

In these pages he develops his response to the themes that Pope Francis has been extolling. He writes however as a poet, rather than a preacher, urging rather than admonishing. He also has that rare thing in today world, a real sense of humour.

The book is made up of brief two page apercus. But at the heart of these are small every day, but deeply moving insights. In ‘Baking Bread’, for instance, about his mother: “It was all grace, though we would never have known to use that word. Bread it was. You could build a home around it.”

Not that as children they thought in such terms, but in hindsight he feels it was as close as you get to the injunction ‘this for you, take and eat’.

A wonderful little book, which many may come to treasure.


Meditating on the Mysteries of Salvation A Guide to Praying the Rosary with Joy and Dedication

by Fr Frank Drescher (Veritas, €7.99/£6.99)

Fr Frank Drescher is a German who is now a priest of the Archdiocese of Dublin. This little book derives from ideas and practises current in German Catholicism. This gives it a distinct form, which contrasts with the usual run of devotional books.

The way of praying the Rosary presented in this book is rich in variety and offers, in a special way, what the famous theologian Romano Guardini called “A participation in the life of Mary, whose focus was Christ”. Fr Guardini, though Italian in origin, was a German theologian who greatly influenced many important figures such as the present Pope.

The author provides guidance on praying the Rosary within the traditional sets. But he introduces four new sets such as the ‘miraculous mysteries’ and the ‘merciful mysteries’.

These ideas coming from an unfamiliar direction will help refresh for many readers a traditional form of prayer that has never lost its appeal to Catholics in Ireland.


Coming of Age: Navigating Parish Pastoral Council Responsibilities – A Benedictine Perspective

by Justin Harkin (Veritas, €14.99/£12.99)

With the return of at least a partial Church life in parishes after a long period of great difficulties, many must be asking themselves about the future. Everywhere there seems to be a feeling that returning to what was being done before the crisis is just not enough. Not back to normal, then, but to the realisation of a new normal.

One area which will surely be affected greatly is parish pastoral councils. These often function on an ad hoc basis. But Justin Harkin proposes in this book the idea that forms of Benedictine life and purpose would form for parish a guide to what might be done. This is an excellent idea, for it draws on long centuries of a tradition which is both traditional and innovative.

It might seem to some of those who involve themselves in parish activities that it imposes on them the need for a certain amount of study. But this surely is a good thing. For it is only though exposure to new ideas, or rather ideas new to oneself (for they may be thousands of years old), that new horizons of thought and feeling are opened up. It serves to give a sense of depth and seriousness to an important contribution by the laity.

This excellent book offers a proposal that will appeal to many. But others may not agree. However that may be, Catholic parishes are bound over the next few years to see great, and perhaps surprising, changes.

These will have to be met, and for that a clear idea of what their tasks really are will have to inform parish pastoral councils. So what we see here is a challenge that affects the whole country.