THE MYSTERY OF APPEARANCE
10 British Post-War Painters Haunch of Venison, London 7 December–18 February 2012 Admission free
An Unfinished World
Until 18 March 2012
NOW AT 103 New Bond St, the new(ish) ‘Haunch of Venison’ Gallery is a great improvement on its last home in the overblown space behind the Royal Academy. The gallery’s three different sized rooms provide an excellent sequence of spaces for this small exhibition drawn from provincial galleries and private collections.
The Setting Sun, 1944
© Estate of Graham Sutherland
The show’s sub-title explains how the curator has responded to a quotation from Francis Bacon, ‘To me, the mystery of painting today is how can appearance be made. I know it can be illustrated, I know it can be photographed. But how can this thing be made so that you catch the mystery of appearance within the mystery of the making?’ Bacon was perhaps the most famous of the ‘School of London’ painters, a group all ten of the artists in the show were associated with. Those ten are Michael Andrews, Frank Auerbach, Patrick Caulfield, William Coldstream, Lucian Freud, Richard Hamilton, David Hockney, Leon Kossoff and Euan Uglow. They aren’t all the London Group but they are a representative selection.
Quite how they fit together is another matter. They knew each other but they have diverse artistic personalities and so they have been hung in conversation. Some themes do emerge. The colours are often simple and unmodulated. This shows in the landscapes and to great effect in Uglow’s acrylic, Mosque at Çilik Koyou, with its sense of a hot eastern Europe, where clear blue skies are balanced against the dusty ground. At the opposite, but equally painterly extreme, there are the oils of Kossoff and Auerbach. Auerbach’s Primrose Hill, Winter Sunshine uses thick oils to bring us dark, wet trees and damp winter sunshine. By contrast, Kossoff’s Willesden Junction goes a step beyond Monet’s Gare St Lazare so that the steam and the track become an urban eco-system, part natural thing, part man-made mess.
There is more thick paint with Kossoff’s reworking of Rembrandt’s Bathsheba. It is always a risk when an artist does his own take on a great work from the past because the original may well keep our attention. But that’s not really the point with Kossoff’s piece. Like Uglow’s Massacre of the Innocents which captures and enhances the violence of Poussin’s original while setting up a contrast between the tones the two painters use, this painting is made as much for the painter’s own benefit as anyone else’s. This is quite different from Bacon’s more publicly oriented Pope I – Study after Pope Innocent X by Velazquez, one of the screaming Pope series. The picture comes early in the series and is not as screaming as many. In fact the pontiff can be taken as grinning in a slightly maniacal way rather than screaming. But whatever the rictus Bacon is really working with the Tradition while at the same time making an original work.
Other genres from the western tradition are also represented, each given a post-war twist. One room is devoted to the human figure. Here Lucian Freud’s work stands out with its unflattering eye and meticulous delineation of line and character. There are also erotic works and these are all straightforwardly homoerotic, notably Hockney’s acrylic The Room, Tarzana. This is a take on Boucher’s Mademoiselle O’Murphy via Gauguin’s Manao Tupapau. It features a semi-nude male looking rather nervous, and rightly so considering the angle of his behind. Freud’s superb pencil sketch (the tradition of high-quality technique is also shared by these artists) gives us Francis Bacon in supermodel bad boy pose, the slight hairiness of his upper body rather unnerving, the open flies rather boring. By contrast, the Self-Portrait is represented by a less challenging but charming and almost elfin work by Kossoff. That is an extraordinary achievement considering (once more) the thickness of the paint, and one of a number which justifies the show’s aim to promote post-war British painting.
Oxford’s Museum of Modern Art is currently showing eighty or so works by a major figure of the previous generation, Graham Sutherland. Again, the pictures are drawn from private or provincial collections. They feature early landscapes from Wales, some wartime pictures of bombed-out buildings and further Welsh pictures from the final years of Sutherland’s life. Most are small scale, some very small scale, in pen and watercolour.
The show makes the point of how rooted in the land Sutherland was. In fact, root or branch is very much the word as the tortured forms of trees and bushes set in a bleak landscape become a key to unlock the artist’s vision. The wartime devastation is truly modern while at the same time a reflection on the land and the past – Sutherland’s Modernism was not a Modernism of the machine, unlike his Vorticist contemporaries, but it isn’t short of anguish and pain. This is a good introduction to the artist’s work and comes with a deceptively slight film by the curator and Turner Prize nominee, George Shaw.
The Genius of Illumination British Library
11 November 2011–13 March 2012
Admission £9, concessions
DOUBTLESS THIS exhibition at the British Library provides an informative intellectual and educational experience – but that it is not the reason one ought to go. Rather, Royal Manuscripts is a must-see this winter simply because one could only with great difficulty find elsewhere so concentrated a display of such sumptuous beauty.
I have no authority to speak on the historical importance of the manuscripts in this collection, suffice to say that they provide a fascinating insight into the reading material (and self-understanding) of the royal court over seven centuries. A broad range of genres are included: there are Bibles, Books of Hours and other devotional and liturgical texts, but there are also historical chronicles, manuals of warfare, genealogical rolls and musical notations.
Alongside the manuscripts are technical displays about their production, digital media and assorted other artefacts from the Middle Ages, including a fifteenth-century tapestry from the Netherlands and a medieval lion’s skull discovered in the Tower of London.
Having mistimed my visit on a January weekday afternoon I rushed to view all of the over one hundred and fifty manuscripts in the exhibition, which is well laid out in six sections, each lit in a different colour. Pages sparkle from within the glass display cases, with colours as rich and as vivid as if paint had only recently been put to parchment. Both decorative and figurative painting is breathtakingly beautiful, and the volumes are of such dimensions as for the page details to be clearly visible.
A particular highlight is Henry VIII’s Psalter from c.1540, which is displayed open to a page featuring a portrait of the king himself, studying in his bedchamber. One might think the display of religious manuscripts in the exhibition appositely timed, as many Anglophone Catholics implement the new translation of the Roman Missal using finely illustrated liturgical books. The medieval illuminations speak eloquently of a religious mindset acutely aware of the evangelistic and devotional potential of religious art. Certainly such manuscripts are advertisements for their patrons, but they are at the same time honest manifestations of deep piety before an all-glorious God.
Readers of New Directions stuck for ideas for things to spend their last remaining Christmas book vouchers on could do worse than to consider the exhibition catalogue for Royal Manuscripts. Better still, however, and better value would be to book your ticket without delay.
CALL THE MIDWIFE
Sundays from 15 January, BBC1
OLD JOKES revisited #94, as Private Eye might say: ‘Do you have a faith, Nurse Lee?’ ‘Not really – I’m Church of England.’ This set the tone for Call the Midwife, BBC1’s new flagship Sunday night drama, based on Jennifer Worth’s book of the same name and scheduled to begin just before the final episode in the current run of Sherlock. The line also enabled a little bit of scene setting, as the nun who had asked the question was able to respond, ‘And we’re Anglican too.’
Welcome to the East End of London in 1957, where the living conditions are squalid, the smog is thick, the policemen are broad, and the midwives are mostly Anglican nuns. They are joined by the young, pretty, naive Nurse Lee (Jessica Raine), and the scene is set for an entertaining hour of television: part comedy of manners, part comingof-age tale; part costume-drama; and part documentary.
The first episode followed Nurse Lee’s first experiences of life and midwifery in working-class Poplar. Inevitably, she is shocked and revolted by some of the things she sees: children urinating on the floor; a heavily pregnant woman unaware that she has syphilis; a Spanish lady expecting her twenty-fifth child who can only communicate with her cockney husband through their eldest daughter, as she has no English and he no Spanish. ‘They had eyes only for each other’, reports Nurse Lee on her return to the convent. ‘And look where it got them’, replies one of the no-nonsense nuns.
The Sisters themselves amply fulfil all of the stereotypes one might have expected. Sister Monica Joan (Judy Parfitt) is potty and has a habit of stealing cake no matter how well her sisters have hidden it. Sister Evangelina (Pam Ferris) is a formidable battle-axe, succeeding where one of the central-casting police constables fails in breaking up a cat-fight between two East London gals. Sister Julienne (Jenny Agutter) is the sensible, down-to-earth head of house who takes Nurse Lee under her wing. But – and this is crucial to the success of Call the Midwife – anybody who has spent time with or in a religious community will know that these characteristics have become stereotypes precisely because they are real, albeit heightened here for dramatic effect. And as the episode develops and we get to know the sisters a little better, we begin to see that (as in real life, again) beneath the stereotypes dwell real, warm, fully-rounded human beings. Sister Monica Joan is not half as mad as she likes to make out; Sister Evangelina has the biggest heart of them all; and Sister Julienne has a laugh and a smile which light up the whole room. Indeed, the fact that these nuns smile is one of the things which gives this series both credibility and warmth. There is also a genuine understanding of their vocation: lives consecrated to Christ lived out in the daily worship of him and the service of his people, which characterized so many of the Church of England’s religious communities until she quite deliberately abandoned them in the politically correct rush to create lady vicars instead. ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t know people live like this’, Nurse Lee tells Sister Julienne after a particularly harrowing home visit. ‘But they do’, Sister replies, ‘And it’s why we’re here’.
One of the final scenes, in which the rookie Nurse Lee returns from a traumatic birth and hears the Sisters singing Compline, was almost unbearably moving. Indeed, Call the Midwife was at times slushy and sentimental. It was also warm, compassionate and compelling. Congratulations must go to the BBC for such a superb piece of work. And heaven help the Church of England for what she has thrown away.
In contrast to Call the Midwife, in which ‘the Rector’ was mentioned once but never seen, the first episode in the most recent mini-series of Sherlock saw the excellent Benedict Cumberbatch, as Holmes, dressed up as a clergyman in order to gain access to the house of a lesbian dominatrix (it’s best not to ask, if you didn’t see it). Sherlock’s great strength is that it takes characters and storylines familiar from the canonical books, and puts them into new, relevant and trendy settings. In that sense, if in no other, it’s a bit like Affirming Catholicism for the small screen.
THE CHURCH’S OTHER HALF
Women’s Ministry Trevor Beeson
SCM Press, 256pp, hbk
978 0334043829, £19.99
THIS BOOK is almost so ridiculous as not to be worthy of serious comment. Almost, but not quite. There are two reasons for the qualification. The first is that having undertaken a modest amount of study on the subject myself, I turned first of all to the chapter dealing with Priscilla Lydia Sellon and the restoration of the Religious Life in the Church of England. Somewhat to my surprise, I found a well-researched and balanced essay. To be sure, there is (I think) at least one minor error of fact; it is difficult to be sure since nothing is footnoted. But perhaps one should expect nothing else in a book which is intended as polemic rather than a contribution to academic debate within either the assembly or the academy.
The second reason this book is worth glancing at is because it inadvertently reveals so much about the mind-set of those who are ardent – one might even say fanatical – supporters of the ordination of women. The chapter on Sellon reveals the author’s complete inability, despite his acknowledgement in the preface that most of the women discussed in this book were ‘not ordained and generally opposed to the idea of women clergy’, to accept (or even consider) the possibility that Sellon and others like her achieved such great things precisely because they were living out their God-given vocation, and that this vocation was not to the sacred priesthood. Instead they are seen as de facto victims of male oppression, unable even to conceive the possibility of ordination, forerunners of the time when the yoke will be lifted and women can claim their rightful place at the front of the assembly.
Indeed, something else which this book brought home to me was the fact that the Catholic movement has not lost an argument over the ordination of women; it has lost an argument over the nature of priesthood and holy orders. This is illustrated on a number of occasions. A good example is in the description of Elizabeth Canham’s ordination as a deaconess by Mervyn Stockwood. The latter, ‘nearing the end of his lively Southwark episcopate’, deliberately referred to her as a ‘deacon’ rather than a ‘deaconess’. This suggested, according to Beeson, that ‘as in the case of men being ordained with her to the diaconate, this was to be seen as preparation for the priesthood’. No doubt deacons across the country will be glad that their orders (and Canon law) are held in such high regard.
A more serious example of this syndrome is in Beeson’s certainty that ‘only a high degree of spiritual blindness can explain why the prayer of Jesus that his followers ‘might be one’ was interpreted during the twentieth century only in terms of uniting separated churches, and not as an imperative to unite the roles of men and women within churches’. Now you and I might consider such insults to be par for the course. But it does strike me that only a high degree of Establishment Anglican arrogance can explain how a ‘retired, octogenarian Dean’ (the author’s own words, from the final chapter) can condemn the entire Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches to the charge of spiritual blindness. Oh, to be as spiritually enlightened as the former Dean of Winchester!
The bulk of The Church’s Other Half is a collection of essays on significant women in the history of the Anglican Church, preceded by a brief summary of more ancient history. The latter parts of the book consist of an overview of the current state of play, including a chapter on eminent women clergy in the Church today – or ‘First-Fruits of the New Order’. This again is revealing, not for what Beeson writes about any of the women concerned (I am not qualified to comment on that), but on what it reveals about where his priorities lie. So he writes of the lead Chaplain to the Canary Wharf site that ‘there can be no more important a task in Christian mission in London’ than the one she is currently undertaking, and it may be so. Yet the chaplaincy is a multi-faith team, and the 114- word mission statement (printed here in full) makes no mention of God, Christ, or the Church. It is, as far as I can make out, an agenda for humanist social workers rather than a platform for the Mission of the Church and the spreading of the Good News. And that, of course, is the problem: the faith once delivered to the Apostles is reduced to a series of platitudes, an aspiration to general niceness, a vague hope for a better world full of happier people. Meanwhile, Christ’s charge to ‘go, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’ is side-lined. Priscilla Lydia Sellon would have wept.
DIVINE TEACHING AND THE WAY OF THE WORLD
A Defense of Revealed Religion Samuel Fleischacker
OUP, 570pp, hbk
978 0199217366, £60
MY HEART was warmed: I felt, as I read it, that the world is a better place for the writing of this book. This (and I have the New Atheists in mind when I say it) is true humanism. This
(I turn to the ultramontane Romans) is reasoned faith. An Anglican middle way? No, this man is much more Anglican than an Anglican.The author is Jewish, and this is where much of his warmth, wisdom and humanity comes from. Like Jonathan Sacks, he says better what you only wish you had said yourself. His is an Enlightenment project, to show that religious faith can be fully lived out in a pluralist society. His is a real and genuine faith, as we see from number of careful asides where he shares his personal convictions without intruding them into the discussion. I certainly felt that coming from a minority he had to think out the implications of his faith more fully than a Christian (until now in the comfortable majority).
The moral values that are at the heart of our faith (Jew, Christian, Muslim or whosever) can and must be shared and discussed on their own terms, distinct from any theological source. The argument is subtle, and certainly generous, but unquestionably not secularist. No religious faith is ignored or set aside, but when we meet and argue in a liberal, multi-faith society we must speak about objective values in morality, politics and philosophy. For me, it was his understanding of the Truth that was the most beguiling. It is easier to understand why Morality must be part of what he calls ‘the way of the world’, the public sphere from which none should be excluded on grounds of faith or lack of it. Then there is Worth, which again can more easily be understood in a personal and social context. But Truth? I hesitate even to summarize his argument, as I am not sure I absolutely follow it: that’s why I use the word ‘beguiling’. He was persuasive and I wanted to be persuaded. He has an excellent and critical analysis of Bernard Williams’ recent book on truth, for example; he wins the battle between them, but I still don’t quite follow his argument.
This is one of my difficulties with the book, not an objection, but a difficulty. With over 450 pages of solid text (not to mention the notes), with a wealth of erudition and a broad range of philosophical references, I have to admit it beat me. I enjoyed it, but whereas I would have spent a whole summer slowly digesting it when I was teaching at university, I now do not have, not the time (everyone says that), but the necessary concentration.
Could it have been written in 100 pages, so that ordinary graduates could benefit from it? Probably not. In the tradition of Augustine’s City of God, its theme is civilization. It is a big theme, and not to be précised. And its context is a big society, urban, scholarly, cosmopolitan, confident. Which itself is an interesting challenge in these troubled times. Faced with the fears of economic disaster, the rise of the Pacific Rim, the advance of terror, global warming, over-population, such a humane philosophy is not so much an argument as a challenge, a vision of how it ought to be. If I have failed to match its scope, I hope the leading lights of academia will be warmed by its theist wisdom. This is a good book.
A Saint in the Making
Universe Media Group, 120pp, pbk
978 1904657651, £4.99
I HAVE, on my study wall, a small photograph of Pope Pius XII. In many ways it is the most controversial thing on the wall. Many people look past the ‘This candle burns for the work of Forward in Faith’ card and focus n the image of Pius crowned in his papal tiara giving a blessing. I am often puzzled as to why this should be:
Pius was a holy man and a good pope. Many people are fixated with the idea that he allowed Hitler to pursue his horrendous schemes without lifting a finger to help the Jewish people. If that is what you think then this moderate, interesting and balanced book is for you, or perhaps for someone you know.
The foreword to this important book is by Fr Peter Gumpel who is promoting the cause of beatification and canonization of Pius XII and this serves as an indicator that the time has come for the Church and the world to reassess his legacy. Pius XII reigned from 1939 until 1958 and this is clearly important in Winterbottom’s account. However, he does not neglect the years before Eugenio Pacelli was elected to the Papacy. The struggles over the control of the Papal States and the realignment of the Europe in the late nineteenth century could not fail to have had an impact on Pacelli’s ministry. Pacelli was a remote figure, not a cold one but someone who preferred to be alone, and this has perhaps contributed to people viewing him as an unapproachable figure. Pacelli had a great appreciation for German language and culture but could not be accused of being pro-German in the sense of being pre-German. The 1933 concordat with Germany, signed after Hitler came to power was an undoubted mistake. Winterbottom does not shy away from the accusations that Pius XII was pro-Nazi or the accusation of his ‘silence’ during the Second World War. But he goes on to prove that during the war Pius helped those who were persecuted and those who were in need, but was unable to make these actions public. Indeed during his lifetime he was held in esteem by many people. Pius XII was Pope during two periods when Christianity was under threat, firstly from the onslaught of National Socialism and then the onslaught of Communism. Both in different ways sought to destroy the Christian message. His papacy must be viewed in light of this.
Of the many encyclicals published by Pius amongst the most important must be those relating the Dogma of the Assumption of Our Lady, for which all Christians can give thanks. Winterbottom deals with Pius XII in a generous and understanding way, he draws a portrait of a man who, despite human weakness, was able to work for the good of the Church and of his fellow men. He is much maligned and misunderstood and deserves to be reassessed. This book begins to do this. It is well illustrated, the photographs complement the text and give the reader a feel for the period in which Pius XII lived and the struggles he felt.
There can be few who do not thrill at the sight of the papal tiara, despite the fact that it and the calling it implies may lie heavy on the heads of those who wear it.
Ten Religious Explorers from Newman to Joseph Ratzinger
Michael Paul Gallagher
DLT, 168pp, pbk
978 0232527971, £12.95
THIS IS a curious book. The author’s aim is to gather and distil wisdom from ten major theological writers into a summary which is accessible to a non-specialist and non-academic audience. Gallagher believes that people in the modern world are searching for a meaningful spirituality without having the language to express that in terms of a longing for God.
The book is called ‘Faith Maps’ because each of the thinkers is considered in the context of how their work points us in the direction of Christian faith. To help achieve this aim, eight of the ten chapters conclude with an ‘imaginary monologue’ in the voice of the explorer under discussion.
Some of these work better than others. To my mind, the monologue of Flannery O’Connor was the most useful, perhaps because it contains a lot of material from her own correspondence and thus has less of a contrived feel about it than some of the others. The book finishes with a discussion of ‘Seven pillars of wisdom’, which are an expansion of Friedrich von Hügel’s three dimensions of religion.
What are the book’s strengths? Gallagher writes well, and produces helpful summaries of what is at times very complicated thought (the essays on Karl Rahner and Hans von Balthasar come to mind here). Ironically, the two chapters I enjoyed most were those on a theologian whose life and work I have encountered many times before – Pope Benedict XVI – and on a writer about whom I previously knew very little – O’Connor. Gallagher is also good at drawing out common themes and ideas. So, for example, O’Connor’s insistence that religion is not based on feelings, and that God-given reason is important in coming to faith, is echoed in Pope Benedict’s understanding of faith as a response to a gift, ‘not an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person’. Benedict also insists that faith is about love, but also about truth, without which the former can become mere sentimentality. And Truth is revealed, not least through the liturgy. Gallagher is a sure guide to these major themes in Benedict’s theology. Another example of the common themes which slowly reveal themselves is the importance of interiority which pervades the work of both John Henry Newman and Karl Rahner.
So there is much that is good here. Why, then, do I have reservations? Because I am not convinced that the author succeeds in his stated goal of opening up the treasures of these ten ‘spiritual giants’ to an audience which is at best non-specialist and at worse actively sceptical.
I am not convinced that he avoids the trap he identifies in the introduction of speaking in ‘God-talk’, a language for which many people have ‘no dictionary, no grammar’. What the book does do is present valuable insights about the nature of faith for those who are intelligent thinkers with a basic understanding of Christian theology who are nonetheless not academic theologians. In some cases more than others, the chapters also represent useful introductions to the biographies of the people concerned.
It took me a long time to read this book, but I kept on coming back to it. I think it was worth it.
THE ORDER FOR MORNING PRAYER
From the Book of Common Prayer of 1662 Annotated by the Revd Dr Peter Toon with revisions and additions by Peter Bolton
Prayer Book Society, 36pp, pbk
Available from the PBS at
978 0953566853, £3.95 + £1.50
CHORAL MATINS is one of the glories of the Church of England – pure patrimony, one might say – yet is often viewed as the poor relation of its now more familiar sister, Choral Evensong. A victim of the (entirely admirable) Parish Communion movement which saw even the most Establishment of establishment churches introduce the Eucharist as the primary act of worship on Sunday mornings, Matins nonetheless remains ajoy where it can be found, and of course has inspired some of the very greatest English choral music of all time. This helpful booklet contains an introduction which places the Prayer Book office of Morning Prayer in its historical context; this is followed by the complete text of Morning Prayer, with informative annotations on the facing page which act as a devotional guide as well as providing historical and theological factual information. Whether your interest in Prayer Book Matins is practical and devotional or entirely theoretical, this booklet will be of help and interest, and is well worth the cover price.
The Complete New Testament Collection Tom Wright
SPCK, 18 volume boxed set, pbk
£159.99 until 30 June, thereafter £170 978 0281067213
TOM WRIGHT’S successful series of New Testament Study guides was completed in 2011, and is now being offered as a box set at a slightly reduced price until 30 June. Each volume consists of short passages of Wright’s own translation of the text followed by readable and accessible commentaries upon the passage. A glossary is provided
at the end of each volume. The boxed set is understandably expensive; each volume on its own is not. Also available is Wright’s complete translation of the New Testament, fully integrated with the Greek (The New Testament for Everyone, Tom Wright (trans.), SPCK, 592pp, hbk, 9780281064267, £14.99). And it was surely only a matter of time until the inevitable happened: Tom Wright for Everyone: Putting the Theology of N.T. Wright into Practice in the Local Church (Stephen Kuhrt, SPCK, 128pp, pbk, 9780281063932, £9.99), a commentary on Wright’s work, is also now available.
PUSHKIN THE PONTIFICAL PUSS
Tails of an Oratory Cat Anton Guziel
St Pauls, 64pp, hbk
978 0854398263, £6.50
NOT TO be confused with 2008’s Joseph and Chico: The Life of Pope Benedict XVI as Told by a Cat, this children’s book tells the story of the life and adventures of Pushkin, the Birmingham Oratory’s cat, culminating with his meeting with the Holy Father during Pope Benedict’s visit to this country. The book is well written and adorned with black and white illustrations. Proceeds will go towards the restoration and maintenance of the fabric of the Birmingham Oratory.
CATHOLICISM IN UXBRIDGE
A Brief History
Nicholas Schofield St Pauls, 96pp, pbk
978 0854398256, £6.99
WRITTEN BY the present parish priest of Our Lady of Lourdes and St Michael, Uxbridge, to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the present church building, this short book is a history of Roman Catholicism in the west London suburb. The majority of the book covers the most recent part of the history, from the nineteenth-century Mission through to the present-day parish and church; though there are also introductory chapters on medieval and recusant Roman Catholicism
in the area. Several black and white photos help to make this an attractive volume, which will be of interest to local historians and all those with an interest in the development of Roman Catholicism in this country.
THE MONASTERY OF THE HEART
An Invitation to a Meaningful Life Joan Chittister
SPCK, 240pp, pbk
978 0281066193, £10.99
JOAN CHITTISTER is an American Benedictine and well-respected, much published spiritual guide. Her latest book, addressed to ‘the Many Seekers’, seeks to use the ancient Rule of St Benedict as a guide to those in all walks of modern society who are ‘looking for the rhythm of a better life’. The chapters are arranged into what at first glance look like poems but might better be described as lyrical prose. This forces the reader to slow down and consider deeply what the author is saying. This is not an easy read, but for many people may prove to be a valuable one.
CATHOLIC FOUNDATION STONES
Exploring the Basics of the Faith
John Wilson and Andrew Allman
St Pauls, 64pp, pbk
978 0854397822, £6.95
THIS SPIRAL-BOUND A4 book is a basic introduction to the Catholic faith in twelve sessions. Each chapter or session contains an opening prayer, some questions for initial thought and discussion, a textual passage for reading and reflection, a closing prayer and some ideas for further study. As one would expect, the material is all entirely sound, but the style and the presentation is a little bare. Having said that, there is much here which would be of use to those preparing a Confirmation or other catechetical course, and at £6.95 this represents good value for money. ND