//Views, Reviews and Previews

Views, Reviews and Previews

Art

 

Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life Death Rebirth

is at the Royal Academy until 31 March 2019

 

At the entrance to this show its curators state that they are not making a comparison between two artists born five hundred years apart, working in different media and in very different cultures. But they do believe Michelangelo and Bill Viola have shared themes, and Viola was much taken when he saw the Queen’s collection of Michelangelo drawings at Windsor Castle. A number of those fine display pieces have been graciously lent by Her Majesty along with a drawing from the British Museum. The Academy’s beautiful Taddei Tondo is also on show. However, the bulk of the exhibition is video works by Viola which reflect the themes of life, death and rebirth which, it is said, are also found in Michelangelo.

The comparison has its limits. Viola is not a specifically confessional artist though he does have spiritual concerns. His work either evokes an eventless sense of time or suggests moments of change which may be spiritual or physical. In this exhibition he particularly focuses on the cycle of birth- life-death-rebirth, a cycle familiar from Eastern religions.

By contrast, Michelangelo was a Christian who moved in Neo-Platonist circles, and his work and his worldview is much richer. It is quite possible he believed in new life for the soul but, as the show artlessly puts it, his resurrected Christ is paradoxically physical. And one of his most famous works, larger even than Viola’s screens, features the Last Judgment; there’s nothing timeless or cyclical about the souls being carried off to hell in the Sistine Chapel.

Au fond, the Christian’s rebirth in Christ in time is very different from Viola’s rebirth after time. And, despite the curators, it’s doubtful that Michelangelo believed that the sinless Christ was born to die in the way sinful mankind is. But at least both artists do show bodies rising and falling.

Another theory of the curators’ is that Michelangelo’s late drawings of the crucifixion are intentionally indeterminate, and that they reflect the artist’s views on the dissolution of the body, perhaps also a sense of the dissolution of truth. An ordinary person might look at these very fine drawings and think the artist was just working up the position of Christ’s arms.

The curators’ further claim that the drawings on show represent the artist’s most personal work needs nuance. The highly finished drawings are very beautiful—the head of the Nemean lion is gloriously shaggy, the roundedness and fullness of the female limbs is gorgeous—but the late sculptures of the Pietá (not on show here) are much more profound. Not only do they include the artist himself, but they reflect one of the dearest themes of Michelangelo, Mary cradling her son, not so he can go back in her womb as the show crassly suggests (cf. John 3.4), but because of the pity of it. Alongside Michelangelo the Neo-Platonist we should place Michelangelo the spiritalis whose devotion to the Passion of the Lord had an almost mediaeval intensity.

But set aside the conceptual question marks and the exhibition is worth it for the works by Michelangelo. Sadly, it is not structured in a way to encourage looking at them, as in many sitting rooms the goggle box dominates everything else. And given the size of his works it is inevitable that the gallery space is set up for Viola. Indeed, the large empty rooms, the huge screens, the enveloping dark and the amniotic fluid all feel a little like a contemporary production of the beginning of ‘Rheingold.’ It’s no surprise then that there is a ‘Tristan’ video or that Viola makes almost as great a demand on our time as Wagner.  

Is Viola a great spiritual artist? His videos have been bought by Anglican cathedrals and he is very popular. Technically his work it is no longer as innovative as it once was, and there are only so many times slowly pouring water reversed can have an impact. There is a hint of goopiness too, especially in the Nantes trilogy—natural birth, beards, no visible pain meds. And though it is of course very incarnational to see beauty in newborn babies and elderly bodies, they’re not always aesthetically pleasing. As Helena Bonham-Carter observed, there comes a point in life when discretion is only fair. Michelangelo would have agreed. He may have carved himself in old age, but he much preferred fine young limbs. He found in that preference an ethical conflict which quickened his spiritual vision under the shadow of divine judgement. Ethics don’t come into it for Viola. For him transcendence just happens, even if his videos require a lot of time in the making, and in the watching.

Owen Higgs

 

Books

 

A History of Anglican

Exorcism

Deliverance and Demonology in Church Ritual

Francis Young, I. B. Tauris

2018

 

A road sign outside one of my churches points the way to the ‘SNU Church’. Before I arrived in the parish I did not know that ‘SNU’ stood for ‘Spiritualist National Union’, but it didn’t take me long to find out. Frequently, people looking for the spiritualists’ meeting come into our church during the Tuesday evening mass: of course, we always try to persuade them to stay with us instead. Belief in the paranormal is widespread and deeply held in many of the communities which our parishes serve, (the post-industrial north, in my case). Requests for house blessings are frequent and earnest, following apparent disturbances in people’s homes; and often parish priests will discover that those requesting such blessings have been dabbling with seances, Tarot cards, or psychic mediums, often put on as entertainment in a local pub. I do more house blessings per year than weddings! With all this mind, Francis Young’s book should be required reading for all parish clergy, not just those diocesan ‘deliverance ministers/teams’ to whom much of this ministry has been professionally assigned since the 1970s. Young argues that ever since the Reformation, the Church of England’s response to such phenomena, and particularly the most extreme manifestations of the  possession of individuals by demons or evil spirits, has been at best confused. His book then at least partly attempts to inform an ongoing discussion from the historical perspective.

This is apparently the first history of the Church of England’s practice in this area (in recent years, Young has written similar histories for the Roman Catholic Church), and as such the volume provides ample resources for further study: a chronology of key events; a introduction offering a definition of exorcism, a brief account of its history from the New Testament to the Reformation, and a summary of the content and argument of the subsequent chapters; an extensive bibliography; and an appendix of Danish material adopted by the Nonjurors in 1711. (Surely further appendices of other relevant historical texts would be welcome, perhaps in a future edition?).

As he explains in his introduction, Young ‘approaches exorcism from the perspective of church history as an ecclesiastical process, concentrating on exorcists and the theological, canonical and liturgical development of their processes’, and taking a chronological approach to the topic. He stresses that wider questions such as the history of demonic possession are, strictly speaking, beyond the book’s scope. Yet although liturgical and canonical processes provide the framework, Young inevitably engages with broader questions, and much interest derives from this. The surprising fact that the late medieval church did not practise exorcism of individuals, relying instead both on the liturgical exorcism of catechumens before Baptism and on the power of holy objects (sacramentals such as holy water, saints’ relics and blessed objects), raises fascinating questions about the relationship of late medieval sacramental theology to popular practice. The effective suppression of exorcism under the Canons of 1604 is, as Young reveals, illustrative of several important trends over at least the next two centuries. The prevailing attitude of theological cessationism among the 17th and 18th century hierarchy, (the belief, derived from continental Calvinism and later Rationalism, that miracles ceased with the death of the last apostle), apparently rendered exorcism both impossible and unnecessary; similar views were to be heard among the arguments against exorcism from Anglican liberals in the mid-20th century. There was also the ongoing suspicion of religious activities, such as communal prayer and fasting, which were not sanctioned or directed by episcopal authority; whether they originated with Puritan groups, Methodist connexions (or indeed modern Pentecostalism), or at the other end of the theological spectrum, with Nonjurors and Anglo-Catholics. Young portrays all these trends as placing the Church of England on a back foot when facing the spiritual challenges of the modern era: 19th century encounters of English Anglicans with non-European cultures convinced of the reality both of the spirit world and of personified evil; the arrival and growth of Spiritualism in Britain after 1852 and particularly after the mass mortality of the First World War; the late 20th century fascination with the so called ‘new age’ and the occult; even the 1970s film ‘The Exorcist!’   

Young generally presents a nuanced picture of bishops and clergy attempting to respond with compassion and pastoral wisdom to the often bizarre situations presented to them. Only in his later chapters, where he recounts recent debate over such questions as ‘deliverance ministry’ versus exorcism (the one being a comprehensive programme, the other a specific act), or over the production of reports such as A Time to Heal and the directives of Common Worship, does his narrative feel a little like denominational point-scoring.

Nonetheless, Young has produced a much-needed scholarly work, both lucid and lively: along the way we are introduced to a host of eccentric clerical characters, including the ‘ghost-layers’ familiar from English folk memory, and also to compelling and sometimes disturbing contemporary accounts of their ministry to the distressed. Readers of this journal will be gratified to know that the recent Anglican revival of what is now termed ‘deliverance ministry’ was largely shaped by prominent, traditional Anglo-Catholics in the mid-20th century, such as Gilbert Shaw and Max Petitpierre who responded both to their own liturgical and historical scholarship and to their mature  understanding of the pastoral needs of their times; needs which had simply not been met by a church which still refused to pray for the dead. Young reproduces a short, moving piece from Petitpierre’s writing which eloquently sums up both a Catholic understanding of exorcism, and that overwhelming trust in God’s grace which must surround any work to save souls.

‘[N]obody can be possessed by anybody but God…Previously [to the 16th century] exorcism had been a far from dramatic action- simply a prayer to the Lord to cleanse persons of evil influences…. there is no need for dramatic behaviour, no need to shout… It is only necessary to say quietly, “In the name of the Lord Jesus I command you to go, harming no one”- and go the demon must.’              

John Livesley

 

THE ORDER OF THE DAY

Éric Vuillard

Picador 2019 £12.99

ISBN 978-1-50988-9969-100

 

September of this year sees the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II. As the centenary commemorations for the Great War recede, that second great conflict of the 20th century comes into closer focus.

Éric Vuillard is a French filmmaker and author. This, his latest book, was published in his native language in 2017 winning the premier literary award of the Prix Goncourt, and is now published in its English translation, splendidly realised, by Mark Polizzotti.

It is a sharply-focused, taut, searing re-appraisal of several key events in the run up to the outbreak of the War. This series of vivid vignettes begins with an ominous gathering of German businessmen (Krupp and Vögler among them) representing major manufacturing industry (IG Farben, Siemens, Telefunken) with Hermann Göring. Both he and those businessmen were standing “at the gates of Hell.”  The room was full of cigar smoke and cynical complacency, and not a small degree of avarice.

In a later chapter, Göring, grotesquely jovial, also appears alongside Lord Halifax in hunting attire. The tall, austere, aristocratic, gentlemanly Halifax and the pantomime dame that was Göring make a highly unlikely couple, worlds apart. All Halifax’s undoubted qualities did not equip him to deal with such a fully-blown charlatan. That tragi-comic pairing gives way to a darker confrontation between Hitler and the hapless Austrian Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg: screamed at and browbeaten into abject surrender. On his return to Vienna, he faced a stubbornly uncooperative President, hitherto a cipher. Freed from the baleful presence of Hitler, the Austrian Chancellor tried to finesse the surrender of his country. It was of no avail. The abject Schuschnigg earns little sympathy from the author. His own authoritarian bureaucratic past had come back to haunt and subjugate him.

The power of the Germany Army was unleashed by Hitler to effect the Anschluss. Vuillard’s chapter on how this Blitzkrieg fizzled and stalled, beset by mechanical failure and incompetence is bleakly funny. While this invasion cum annexation was plodding its way to Vienna, and Hitler visiting his birthplace and adolescent haunts, the German Ambassador to the Court of St James was being wined and dined at 10, Downing Street as he prepared to leave to take up his new post as Foreign Minister. Neville Chamberlain presided, Winston Churchill attended, but Ribbentrop dominated the table as he talked and talked. During the course of dinner Chamberlain had received a note telling him of the German army’s movements and advance. Ribbentrop realised this and knew that the Prime Minister would wish to conclude the dinner and attend to the developing crisis. He kept talking and played on British good manners to listen. Eventually he released his hosts, exchanged knowing smiles with his wife: mission accomplished.

Farce and tragedy walk hand in hand through this short, compelling book. One of the threnodies in the book is the author’s bewilderment at how decent, if flawed, individuals (he has little time and only qualified sympathy for the Austrian Chancellor) could not see through these dishonest vulgarians and dangerous psychotics. The dilemma was not new then and persists still. A fallen world and a flawed humanity make the world what it is and politicians as well as the rest of us have to deal with the flotsam and jetsam that the processes of human relations, movements and philosophies produces.

The writing is declamatory and urgent, peppered with lightening-bolts of coruscating scorn and vituperation. It is, I think, an important book and even if there are some minor blemishes of naivety, it ought not to be ignored.

William Davage

 

The Reshaping of Britain

Church and State since the 1960s – A Personal Reflection

Clifford Hill

Wilberforce Publications 2018 £12

ISBN 978 0 9956832 9 7 345pp

 

‘Tell my people I love them’ is an unforgettable prophetic word granted to Clifford Hill in the 1980s when he saw a father, at risk to his own life, rescue his daughter from falling over an Alpine precipice. It provides an analogy for the love of God who allowed his own Child, Jesus, to go beyond the edge into death for our salvation. I’ve used that story many times and value the prophet who received that vision even if like most prophets he is nothing comfortable. In his magnum opus Hill charts the course of the UK over the last 60 years with a note of ‘I told you so’. Not that he sees prophecy as telling the future so much as applying the Bible to current affairs, but you can’t avoid seeing the book as a chronicle of lost opportunities for the UK church, notably by former Archbishops of Canterbury. Himself a congregationalist Hill has worked closely with several of these due to his passion for community-based evangelism picked up initially by Donald Coggan after his Call to the Nation in 1978.

Clifford Hill’s passion for justice and Jesus make a fascinating mix as do his solid academic qualifications in both sociology and theology. His ministry has been in multi-ethnic congregations and he retains oversight of an inner-city church. With Monica his wife he has seen church growth at home and abroad, particularly in China and Indonesia where persecution from Communism and Islam respectively have paradoxically fuelled astonishing tales of revival. In Britain, the enemies to faith are far more subtle. They include unbelief within the church and complacency about searching for and finding what God wants in localities, across denominations and for our nation. What I liked especially about ‘The Reshaping of Britain’ is Hill’s dealing under God with almost every divisive issue from witchcraft, pornography, divorce and Sunday trading to abortion, the National Lottery, Human Fertilisation, Same Sex marriage and Brexit. I found myself agreeing with most of the lines taken mainly because they chimed in with the faith of the church through the ages. That reminded me of the scripture verse which speaks of the church being ‘founded upon the apostles and prophets’ (Ephesians 3:20).

‘Yes – and’ will be a typical response to this provocative book. With Hill, yes, I lament the loss of legal endorsement of traditional Christian morality and I recognise how particular interest groups have worked with secularists to effect this. Yes, Jesus is universal Saviour and as ‘the true light that enlightens everyone’ (John 1:9) his truth is present to a limited extent in some other faiths, so criticism of Donald Coggan’s successors is overstated. Yes, charismatics can be experience oriented, and it remains the case that many churchgoers are in need of waking up to God. Yes ‘drawing together Bible believing Christians in small groups and re-energising their prayer life as they study the word of God together’ is key. The church is a grassroots movement, yes, and it is also an institution founded by Christ with a promise that ‘the gates of Hades will not prevail against it’ (Matthew 16:16). The visible church, not least the majority of Christians who are either Roman Catholic or Orthodox, and who get little mentioned in this book, are beloved of God in their frailty.

In short, yes to prophets and yes to apostles! God has used, does and will always use prophets – in my judgement including Clifford Hill – to speak truth to apostolic power. As he concludes, a new openness to truth in our society presents Christians with timely opportunities to be similarly prophetic in announcing God’s unending and unbreakable love to all whom they know. A witness to the truth which will indeed help reshape our nation for good.

John Twisleton

 

Royal Bones and Holy Books

Eamon Duffy

ISBN 978-0-905195-24-7

CARE 2018, £8, 168pp

 

Exploring English medieval Christianity through a collection of essays and lectures, Eamon Duffy predicates his analysis on the view that ‘Christianity is a material religion’. Reflecting wider historiographical trends in the modern academy, Duffy seeks to illustrate how English Catholicism of the Middle Ages was vibrant and dynamic.

After reading Duffy’s book, however, I was profoundly frustrated at what I considered to be its incoherence and disjointed structure. Whilst recognising the essence of the book to be a collection of disparate essays and lectures, I wished for the introduction and conclusion to draw out some general arguments relating to English medieval Christianity. The four-page introduction and absent conclusion unfortunately did not achieve this.

At times, I was taken aback that as distinguished a historian as Duffy could admit, ‘It is all so elusive’. So often, we seek clarity from reading the culmination of years of research conducted by scholars like Duffy. What is more, in his chapter on the Black Death, Duffy rather frustratingly dwelt on the biology of the disease in excessive detail. I must quote the following in full to illustrate this point: the Black Death, describes Duffy, was ‘a combination of bubonic and pneumonic plague caused by the bacteria Y.pestis or Pasteurella pestis, and spread by the bite of the rat flea, Xenopsylla chepsis. The intestine of fleas infected with bubonic plague fills with congealed blood. The flea becomes voraciously hungry, and so more than usually aggressive. Because of its full gut, it regurgitates infected matter into its victims at every bite, and so the plague spreads.’ Not a chapter to be read before eating that is for sure!

Elsewhere, Duffy returns to familiar themes from his earlier seminal work, The Stripping of the Altars, which contributed greatly to challenging traditional assumptions that late medieval English Roman Catholicism was unpopular and ripe for Protestant reformation. In Royal Books and Holy Bones, Duffy restates his belief that the Reformation was essentially negative, especially that instituted by Edward VI who here, like elsewhere, is the “villain” of the story. Mary I, on the other hand, emerges from Duffy’s work in a supremely positive light.

Throughout the book, Duffy offers some seemingly contradictory thoughts. For instance, at one point he argues the Reformation resulted in ‘whole libraries’ being ‘lost’ with countless books ‘ripped up or burned as the superstitious rags of popery’. Yet, quite literally in the next sentence, Duffy states that fortunately many ‘medieval books endure still in their thousands’. It seems, then, that not all books were regarded by the Reformers as ‘rags of popery’. Indeed, recent work by scholars like Alexandra Walsham has sought to challenge Duffy’s simplistic interpretation of the Reformation as one of total, cataclysmic destruction and instead assert that even Reformed forms of Christianity valued the material.

Fundamentally, I believe Duffy’s work suffers from an inbuilt weakness. The book ranges too widely across time and theme, leaving the reader exasperated at times by the sudden changes in focus between chapters. Statements that admit ‘there is no room here to flesh this argument out in detail’ encapsulate precisely this problem. Rather than addressing themes in the magisterial detail Duffy is perfectly capable of (see his Stripping of the Altars for proof of this), Royal Bones and Holy Books seeks to cover too much ground, ultimately resulting in weaker analysis than the author offers elsewhere.

As a recent graduate of the Oxford History School, I was taught not to give full vent to my own particular ideological and theological convictions in my writing. A degree of objectivity was emphasised, leading to more dispassionate and less partisan analysis. Duffy quite clearly rejects this. In this book, there are clear “heroes” and “villains”. Here, he sometimes even veers into grinding modernist axes, such as what he perceives to be the Roman Catholic Church’s current ‘coyness’ towards what he calls the ‘spiritual potency’ of ‘sanctified matter’. Duffy, then, does not confine himself to interpreting the past but offers the reader some of his personal views concerning present-day areas of contention and debate.

All that being said, a number of individual chapters were genuinely enlightening to read. Duffy’s work on the Crusades (“Holy Terror”) and the cult of the Saints were both enjoyable and thought-provoking. Unfortunately, such isolated chapters of distinction and interest felt detached from the rest of the book, with little in the way of any serious and sustained overriding thesis running through the work. The fact each chapter deals with what any reasonable person would regard as weighty subjects should have meant the structure of Duffy’s book reflected this. Instead, the reader, whilst undoubtedly enjoying individual chapters, reaches the end of the book feeling none the wiser about the metanarratives of English medieval Christianity other than the notion that it was ‘a material religion’. It undeniably was, but most of us probably knew that already.

Thomas Cotterill

 

The Shattering of Loneliness

On Christian Remembrance

Erik Varden (Bloomsbury)

 

Eavesdropping

Learning to pray with those who talked to Jesus

Henry Martin (DLT)

 

Lent books seem to come in two types. There’s the deep-dive read which focuses on a particular theme, idea or writer. Then there is the daily companion type which lashes us to the Lenten calendar and ensures we observe it fully. Fortunately, this year seems to be a bumper crop of new titles to choose from when it comes to Lent reading.

The Abbot of Mount Saint Bernard in Leicestershire, Dom Erik Varden OCSO, has given us one of those profound, spiritual texts which is a wholly rewarding and satisfying piece of work for the penitential season. The Shattering of Loneliness is his deep (but not lengthy) six-chapter meditation on meeting God, almost prayerlike in its ‘our hearts shall not rest until they rest in thee’ conviction. Where ego is present in this book, it’s self-awareness and not pride or vanity.

It’s fitting that he speaks compellingly in an early chapter of the importance of humility, along with the need for it. But not in a didactic way. Movingly, he writes about his own understanding of being humble – ‘Humility is an antidote [to ambition]. It represents a preferential option for keeping one’s feet on the ground’. Speaking throughout in the first-person plural, we, he makes the point, have a collective responsibility to our shared humanity, and we are all creatures of our Creator-God. In this too are we called to ‘ownership’ of our identity, but also our promise and potential. It is a hallmark of his crafted and nuanced prose that there are traces here and there of the self-help-journey style, yet his simplicity and directness counterbalance any risk of a descent into mawkish sentimentality. Instead, there is near-catharsis here; the idea that Varden had to write this book, out of obedience and witness, and could do no other.

Each chapter takes a ‘remember’ commandment as its starting point: dust, a slave in Egypt, the lesson of Lot’s wife, in remembrance of me, and so on. Reflective and informed, Varden shows himself to be grounded in the arts (particularly literature and music) but also Patristics, the Classics, Scripture, languages (with thrilling insights on etymology), the monastic tradition, European culture, liturgy, catechesis, sacramentality, and ordinary lives. The quest for truthfulness and authenticity runs throughout like marbling. ‘Monks and nuns hope, by their lives, by their prayers, to invite fellow seekers to look up, to find their hearts touched by a deep remembrance of God’s original caress. To remember in this way is to awaken to hope. And to find comfort that does not deceive,’ he says at the close of the first chapter.

St Benedict and St Bernard obviously get a look in, but we are also treated to an excursus on Stig Dagerman, then St Mary of Egypt and Father Zossima, likewise Anna Akhmatova, Tolstoy’s Father Sergius, Athanasius, and Andreï Makine. His poignant Afterword introduces Varden’s native Norwegian poet, Olaf Bull. Some of these names will be new to many, and in the gentle, scholarly hands of Varden their lives, gifts, example, perception all bring something new and fresh to the vision of how being alone is absorbed in the divine. There is also something of the European tradition in Varden. It’s reminiscent of a writer like Stefan Zweig who fluently moved between cultures, ideas, places, utterly at home in a shared identity and heritage. Varden’s literary references give us that, along with his rootedness in the Church Catholic, Latin and Orthodox alike. As he observes: ‘For to remain [delivered] in that place of light, I must know I am a guest brought in out of darkness. I must learn to respond to grace with grace, to take nothing for granted, and so be able to receive all as gift.’

This is not a book to gulp down or try ploughing through. Rather, it is for long, slow sips. Just one chapter on its own provides far more depth and texture than we are used to experiencing in so much public theology today. It stands quietly opposed to the tweet-mad, social media-post-obsessed culture of superficiality and momentary engagement. It is one of those books that stays with you, and will surely prove a friend in years to come.

The daily companion type, and absolutely grounded in everyday life, is Henry Martin’s Eavesdropping – Learning to pray from those who talked to Jesus. A priest in the Diocese of Manchester, Martin has worked in Dagenham, Salford, and most recently as lead chaplain at HMP Strangeways. There’s a conversational facility to his approach that will be appreciated by many. In essence, he has tapped into two major concerns at the heart of belief for a great number of people. Namely: how do I square this (whatever is going on) with my faith, and how do I relate it to prayer? ‘Lord, I believe, help my unbelief’ he says is the entry point, for we can all feel confused or inadequate when praying. ‘Someone else said it long before we were born,’ he notes in his introduction, ‘We picked it up, while eavesdropping on a conversation in the Gospels’.

The great strength of this book is that it gently feels its way with the reader through Lent, even beginning on Shrove Tuesday because ‘This book will not help with fasting. It offers no advice on what not to consume…Lent for me is this simple…a season for us to draw closer to God’ – he helpfully sets out his stall. Although the text for that day is John 2.2: they have no more wine! In a way, this establishes the tone for the book, which is often surprising. Sometimes there are exercises (particularly helpful if this is being read as a group) ‘but only where this seemed natural,’ he says. The point is touchingly made on Mothering Sunday in a note that ‘today some just cannot join in’, although a question at the end of Passion Sunday’s section, the following week, is ‘How would our praying be changed, by our coming to God as children calling out to Our Mother?’. This would need both providence and sensitivity for a group discussion, but it is an example of how Martin can challenge and frequently call us away from settled, comfortable viewpoints, to look at things from another perspective.

Authors such as JK Rowling, CS Lewis, and Hardy are brought into dialogue with real lives and issues including how we are with art, politics, social media, LGBTQ+ people, other faiths, those we find difficult. This unstinting honesty and faithful stability in the gospel imperative is one of the most endearing traits of the book. He’s very good on Holy Week, too, when many authors might lose steam. Perhaps, because each entry recasts the theme of the text with the ‘How does this help with prayer?’ question, we have focus along with the space to reflect and grow. Not forced but certainly encouraging. His inclusion of Jesus’ parable of the tax collector in prayer (God, be merciful to me, a sinner!) is illuminating. ‘And because he means it, it is enough,’ he concludes. Amen!

Simon Walsh

2019-04-01T12:12:39+00:00 March 2019 Articles|