Dr Ruth Forrest
Craan, Gorey, Co Wexford
THE HOLY HOUR Twelve Complete Services Redemptorist Publications, 2018
MYSTICS The Beauty of Prayer Craig Larkin SM Columba Press: Dublin, 2018
These two books are a terrific assistance for anyone seeking to enhance their prayer life. The Holy Hour offers a series of holy hour services. Of the twelve, three can be led by lay people and there is one for children, which is appropriately shortened to a half hour. In the preface, Fr McBride offers a beautiful and deeply spiritual understanding of entering into the presence of Jesus and the importance of seeing our prayer life and time before the Blessed Sacrament as relationship, which is the dynamism at the heart of the Christian life: ‘When we come into the presence of Jesus, we come face to face with our redeemer who looks on us with love.’ The services will prove to be a valuable resource for parishes (a hardbacked altar edition is available). Also, many of the prayers, psalms and readings would be a great resource for individuals who might visit the church as part of an Adoration group, or simply to spend some time with the Lord.
Mystics is a posthumously-published book by the late Craig Larkin, a Marist. It consists of an introduction to twenty mystics or people of prayer. There is an introduction, a short piece from the writing of each mystic, and then a reflection/meditation. The well-known ones are there: Julian of Norwich, Hildegaard of Bingen, Augustine of Hippo and John of the Cross. There are also lesser-known writers like John Tauler, Hesychius of Sinai and Caryll Houselander. Each introduction gives a good summary of each mystic. For the novice spiritual reader, the texts from the mystics give a broad sense of the Christian tradition of prayer. For the more experienced, there is plenty of material and new authors to explore. One or to of the authors had me look into more of their writing, which for the most part is not easily obtained. As with the previous book, it will serve as a great resource for prayer. Each of the authors pieces are ideally sized for quiet meditation and the longer reflections offer useful insights. The forward states that ‘the author’s intention is to offer something to all of us to discover a new and deeper freedom in our lives in God – a sustained invitation to live joyfully with the God who loves us. This is evident throughout the book and particularly in the profound personal reflection on the deceased author by Sophie Janssens, who states: ‘Craig loved to pray. He loved prayer in its mysterious beauty.’ This book is a loving and lasting legacy, which will lead others to prayer and to the great voices of prayer in the Christian tradition.
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DEFENDING HOPE Edited by Eoin Murray and James Mehigan Veritas Publications: Dublin, 2018
In her forward to this book, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Mairead Maguire, writes: these essays are voices of conscience which remind us that, in spite of so much suffering, the darkness is often pierced by the light of courageous Palestinian and Israeli human rights defenders. We take hope when we hear the voices of these extraordinary people.’
The book seeks ‘to refocus attention on the lives and remarkable work of fourteen Palestinian and Israeli human rights defenders.’ All have a first-hand experience of what life is like in the occupied territories.
What is the aim of this book? It is to simply state that despite the inexorable chaos and violence, regardless of the incessant injustice and daily indignity, and in the face of challenges and insurmountable odds, some people have not given up hope. ‘Both Palestinian and Israeli human rights defenders walk a thin line between hope and despair.’
The book contains a valuable timeline, from the 1917 Balfour Declaration to the establishing of the American Embassy in Jerusalem in 2017, and there is a bibliography at the end for further reading. As well as the contributions, there are two sets of photos and some maps. Many of the photos are heart-breaking, as are the contributions. For me, the profoundest and most moving photo was the last one. A Palestinian woman clings to her olive tree after it had been destroyed by settlers. This acts as a metaphor for all those who cling to hope, and who, despite the unrelenting struggle for peace, are not daunted and cling to even the damaged and scarred remnants of hope.
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