Fr Paul Clayton-Lea
LEARNING TO LOVE Journeys Through Life with the Rosary Nigel Woollen Veritas Publications, 2018 ISBN 9781847308368 pp. 64 • €9.99/stg£9.20
In a recent survey, the Hail Mary was selected by most Irish people who were polled, as their favourite prayer. Even those who now rarely attend religious services seem able to recall and recite the familiar words when the occasion demands it – at a wake or other gathering. The traditional mysteries of the Rosary, with their focus on sorrow, joy and wonder (and, thanks to St Pope John Paul II, the more recent addition of the Mysteries of Light, centred on Christ’s ministry), all continue to give expression to, and offer inspiration for, the journey through life’s vale of tears.
Countless guides and commentaries have been launched by saints and scholars across the centuries, to accompany this ancient, prayerful devotion. Nigel Woolen’s recent publication, Learning to Love: Journeys Through Life with the Rosary, provides an illuminating and accessible contemporary resource to add to that treasury. His earlier acclaimed book of reflections on the Knock apparition, The Lamb Will Conquer (2017), gave an indication of the profound spirituality and biblical expertise which he brings to bear upon his writings, as well as his ministry in retreat centres such as Knock and other European venues. His gift for translating profound thoughts into plain language is evident in this slim volume. Four chapters, each dedicated to one of the sets of mysteries, illustrate in a reader-friendly way what the author describes as the ‘Road Map’ Rosary which, if followed, will lead us on our life-long journey of learning to love. Fr Woolen’s stated intention in writing this book was to help foster meditation for those who already recite the Rosary, and also to reach out to those who are less familiar with its power, yet want to learn to love. Our failure to know how to love is remedied, he asserts, by the growth in practice and understanding of this extraordinary prayer, with the companionship and encouragement of Mary.
For the author, the strength and beauty of the Rosary is reflected in its points of prayer and its four-fold correspondence with life’s journey, which begins through an encounter with the Lord, moves through the trials and obstacles of life, and finally points us in hope towards our destiny of new life with God – all of which is shared through our mission of being God’s apostles of mercy to the world.
As we move through the four chapters, we find ourselves invited to enter imaginatively into the various scenes of encounter, drama and wonder depicted in the mysteries of the Rosary. We picture ourselves in Mary’s home in Nazareth, pondering the nature of her angelic encounter, and encouraged to say ‘yes,’ as she did, to the invitation to love, and by doing so, to make all things possible. With the aid of saints and scholars, and with vivid, often humourous and sometimes touching illustrations from his personal experience, the author succeeds in bringing fresh colour and relevance to each mystery. He establishes a strong rhythm of story, meditation and personal challenge with each chapter; a rhythm that allows the reader to experience something of the great spiritual energy which has enabled the Rosary to survive and flourish across many cultures and generations, as a powerhouse of prayer. Above all, perhaps, he prepares an environment conducive to entering into this prayer which teaches us how to love.
A REFLECTION OF MINDFULNESS Rediscovering the Christian Tradition of Meditation and Contemplation Council for Catechetics of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference Veritas Publications, 2018 ISBN 9781847308733 pp. 24 • €1.20/stg£1.10
The Church has sometimes been accused of arriving ‘a little breathless and a little late,’ to some important developments. This little booklet helps to remind us that the current fad for techniques of ‘mindfulness’ have their roots in a religious framework, and are more likely to bear fruit within such a structure. The booklet is somewhat critical of the modern trend which proposes ‘mindfulness’ as a secular alternative to prayer, meditation and contemplation. This helpful guide for schools and others draws a necessary distinction, and highlights the richness of the religious tradition and practice
GUIDELINES FOR PARISH-BASED RELIGIOUS EDUCATION OF CHILDREN Council for Catechetics of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference Veritas Publications, 2018 ISBN 9781847308726 pp. 16 • €1.20/stg£1.10
As the traditional ‘tripod’ model of catechesis involving home, school and parish comes under increasing strain from political and ideological sources, this short booklet offers guidelines, principles and best practice for the future.
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