Review: All the Beautiful Things: Finding Truth, Beauty and Goodness in a Fractured Church

All the Beautiful Things: Finding Truth, Beauty and Goodness in a Fractured ChurchAll the Beautiful Things: Finding Truth, Beauty and Goodness in a Fractured Church by Beth Doherty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an intensely personal reflection on the nature of the Catholic Church in Australia as experienced by the author. Given all of her particular experiences and the results of a survey of family and friends, Beth Doherty writes passionately about a Church that she continues to love even as it occasionally causes her frustration and anger.

Much of what Doherty writes I can easily identify with. However, there are some parts that I cannot if only because my experiences of Church, my understanding of the way things are, are different to hers. Such should be no surprise given the very nature of the Church, an age difference, and the reality that I have been in a different role and place within the Church for the last fifteen years of my life. However, none of those differences diminishes the power of Doherty’s own experiences and how they are expressed in this book.

My only ‘criticism’ – and it has more to do with me than anything else, I suspect – is that I found some parts of the book difficult to grasp from the perspective of style and flow. These passages took me a little longer to grasp and comprehend than other parts, though they ultimately did not distract from the power of what was written.

Anyone who has even the slightest amount of care and concern for the Australian Church in the wake of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse would do well to read this book.

View all my reviews

Review: Aidan of Lindisfarne: Irish Flame Warms a New World

Aidan of Lindisfarne: Irish Flame Warms a New WorldAidan of Lindisfarne: Irish Flame Warms a New World by Ray Simpson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The story of St Aidan of Lindisfarne has always been of particular significance to me. It perhaps explains why I took ‘Aidan’ as my name when I became a Benedictine Oblate many years ago.

This book by Ray Simpson, someone who has ‘lived with’ Aidan on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, tells Aidan’s story in a fictionalised many, by which I mean as a story, not as a history. In that sense, this tome is entirely in keeping with Aidan’s Irish heritage, coming as he did from that country with many a great storyteller as a faithful daughter or son. In telling the tale of Aidan, Simpson manages to inspire the reader – or this reader at least – to take up Aidan’s mantle as one called to preach the Gospel in his time and place in ways that are responsive to the needs of the world then and there.

Reading this particular book and tale during my sabbatical leave has invigorated a desire to do as Aidan did wherever I end up when my leave concludes. Like Aidan when he started his journey from Ireland, I am not sure where that will be. However, the Good Lord will reveal that to me in God’s good time. My challenge, like Aidan, is to respond with an open and generous heart to God’s call.

View all my reviews

Review: Reformed Sacramentality

Reformed SacramentalityReformed Sacramentality by Graham R. Hughes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book has sadly been sitting on my ‘to read’ list for close to 5 years. I always knew that I would get around to reading it ‘one day’, but there was always something more pressing, more necessary, that usurped this tome’s place in the reading order. It has taken the rare opportunity of sabbatical leave for it finally to get to a place where it was ‘in order’ to read this fine contribution from the late Graham Hughes.

Although written from a different denominational tradition than my own, the scholarship of Hughes contained in this book has provided an impetus to give some time and thought to the nature of sacramentality from my own tradition. It may surprise some to know that there are many similarities between the two traditions of author and reader, as well as more than a few differences. And the interplay between traditions, between author and reader, is one of the many fruits of (finally) reading this text that directly examines the approach to sacramentality found in the Reformed Christian tradition.

Hughes’ scholarship is superb, and his ability to hold many different facets of his presentation together in a manner that is accessible makes this book one that anyone interested in sacramentality (and I think Hughes would argue that should be any and all Christians) should read at some point in their struggle to grapple with the challenge of sacramentality in their own tradition.

Highly recommended.

View all my reviews

Review: Empire of Democracy: The Remaking of the West since the Cold War, 1971-2017

Empire of Democracy: The Remaking of the West since the Cold War, 1971-2017Empire of Democracy: The Remaking of the West since the Cold War, 1971-2017 by Simon Reid-Henry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a BIG book, running to just short of 900 pages. It was the kind of book that I would never have the chance to read if I were not on sabbatical leave and have all the time in the world to read these kinds of books.

The author goes to great lengths to support his thesis in the pages of this tome, and I am glad that I am reading it in 2022 on the cusp of a federal election. In doing so, I have been both entertained and enlightened about the root causes of what I see as problematic in civil society here in Australia (and, I am guessing, around the world). There is much in Reid-Henry’s thesis that explains the way things are in the world at the moment.

This book is not an easy read, both because of its length and the subject matter being address, but it is a book worth persevering with.

View all my reviews

Review: Saints, Sacrilege and Sedition: Religion and Conflict in the Tudor Reformation

Saints, Sacrilege and Sedition: Religion and Conflict in the Tudor ReformationsSaints, Sacrilege and Sedition: Religion and Conflict in the Tudor Reformations by Eamon Duffy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this contribution from Eamon Duffy, well known for both his mastery of his topic and his clear and accessible writing style.

This book was originally recommended to me by my own late bishop, Bishop Bill Wright, in the context of one of many conversations about English Church history. My only regret is that I didn’t get around to reading it before his death, as the conversation that would have been had would have further brought the text to life.

Needless to say, the English Reformation is one of those periods of church history that have always appealed to me, and dipping my toes back into the torrent if themes and sub-themes was a distinctly pleasurable contribution to my sabbatical experience.

View all my reviews

Review: The Orthodox Way

The Orthodox WayThe Orthodox Way by Kallistos Ware
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve been waiting to read this book for some time, largely because I wanted to explore the spiritual life of the Orthodox world. There is something distinctly compelling about the Eastern approach to the Christian life, and the Christian life is significantly expanded when it is possible to breathe with both lungs (as Popes have said many times since the Second Vatican Council).

The writer of this time is perfectly positioned to help draw the Western reader into an exploration of ‘the other side’s, being both Orthodox and English in addition to being both erudite and an excellent communicator. The bishop’s command of language and subject matter serves the reader well.

There is much to reflect upon in this volume, and I suspect that the contribution to my current sabbatical experience will unfold in God’s own time.

View all my reviews

Review: Ars Celebrandi: Celebrating and Concelebrating Mass

Ars Celebrandi: Celebrating and Concelebrating MassArs Celebrandi: Celebrating and Concelebrating Mass by Paul Turner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book that every Catholic priest should read, and read often!

Drawing on his extensive knowledge and experience in the preparation of liturgical texts, Fr Paul Turner guides the reader through what the rubrical requirements of the Mass currently are. This is not done in order to ‘catch people out’, but rather to ensure that priests are aware of what they are doing when they preside or concelebrate the Mass. It is, as the title suggests, about developing the ars celebrandi that presiders are called to acquire and nourish throughout their ministerial lives.

Ars celebrandi is not simply knowledge, however, but an art form, something that comes not simply from a knowledge of the contents of the liturgical books but also comes from reflecting on the practice of presiding. It is a neverending process so that the enactment of liturgy becomes what the Church believes it to be, the source and summit of the Christian life.

Personally, my first read of this text has highlighted things that I had overlooked, forgotten, or misapplied. I am already attempting to adjust my presiding so that I more closely align my practice with that which is expected – and more importantly, I am attempting to do it all more intentionally so that my presiding doesn’t become simply a rote repetition but a deliberate act each and every time I approach that awesome responsibility.

This is a book I will read again and again and again…simply because that is why it was written, and I will never stop developing my ars celebrandi

View all my reviews