Conversations with God

Written by Francis-Ferdinand (Carvajal)

(Sceptre Publications, 1993)

Reviewed by Colin Kerr

conversations

In my opinion, one of the best ‘daily reading’ series there is! The author is a priest with Opus Dei. Although I would not actually say that this spiritual movement speaks to me with special force, this is an outstanding work nevertheless. It comes in a set of seven, with reflections on the readings for the whole liturgical cycle – three readings for each day, in other words. Although the series altogether is pricey – about $100, the fact is, it is a durable, lovely set, and it is 3703 pages long. That is about the best price you will ever find per page!

This time of year you cannot beat the meditations for Advent and Christmas. I would generally describe the Opus Dei spirituality as a ‘doer’ spirituality, but I do not find Conversations with God as much this way as the writings of Saint Josemaría Escrivá himself are. So if you find The Furrow or The Forge a little difficult for this reason, I think you may still like Conversations. The reflections are very practical and accessible. The author focuses on the virtues associated with the Gospel readings, and offers little by way of scholarly commentary to distract. I guarantee, even if you do not read from it every day for a year, or for three years, it is something you will keep coming back to again and again. Perfect for a Holy Hour, but bring your Bible with you because it doesn’t include the readings themselves.

But most of all, be careful when you order it – there are lots of books that go by this name: definitely not of this series’ calibre! Nor do what comes so easily, fall into the trap of alliteration: its title is Conversations with God not with Christ. I find most Catholic bookstore carry this series.

Cyprian of Carthage and the Unity of the Christian Church

Written by Peter Hinchliffe

(Geoffrey Chapman Publishers, 1974)

Reviewed by Colin Kerr 

Historians and theologians tend to be interested in St. Cyprian for different reasons. I think in this case the historians have it. Theologians are too narrowly focused on the issue of ecclesiology (doctrine of the church) in his thought. Historians have taken a more comprehensive approach, and have written a lot of interesting stuff on his ascetical doctrine, his moral teaching, the context of his life and times. Theologians have narrowed in on this one aspect of Cyprian’s life and thought because it had immediate and far-reaching consequences. Like other figures of the time – Novatian and Hippolytus in Rome, and Tertullian, a Carthaginian of a previous generation – the issue of what to do with the baptized who committed serious sin preoccupied Cyprian. Remember, this was the time of the persecutions, and not everyone acted as heroically as the great martyrs whom the Church celebrates. Cyprian was himself one of these great martyrs, and after his death in 258, his image came to dominate Christian politics in North Africa for the next century-and-a-half. There was no figure who caused Augustine more ‘problems’ in his ministry. Continue reading

In Search of Christmas

Written by Various Authors

(Ideals Publications, 2001)

Reviewed by Colin Kerr

in search of christmas

There are so many books marketed for Christmas. They range from the sacred to the profane, from cheap, bulk-printing to the far more elaborate. In Search of Christmas sits on the better side of both of these categories, and yet it is not expensive. And, it is durable: in the hands of my family it has so far lasted a few Christmases.

What is it? It is a collection of poems, brief stories, and select quotes of Scripture, arranged with a number of strikingly beautiful Christmas artworks. I like it because of the poems. I like books that arrange poems by subject matter. These do the hard-lifting for the non-expert. There are poems by Chesterton, Longfellow, Coleridge, Milton, as well as a number I have never heard of, but with whom I am glad to become acquainted.

Amidst a season saturated with much ado about some pretty trifling things, this book offers an opportunity to expand one’s thinking upon the Christmas mystery, supplementing the rare piece of decent literature, like Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Read these poems and brief pieces with your children.