Books

Spiritual books round-up

Mother Angelica

Praying with Mother Angelica
EWTN, £10.25

These meditations on the rosary, the Way of the Cross and other prayers were originally published in three mini-books in the 1970s. Now the Luminous Mysteries of the rosary have been added, using Mother Angelica’s own broadcasts about them on EWTN. It is a small, beautifully bound and illustrated volume, suitable as a gift for those who have grown to know and love her broadcasts.

The meditations are clear and straightforward, reflecting a deep, uncomplicated faith. For the Baptism of Our Lord, the commentary includes the heartfelt words: “Only Jesus is Saviour. Only Jesus is the Messiah. Only Jesus is Lord. Only Jesus prepares a place for us in eternity.”

For the Agony in the Garden, Mother Angelica writes: “Your example of resignation, acceptance and love makes me realise that the Father has my life in His hands, and nothing happens to me that is not for my good.”

Practising Your Faith
by Fr Lewis Berry
CTS, £1.95

The Oratorian Fr Berry provides a lucid summary of the five precepts of the Church: attending Mass on Sundays and holy days and refraining from “servile work”; confessing once a year; receiving Communion at least during the Easter season; observing the days of fasting and abstinence; and helping to provide for the needs of the Church.

As he observes, such precepts are the bare minimum of religious practice, suggesting an ultimate standard below which we cannot fall without seriously neglecting our Faith.

It is good to be reminded of the precepts, yet to recognise that they are merely the beginning of the truly Christian life. As Berry points out, “You would be hard pushed to find a saint – or a priest” who would recommend Confession only once a year – indeed, many saints endorse weekly Confession. He thinks going monthly is a good and realistic habit.

Fr Berry also makes the point that we are encouraged, but not obliged, to receive Communion at every Mass, “and in fact sometimes we shouldn’t do so”. He also asks the pertinent question: “If we are receiving Communion every week or every day, how often are we going to Confession?” As he comments, “if we go to Confession more often we will appreciate more deeply the Sacrament of the Eucharist.” Otherwise there is a danger that our Communions will become routine.

A Year with Pope Francis on the Family

Edited by Alberto Rossi
Paulist Press/Alban Books, £3.99

These reflections for each day of the year reveal the Holy Father at his most pastoral. They are taken from his writings and talks, condensed into his characteristic vivid and pithy language. Pocket-sized and thus convenient to carry around, the book challenges other volumes made in the same mode, with its distillation of Christian faith and the way it transforms us.

It can be read as a daily devotional habit or opened at random for the solace of its message: that we are lovable to God. Pope Francis is aware that human families are often fragile, contending with many problems. That is why he is keen to emphasise that “God surprises us. It is precisely in poverty, in weakness and in humility that he reveals himself and grants us his love, which saves us, heals us and gives us strength. He asks us only to obey his Word and to trust in him.”

What the Pope has written at length in Amoris Laetitia, his exhortation on the family, can be grasped in a different form through these wise and loving extracts, such as “When the Spirit causes us to be born to new life, he makes us gentle and kind, not judgmental … If I have something to say, let me say it to the individual, not to the entire neighbourhood; only to the one who can remedy the situation.”

Gender Plus: Christ Centred Sexuality
by Ennrich Kritzinger
MD Publishing, £8.99

The author shares here the story of his conversion. What makes it unusual is that for many years Kritzinger lived an active homosexual lifestyle with several partners.

After his conversion and with the help of much prayer, trust and support from the Christian community, as well as the encouragement and friendship of Christian men, he slowly began to emerge from his previous way of life and finally married a fellow Christian. Today he runs Gender Plus, an organisation to help those similarly conflicted in their sexual orientation.

His father left the family when Kritzinger was very young. This trauma, as well as a distant, strict stepfather and abuse by older boys, left him vulnerable and confused about his sexual identity. Finally he asked in desperation, “Jesus, are you real?” and immediately experienced a peace “like I had never felt it before.” Kritzinger adds: “I felt complete and accompanied for the first time in my life … I somehow knew I was being saved, saved from myself and everything that had haunted me.”

All Christians, Catholic as well as Evangelical, will be inspired by this story.