By Dom PETER DAMIEN
THE FOUR GOSPELS, by Mgr. Lucien Cerfaux, translated by Pa trick Hepburne Scott (Darton, Longman and Todd, 9s. 6d.). THE revival of interest in the scriptures, which we have witnessed in recent years among Catholics, has affected not only priests and scholars. The laity also are being urged with growing insistence to go back to the Bible, especially to the gospels, for the basis of their spiritual lives. Mgr, Cerfaux's book will help us all to do so in an intelligent way.
This writer of so many specialised works shows that he can write for the general public also. He first describes the background of oral tradition against which the first three gospels were composed with some illuminating remarks on the "oral style". He then goes on to examine each of
the four gospels in turn, bringing out their principal characteristics in a masterly way. One feels however, that he could have been more sympathetic towards Mark.
The concluding chapters show how these four gospels gradually took the place of the oral tradition as the basis of Christian belief and practice and were carefully distinguished from the Apocrypha.
Throughout Mgr. Cerfaux is careful to point out the shortcom ings of critics such as Loisy, who deny the divine origin of Christianity. This book can be recommended to all who are anxious to understand and assimilate the gospel message.
BAPTISM AND CONFIRMATION, by Raoul Plus, Si. (Challoner Publications, 8s. 6d.).
FOR years Fr. Plus has been one of the Church's chief providers of spiritual reading. His mission in life has been to digest the works of learned theologians to a form that can be more easily imbibed by ordinary Christians with neither time nor opportunity to study deeply This Challoner book gives a full account of the rites of Baptism and Confirmation with a succinct and lively explanation of the doctrines that underlie them, pleasingly adorned with scraps of humane learning and interesting asides on the human condition.
The book is perhaps a little conservative, however. More might have been made of modern liturgical developments which throw so much new light on the sacraments, and also of developments in theology which have partly encouraged this liturgical development and partly been stimulated by it. Nevertheless, this book is a worthy continuation to a valuable series.
HELLO), by Robert Nash, S. J. (M. H. Gill & Son Ltd., 9s. 6d.).
IN an age of gimmicks the spiritual writer cannot ignore them. We may be inclined to look down on them from a lofty superiority, but, if they can be used to spread the word of God and help souls in distress, why not? Why not thus spoil the Egyptians?
Most of the little articles in this book appeared originally in the Dublin "Evening Express" as imaginary telephone talks by Fr. Nash to good souls who had rung him up for advice on all manner of religious topics.
Although one must confess that they do not look much like telephone talks in print, they are full of wise, kindly, bracing advice on the spiritual life, pithy answers to doctrine problems, or simply encouragement to those in distress. A helpful book for those who have not much time for spiritual reading but do not like to neglect it altogether.
LIFE AFTER DEATH, by Maurice and Louis Becque, C.SS.R. (Bums & Oates, Faith and Fact Books, Bs. 6d.).
IN the film of "Brighton Rock",
one of the gang says to Pinky: "You're a Roman, you know all the answers." In his television interview with Malcolm Muggeridge in August, Bishop Dwyer made haste to correct this popular misapprehension, that every Catholic is a walking encylopedia on all dogmatic and moral questions. If only every one were! Bishop Dwyer surprised Mr. Muggeridge by disclaiming that we know all about the future life, though what we do know is enough for our present purposes.
This book explores what we do know, covering briefly the views of secular literature and philosophy, both ancient and modern, and, more fully, all that can be gleaned from revelation and tradition. It makes fascinating reading, but what is more fascinating is the realisation it brings of how vast is the field of speculation that still remains open to us.
GOD AND THE UNCONSCIOUS, by Victor White, O.P. (Fontana Books, 3s. 6d.).
THIS book, first published in
1952, is already well known as an attempt to remove some of the difficulties which impede understanding between theologian and psychologist. It makes difficult reading for the layman, but it is rewarding and deserves thoughtful and persevering attention.