Brian Brindley reviews books for Lent IT HAS BECOME quite common for pressure groups and charitable organisations to publish their own Lent books. A New Earth (Cafod/DLT £4.95) is the Cafod Lent book for 1999. The contributors are Margaret Atkins, a theology lecturer who writes for the Independent, Sheila Cassidy, the brave doctor who was cruelly tortured in Chile in 1975, Joseph Donders, who teaches mission and cross-cultural studies in Washington, Kathy Galloway, a minister of the Church of Scotland and a member of the Iona community, Sara Maitland, the feralfist writer, and Brendan Walsh, head of communications at Cafod. If you would find yourself at ease in such company, you will enjoy the book; otherwise, you may find the way in which the readings are made use of in the interests of Cafod rather irritating. In other words, it is a book to confirm the faithful rather than to convert the sceptic. Vatican II reiterated the old teaching that works of charity and almsgiving are among the ways of observing Lent; a straightforward meditation for every day subserves I can hardly imagine a more off-putting title for a Lent book (or for any book, if it comes to that) than Women on the Way (Triangle, £5.99). It sounds like a feminist polemic of the worst kind. Wrong: "the Way" is the Way of the Cross, and the women include Our Lady, St Veronica and the women of Jerusalem. The author, Kevin Scully, is an Anglican priest, Director of Ordinands to the Bishop of Stepney, and obviously someone of Catholic sympathies. But it is not a book, I think, that (Roman) Catholics will enjoy. The author spends a lot of his time in attempting to justify to a protestant or unbelieving readership that kind of thing that we take for granted. We do not need to be argued into conceding that our Lady has a special part to play in the Redemption; we know it already. (His treatment of St Mary Magdalene, by the way, is exemplary.) At one point he sneers at the True Cross, repeating in a new form Erasmus's famous jibe; he is too simple-minded or too stubborn to see that the fact that some relics are s tuious does not mean t at a relics are spurious. A nice try, but not quite our kind of thing.
Promptings from Paradise (Triangle, £3.99) is the work of a Church of Scotland minister, born in Canada, now working in the C of E diocese of Portsmouth, who has made a study of genuine Celtic spirituality — as distinct from the bogus "Celtic spirituality" about which we hear so much nowadays. Dr Philip Newell has also made himself master of the Ignatian method of meditation. I am not sure that this kind of meditation ought to be attempted by the beginner alone, and without direction; he provides some suggestions for use in a Group, but of course he cannot provide a group leader. There are six gospel passages, each provided with six Contemplations. These could be stretched to cover the weekdays of Lent, but seem to be arranged with a long weekly session in mind. There is nothing here to offend the Catholic reader, and Dr Newell is to be congratulated on an imaginative work.
Journey to the Center (Crossroad, £9.99) is a more ambitious book than any of the others. As the spelling of the title indicates, it is an American book, and spelling and usage are American throughout. It is handsomely printed in a typeface by Eric Gill, enclosed in a hard cloth cover, with an eye catching dust-jacket. (Should you have difficulty in finding it, it is importe • .y son oo Services, Abingdon OX14 4YN). Abbot Thomas Keating is a Trappist monk well known in America and living in Colorado. He provides us with something for every day of Lent: a scripture passage, a traditional meditation, and prayer. I can recommend this book without reservation.