Peace on Earth: The Renaissance of Christian Humanism by Edwin Jones (Resource Publications, £18). This enthusiastic book whistles a familiar tune. If we want decent, value-driven societies then religion is a useful lodestone. Neither individual consciences nor the ethical choices of idiosyncratic cultures can, so the theory goes, overcome the grubbier side of human nature. God is a much better bet and Christian humanism – understood here as a commitment to loving the Creator and loving your neighbour – provides a guide through the thicket. Jones looks at various figures (including Robert Schuman, Pope John XXIII and Pope Francis) to hammer home his point.
The Heart of Holiness by Fr Gary Lauenstein CSsR (Gracewing / Ignatius, £7). Drawing on Scripture, the writings of saints and his own life, the Redemptorist Fr Lauenstein shows that friendship with God is at the heart of holiness, as it leads to friendship with others and with ourselves. Written simply and persuasively, this slim book includes many anecdotes from saints such as Bernard of Clairvaux and Alphonsus Liguori to illustrate the author’s theme. St Aelred is particularly quoted: “In friendship are joined honour and charm, truth and joy, sweetness and goodwill, affection and action. And all these take their beginning from Christ.”
The 100-Year Life by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott (Bloomsbury, £18.99). The authors, both professors at the London Business School, explore the growing reality that many in our children’s generation and those succeeding them will live to 100 and beyond. Their book contains much sensible advice for fortunate people: those who have good health, education and a network of support. For those who don’t have these things, longevity looks much bleaker. One large lacuna in this book is any mention of religious faith – the linchpin of the good life, as it provides meaning and purpose whatever our lifespan may be.
St Ernan’s Blues by Paul Charles (Dufour, £18.99). On a small island off the Donegal coast, a single building holds St Ernan’s. It is known as a retirement home for priests who may have criticised the Church, embezzled funds or become too friendly with their parishioners. But when Fr McKaye is found dead, Inspector Starrett is sent to the island to investigate. The claustrophobic setting of the island community is superb, the depiction of life inside its walls grim and fascinating, and while Charles does stray into well-trodden territory, he does it without rancour or bitterness.
How to Pray the Secret Rosary by Frank Rega OFS (frankrega.com, £10). This book is designed not for those who don’t pray the rosary, but for those who already pray it and would like to pray it better. Rega includes reflections on the Fatima apparitions and also the sayings of Padre Pio, a great devotee of this form of prayer. He helpfully explains the intentions associated with each Mystery and how they can enhance our prayer and combat monotony and distractions. A worthwhile book to give to Catholic friends.
How to continue reading…
This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week
The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection