Nazareth Family Spirituality by Catherine Doherty (Madonna House Publications, £8.60). Written by the founder of the Madonna House Apostolate and edited by Fr Blair Bernard, this book is subtitled “Celebrating your Faith at Home”. Chapters include wise advice on how to create a peaceful and prayerful atmosphere at home, how to restore one’s family to Christ and how to celebrate the great feasts of the Church with homely, traditional customs and practices. An excellent book, both for reference and reading aloud, it is particularly useful for mothers who want to encourage their children’s faith and who need help to refocus home life.

The Hungry Grass by Richard Power (Apollo, £9.99). This is a welcome new edition of the late Richard Power’s 1969 novel, a study of the final weeks of the life of a parish priest in rural Ireland during the 1960s. Fr Tom Conroy is physically, mentally and spiritually wrestling with feelings of resentment and futility, harried by memories, doubt and regret. His bitterness and intelligence set him apart from his better adjusted peers, and fraught relations with his family offer no consolation. A powerful, moving, unsettling work which comes with a fine introduction by the scholar Declan Kiberd.

Gospel Reflections for Sunday of Year A: Matthew by Donald Neary SJ (Messenger Publications, £8.50). Fr Neary, editor of The Sacred Heart Messenger, has drawn on long pastoral experience in this series of reflections. Explaining that he has “tried to find a connecting thread between the Gospel story, faith and ordinary life”, the author has deliberately kept his passages short and his prose direct, aiming at ordinary people in the pew who are looking for signposts to guide them and deepen their faith. Each passage concludes with a brief italicised suggestion for how to put the day’s Gospel into practice.

The Cosmic Common Good by Daniel Scheid (Oxford University Press, £20). In this exercise in what academics call ecological ethics, Scheid positions “a world-view that experiences the non-human or more than human world as the fullest setting for human life”. Such big-picture thinking is, according to Scheid, one of the hallmarks of Christian theologising. But he sees analogues and points of fruitful encounter across a host of religious traditions. Terms are not always clearly defined, and the intrusion of the word “cosmic” is perhaps distracting; but the book opens up interesting avenues on inter-religious dialogue.

Why on Earth did Anyone Become a Christian in the First Three Centuries? by Larry Hurtado (Marquette, £12). We are familiar with the master narrative of Christianity’s rise, but the secret of the new faith’s success is a perennial source of fascination. Hurtado moves beyond essentialist sociological analysis and points to fundamental sources of appeal that convinced so many people to risk life and limb in their quest for religious authenticity. A concept of a God who was both the source and a worthy object of love, and a fulfilling vision of the afterlife head Hurtado’s list.

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