Praying with the Gospels is a series of four books edited by Fr Peter John Cameron OP for Magnificat Publications. They offer daily reflections on Matthew, Mark, Luke and John from religious writers both clerical and lay.
The books (£9.50 each) include names such as Fr Romanus Cessario OP, the senior editor at Magnificat; Professor Anthony Esolen; Fr George William Rutler, a parish priest in Manhattan; and Michele Schumacher, a mother and teacher of Christian anthropology at the University of Fribourg. The editor suggests that the books can be used for private reading, for matching the corresponding readings in the Lectionary or even in a study group with friends.
The whole point of these attractively produced, easily handled books – indeed, the whole apostolate behind Magnificat Publications – is to bring the reader into closer communion with Christ through reading the Gospels. Whatever one’s literary leanings and preferences, Booker Prize novels or not, they are the most important books you could ever read.
It is a shame that so many Catholics limit themselves to hearing only excerpts from these sublime books in the readings on Sundays. Too many people assume that “spiritual reading” is above their pay grade. We are constantly admonished by health gurus to eat healthily, to have our five portions of fruit and vegetables daily and so on, with never a word about the health of our souls – which will surely wither without regular, attentive spiritual reading.
Reading random passages in these books, I am struck by the quality of the writing – the familiarity with and love of the authors for the texts they write about; the informality and accessibility of their style; the ease with which they are able to relate certain Gospel passages to experiences in their own lives. They are not writing theology for an academic readership, but ordinary reflections with clarity and zeal to communicate that which can be understood by everyman (or woman). I particularly like the way the reflections are a page at a time – as much as anyone will want to read and assimilate for themselves at one session.
Each reflection begins with a short Gospel passage and is concluded by a short prayer relating to it. For example, following a reflection on the blind man in St Mark’s Gospel who kept calling out to Jesus importunately, despite being rebuked by other spectators, Jack Sacco offers this prayer: “Eternal Father, please give us the grace of persistence, so that we may repeatedly ask for your mercy, even when we feel that we are not worthy.”
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