THE LENTEN JOURNEY TO EASTER: Readings and Reflections for the Weekdays of Lent, by Nicholas King SJ. CB Publications, Cape Town. 2004. 87pp.
LENTEN PRAYERS FOR BUSY PEOPLE: A Forty-Day Retreat Wherever You Happen To Be, by William J O’Malley SJ. Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY. 2004. 288pp.
Reviewed by Michael Shackleton
Two Jesuits have given us two outstanding volumes of meditations on the meaning of each day of Lent. Both are excellent and both seem to have penetrated that “same-old-story” approach to the importance of Lent.
Nicholas King, that reliable weekly columnist of this newspaper, has followed his preferred pattern of giving us deep thoughts in respect of the readings at Mass.
But here he goes one further. Using his own refreshingly original translations of the liturgical readings in question, he applies each to the individual reader as if the writer was aiming the message to him or her alone. This is an arresting way of getting us to realise how important Lent is for our personal spiritual life, and Fr King excels at it.
Apart from demonstrating the author’s thorough knowledge of the languages and nuances of Scripture, this book again shows that he, like the author of the book reviewed below, is also a true disciple of St Ignatius whose Spiritual Exercises have influenced so many on the path to God.
William J O’Malley’s approach is less scriptural than Fr King’s and more along the lines of spiritual readings during the penitential season and its build-up to the climax of Easter.
He considers each day of Lent and provides us with prayers, songs, poetic verses, psalms and expertly selected extracts from the Scriptures and other sources, such as CS Lewis, Bob Dylan, Thomas Merton and GK Chesterton.
For example, I like this from George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman: “I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”
This scheme is very much like the Daily Office, and is certainly an established way of prayerful discipline.
The Jesuits have scored high marks in these two publications.
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