Tuesday, 27 October 2009
A while back, I was sent a couple of books to review. I felt a bit guilty, because I was just too busy to read anything at the time, and I was having my little crise de blogging. However, the Forty Hours at Blackfen proved to be a perfect opportunity to get on with some spiritual reading.
The first book I tackled was Go to Joseph by Fr. Richard Gilsdorf. It's a very small book, which, I thought, would make it an excellent one for use in meditation. The back cover has a sort of flap, designed, I think, to serve as a bookmark, but this is something which I find irritating, as the book doesn't then lie flat.
I found the book interesting, in that it considered how St. Joseph must have learned about the Annunciation, and why, despite being described as a "just man," he wouldn't fulfil the requirements of Jewish Law and denounce Mary (according to Mosaic Law, she should have been stoned.) There is also some consideration of the development of devotion to St. Joseph.
I did get a little frustrated, though. Several times, mention was made of stories and details which were "commonly held" due to devotional works and spiritual writings: this book, however, wanted to concentrate more on what was known from Scripture, which was fair enough, but it assumed a knowledge of these extra elements.
For example, there is mention of the story of Joseph's staff flowering, and so he was chosen to be betrothed to Mary; this is cited as the reason why statues of St. Joseph are shown with him carrying a lily-like flower. I had no idea of the story, and, even if it is mythical (as stated in this book), it obviously had a profound influence on common devotion to St. Joseph, if his iconography includes such details.
Another little gripe (for me) is the inclusion of "study questions" at the end of each chapter: they just take up valuable space, as far as I'm concerned, as this isn't a school textbook.
Overall, I found the book interesting, and I did like the prayers to St. Joseph included in an appendix. I think it is a useful prompt for use during a time of meditation.
The second book was, for me, less interesting, falling into the category of self-help books. This is a category which, perhaps because of my Psychology background, irritates me. Let the Oppressed Go Free: Breaking the Bonds of Addiction, by Cardinal Rigali, is the seventh title in the Shepherd's Voice series.
In a question-and-answer format rather like the old Penny Catechism, the book goes through what addiction is, a Christian understanding of addiction, and the importance of the Sacraments and prayer in overcoming addiction, as well as a brief explanation of the "Twelve Steps" approach.
It's a small book (more of a booklet, really) and it is clearly written; however, I found it difficult to know whether the book was being written for people with an addiction, or people whose loved ones have an addiction.
Both books can be ordered from the Catholic Word website.