views, reviews and previews

 

MURILLO AND JUSTIN DE NEVE

The Art of Friendship

Dulwich Picture Gallery

Until 19 May

Admission £10, concessions available

 

THE BRIDE AND THE BACHELORS

Duchamp with Cage, Cunningham, Rauschenberg and Johns

Barbican Centre

Until 9 June

Admission £12, concessions available

IF LIKE Charles Ryder and Cordelia Flyte you think Modern Art is the most tremendous bosh you will probably enjoy the Murillos in Dulwich. It is a small show which centres on works owned or commissioned by Justin de Neve, a wealthy cleric and friend of the artist.

The heart of the show is three lunettes and one large canvas which were painted for Santa María La Blanca (Our Lady of the Snows) in Madrid. The large canvas is one of twenty Immaculate Conceptions painted by Murillo. The lunettes develop the Marian theme with scenes from the story of the founding of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. They have Murillo’s typical sweetness and gentle tones. They also show how his technical facility sometimes lets him down. Murillo painted without much in the way of preparatory sketches and this shows in the most interesting of these pictures – a female saint holding up a chalice and Host along with a Bible and the keys of St Peter. A number of pious and hunky onlookers fall back in the approved style. But the illusion is let down by the arm of the saint which shows an elbow and then bends in an anatomy-defying curve. It is irritatingly slapdash.

The large canvas is known as the Escorial or Soult Immaculate Conception – the Marshal stole it before his defeat by Wellington. This dominates the show. The expression on Our Lady’s face is among the most saccharine Murillo painted, and yet the painting works. Our Lady is driven upwards by clouds and cherubs. There is delicacy and wit and variety. The white of Mary’s dress shines against a lovely mid-blue scapular while the picture vibrates with warm shades and tones. Yet, for all that, the subject matter is pared down and many of the usual symbols of the Immaculate Conception are not in the painting but placed on the original gilded frame. Here the ornately carved wood, the dark of the shadows and the play of light on the gold, all combine to set off the painting and overwhelm the critical eye.

The critical eye gets its own back elsewhere. Some of the pictures are dull. There is a portrait of de Neve from the National Gallery which is stiff. Also from the National is a self-portrait with the artist’s hand resting outside the inner frame – Hogarth did this much better. There is also a Gainsborough child from Dublin set off against Murillo’s famous urchins which were so despised by the local critic John Ruskin. They do not look as dubious as some of Reynolds’ children, though, in the manner of Hollywood stars, they are a little too well fed to be directly from the life. Alongside these winsome infants there is a late Our Lady of the Rosary. Here the Infant Jesus fixes us with an abnormal stare and a ferocious parting, while an almost sunburnt Mary holds a rosary so thickly painted that at a distance it looks like the real thing stuck on to the canvas.

That rosary is a point of contact with the Barbican show where real things actually are stuck onto canvas. And it is just about the only point of contact too. Duchamp is where extreme Modern Art begins. The Courtauld is showing ‘Becoming Picasso: Paris 1901’ (until 26 May) looking at the work of Picasso’s breakthrough year. But Picasso was always an artist who made things and he remained within the tradition of Western Art. Duchamp didn’t make things, or at least he often found them and technically he was not a good painter or sculptor. He was an intellectual and it is almost enough to read about his work as to see it. Almost.

Duchamp argued that anything could be art and set out to prove this by putting a urinal – exhibited here, or at least a copy of it – in a gallery and calling it art. This aesthetic has made money for commercial galleries, collectors and MOMAs across the world. Whether or not it makes sense is another matter – the restaurateur who took the same line with food and served people (Tate Modern) bricks would soon go out of business.

The Barbican has brought together a number of Duchamp’s key works including Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2, Bride, 1912, and an authorised version of The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (the original was once dropped and is now too fragile to travel). Duchamp said these works had no meaning beyond their immediate historical context but the exhibition subverts this because its premise is the art historian’s concept of continuing tradition and influence.

And so the exhibition shows Duchamp’s influence onfourAmericans who broke with International (i.e. American) Modernism; the composer John Cage, the choreographer Merce Cunningham, and the artists Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns. Cage’s work is shown by scores, including the original three movements ‘tacet’ of 4’ 33 and by broadcast recordings – whether 4’ 33 is played is not clear. A ballet troupe performs in the early evening according to Cage’s instructions and against a backdrop designed by Rauschenberg which features Duchamp’s bicycle wheel. Cunningham is further illustrated by Johns’ cross-hatched paintings derived from dance steps. The other paintings/ collages and sculptures by Johns and Rauschenberg have energy and they make the viewer look at the world more carefully. Ultimately, these were artists traditional enough to make works which lasted. And visitors to the show seem much more interested in their paintings than Duchamp’s urinal.

Duchamp is a very influential but very flawed philosophical artist. Indeed, if you want to see what a great philosophical French painter can achieve, stay in Dulwich and look at the Poussins. But go to the Barbican for a fine and stimulating introduction to modern ‘bosh.’

Owen Higgs

b o o k s

CHRISTIAN BELIEF FOR EVERYONE

Volume 1: Faith and the Creeds

Alister McGrath

SPCK, 128pp, pbk

978 0281068333, £8.99

ALISTER MCGRATH is an eminent theologian, a prolific author, and recently a doughty defender of the faith (and faith in general) against the noisy ranks of the new atheists, with Richard Dawkins at their helm. Faith and the Creeds is the first volume in a series offive which will set outto provide a non-denominational outline of the fundamentals of Christianity, designed both for ‘ordinary churchgoers’ (I’m not sure I’ve ever met one of those) and for ‘interested readers outside the Church’. McGrath highlights three great lay theologians as his principal guides – G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis, and Dorothy L. Sayers. However, it is clear that it is Lewis above all who is his inspiration. McGrath (who has also just published a biography of Lewis) was, like his hero, an atheist before becoming convinced of the rightness of Christianity and becoming a reluctant convert.

It is, then, intended as a compliment to McGrath to say that Faith and the Creeds reads in many ways as Lewis’s Mere Christianity updated for the twenty-first century. References to The Matrix films and Christopher Hitchens sit alongside nods to more classical figures such as Plato and Cyprian of Carthage, as well as other writers ranging from Matthew Arnold to Bertrand Russell, and Iris Murdoch to Evelyn Waugh. McGrath writes with style and conviction, and wears his learning lightly in his ability to draw upon a wide variety of sources in the formation of his argument.

That argument is essentially that we should judge Christianity by its capacity to make sense of the world – which, of course, McGrath believes it does abundantly. From this starting point, there are several further steps to take. We must begin with the big picture that Christianity offers about the world and the universe, but we must then step further into that picture to look at the detail within it. Finally, we must begin to live lives that are in accordance with what we have found both within the big picture and its component  parts.

As the title of this volume suggests, McGrath pays particular attention to the Creeds – their history, value and purpose. In doing so he deploys a wide range of metaphor to make his argument accessible and compelling: the Creeds are maps which ‘help us explore the landscape of faith’; but they are also diagrams, keys (to unlock the richness of the Bible), and skeletons (supporting the ‘life-giving organs of faith’).

Throughout, McGrath writes skilfully and with style. Take, for example, his refutation of the claims of the new atheists: ‘Only shallow truths can be proved’. Or his insistence that ‘our deep sense of moral obligation is a fingerprint of God’. These and many other such aphorisms leap of the page, stick in the mind, and help to make this an exciting and enjoyable guide to the basics of Christianity. It is to be hoped that the ensuing volumes – on God the Father, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and living the Christian life – will be as attractively written and presented.

Into the small space of a slim volume, McGrath packs much which is of value, and which will be of help to anyone with a serious wish to explore the Christian faith. Whether he will be successful in attracting an audience beyond that remains to be seen – but this is as good an attempt to do so as any.

Janet Backman

 

LIGHT FROM LIGHT

The Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary Philip Murphy

Mosaic Press, 59pp, pbk

978 1743240458, £11.99

I MUST admit that when Blessed Pope John Paul II ‘expanded’ the Rosary with the ‘Luminous Mysteries’ I was a little sceptical. I wasn’t convinced of the appropriateness or necessity of altering a traditional form of popular piety by Papal decree. But experience of praying the Rosary (and the ‘new’ mysteries) has helped to change my mind. Indeed, praying the rosary in Walsingham has helped to bring the devotion to life in a new way for me. One of the delights of the Shrine Church are the 15 altars dedicated to the (traditional) mysteries of the Rosary. This allows you to ‘walk through’ the Rosary and so be taken from the Annunciation all the way through to the Coronation of Our Lady – and I have found that the ‘Rosary Trail’ can be a wonderful way of leading children through the Christian story when they visit the Shrine. Experiencing the Rosary in this way has helped me to appreciate the value of the Luminous Mysteries as ‘filling out’ the story and completing the journey, so that in the course of a week an individual who prays through the four sets of mysteries will have experienced (as Blessed John Paul II intended) a full ‘compendium’ of the Gospel.

Philip Murphy’s Light from Light provides a helpful guide through the Mysteries of Light. The foreword, written by Cardinal Pell, provides a brief but useful history of the Rosary and places Bl John Paul II’s additions in the context of a thousand years of gradual development. The book is then divided into short chapters, each offering a reflection on a particular Luminous Mystery.

As Murphy says in his introduction, each reflection is informed by his own experiences of visiting the Holy Land and the particular sites associated with each Mystery. This certainly helps to evoke the sense of journey and his vivid descriptions help to bring the holy sites alive in the reader’s mind. His reflections are full of biblical references and Murphy makes use of sources within the wider Tradition – drawing from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, hymnody, poetry and the visual arts.

At times, it does seem as though one is eavesdropping into Murphy’s stream of consciousness as the reader is taken through a series of interconnected (but not always neatly organized) themes and ideas. Whether this is experienced as helpful or distracting will depend upon the individual reader’s preferences. Personally, while finding something of value in every reflection, I did find that some worked better than others.

In any case, as Murphy suggests in his introduction, it is unlikely that an individual would want to use the book while actually praying the Rosary itself. The reflections are too long to be used as introductions to each decade, but one could conceivably choose appropriate ‘snippets’ for use when praying alone or as a group. Reading this book will certainly provide new and deeper insights into the Rosary – both for experienced Rosary ‘prayers’ and those newer to the devotion. Similarly, I can well imagine the meditations in this book being used to form the basis of reflections in (for example) Lent groups (perhaps a Lent course exploring the Luminous Mysteries) or when praying before the

Blessed Sacrament. The fifth reflection on the ‘Institution of the Eucharist’ is by itself quite a beautiful meditation on the relationship between the Rosary and the Mass and could, perhaps, be used as a prayerful introduction to the sacrament for those preparing for Confirmation.

This little book is definitely well worth a read and should be welcome on any bookshelf or coffee table. I am sure that clergy in particular will find it to be a valuable addition to their toolkit.

Craig Roters
is the Shrine Priest and Pastor

for Schools at the Shrine of
Our Lady of Walsingham

 

 

THE OXFORD HANDBOOK OF JEWISH ETHICS AND MORALITY

Edited by Elliot N. Dorff and Jonathan K. Crane OUP, 530pp, hbk

978 0199736065, £95

EVERY SERIOUS theological library should have a copy of this. There is a huge amount that all Christians can learn from the Jewish moral tradition, and this provides a good range of material. I remember from my student days a visiting lecture from a delightful Rabbi on the subject. Someone asked him, ‘Is it permitted to make love on the Sabbath?’ ‘Interesting question,’ he replied. ‘On the one hand, as an act of creation, it is the type of action most completely forbidden. On the other hand, as the human activity that can come closest to the joy and communion of the Sabbath rest, it should be what is most appropriate.’ And then he proceeded to elaborate.

It was a wonderful example of the sheer richness of the Jewish tradition, and the manner in which ideas could be offered and discussed, even if they led to impossibly confusing conclusions. There is a sense in which Jews are less moralistic than Christians, with a greater appreciation of the subtleties of human existence and of God’s revelation. One example I had not encountered before is that famous admonition against secret sin, gathered out of the seventh and twentieth Chapter of Deuteronomy, ‘Cursed is he that removeth his neighbour’s landmark,’ which has become the starting point for consideration of unfair competition in business ethics, the need for anti-trust laws, and the protection of intellectual property.

The first part of the book has essays, from a variety of different schools, on the development of specifically Jewish forms of ethical reasoning and appeals to authority, an essentially historical survey. The second part, also from a variety of different traditions, covers a wide range of moral issues and the responses given. Brief summaries perhaps, but generally most stimulating. The writers are all American, but I found this less constricting than I had expected.

My immediate impressions from these essays, as one who knows little of specifically Jewish contributions to the subject, but knows enough of what they were speaking about, and the sources to which they refer, to follow the arguments, were that we have yet more to learn than I had expected as a student so many decades ago. Is it fair to say that Jews coped with, embraced and learned from the Enlightenment rather better than the Christian Church? I think so.

More important, Jews, even when not openly persecuted, have had to learn and teach and apply their ethical models as a minority group, always on the edge of the establishment. The clarity and sharpness of their principles, and the almost precisely defined corpus of shared, authoritative texts, offers impressive results. The framework of business ethics I found particularly appealing: a relatively small group of people, with clearly shared values, and a set of expectations, can create a moral environment that has the power and stability to tackle the abundant world of sin and temptation.

The categories of Christian moral teaching may, now that the Church is so much smaller and less well regarded in our country, be rather too large to carry weight and give strength to individual Christians. Jewish morality, with its long tradition of the family and smaller more cohesive social groups, seems better prepared for a secularizing, postmodern world. Students and pastors alike would do well to pay attention to the material in this book.

John Turnbull

====================================

THE SIGN

The Shroud of Turin and the

Secret of the Resurrection

Thomas de Wesselow

Viking Books, 464pp, hbk 978 0670921874, £20


THE DUST jacket proclaims that this volume reveals a link between two well- researched subjects from history, namely the Shroud of Turin and the Resurrection.

The author, Thomas de Wesselow, certainly carries good credentials with an impressive track record of earlier research work, for example his careful study of the Guidoriccio fresco in Siena which earned him his MA and PhD at the Courtauld Institute in London. Later he was appointed as a Post-Doctoral Research Associate at King’s College, Cambridge.

The Sign falls neatly into two parts, the first part being his examination of the evidence to support the view that this cloth is the genuine burial shroud of Jesus and the second part his groundbreaking theory concerning the part played by the shroud at the time of the resurrection.

Shroud ‘enthusiasts’ – and I include myself in this category – will be aware of the many and various books which over the years have been published giving details of the cloth, all, or at least most, of which have been accompanied by details of the many and various tests carried out as well as credible theories as to where the cloth was hidden during the first thirteen hundred years of its existence after the Resurrection.

In my opinion de Wesselow’s study is the most detailed and most thorough of all that I have read and it is cheering to read of his damning criticism of the infamous carbon-dating tests resulting from contaminated samples being used. It is also encouraging that he encompasses the existence of the Sudarium of Oviedo in his studies, which is considered to be the towel that was wrapped round the head of Jesus after his body was taken down from the cross and which is now preserved in Spain. Admittedly de Wesselow does not declare this burial cloth to

be equally genuine as the shroud, but it is surprising that he does not make mention of the fact that the position and size of the bloodstains on the Shroud and the Sudarium have been found to match.

For anyone who still has lingering doubts about the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin then The Sign will fairly certainly put their doubts to rest.

Having completed his extensive examination of the historical and technical data relating to the shroud and being convinced that it is the actual burial cloth in which the body of Jesus was enfolded, de Wesselow recounts how he sat in the garden at his home in Cambridgeshire and pondered over the events of the first Easter, specifically why the existence of the shroud with its image apparently received no attention and was not mentioned by any of the gospel writers. In what is otherwise a serious tome there is a moment of light relief when the writer touches briefly on the theory that the shroud image was caused by radiation at the moment of Christ rising from the tomb.

This has always been my belief but de Wesselow rules it right out on the basis that, as he says, ‘the complete conversion of a normal human body into energy would have the effect of a huge H bomb. The shroud would not have been lightly scorched; it would have disappeared along with Jerusalem’.

It was as he mulled over the link between the shroud and the Resurrection that the author arrives at what can only be described as an extraordinary conclusion. For him there was no actual appearance of the risen Lord. The sign that Jesus Christ had risen from the dead was, he believes, the shroud itself!

Having taken this right-angled turn from the traditional understanding that Jesus was seen after the Resurrection, firstly by a few and later by many, de Wesselow works hard to make the facts recorded in the gospels fit his theory. Those early followers, he maintains, were not confronted with Jesus apparently alive and well but by the faint (reversed!) image on the shroud. In the meeting in the upper room later that day de Wessselow would have us believe that one of the disciples turned up there with the shroud rolled up under his arm, so that when unrolled, the others gathered there would have stood back in amazement and therefore regarded this exposition in a way that would later fit the gospel facts as written that ‘Jesus appeared among them’.

At this point all kinds of challenges surely spring to our minds, such as how did the conversation of the road to Emmaus take place and what of the food that is mentioned at the conclusion of that episode? And did the disciples take the shroud up the mountain and wait for it to ascend? ‘Oh no, no’, as Captain Mainwaring used to say in response to one of Corporal Jones’ wild speculations, ‘I think you’ve entered the realms of fantasy!’

So what we have here in The Sign is a reputable art historian and researcher giving us a superb appraisal of the Shroud of Turin followed by a highly original new heresy that denies the physical and bodily reality of the Resurrection.

Edwyn Gilmour

 

FRANCIS AND TH ERESE

Great ‘Little’ Saints

Patricia Jordan FSM

Gracewing, 168pp, pbk

978 0852447970, £9.99

 

CARDINAL RATZINGER commented: ‘it is a fact that the choice of ‘little things’ and ‘little people’ is characteristic of God’s dealings with humanity’. Francis and Thérèse: Great ‘Little’ Saints expresses how this ‘characteristic of God’s dealings’ with men and women is at the heart of the spiritual life of Francis of Assisi and Thérèse of Lisieux.

In her book Sister Patricia links together elements from the lives of Thérèse and Francis, their simplicity, ‘littleness’, love of poverty, and a spirituality centred in the Gospel and the Eucharist. They beckon us to join them on the way of love, joy and Gospel living, showing us how to find true joy in prayer, in the reading of the Gospel, in the life of the Church, and in living our day-to-day lives in a world which has as many difficulties and trials as did that of Thérèse and Francis.

Sister Patricia has really done her homework in exploring the family background, social and historical context of Francis and Thérèse. She explores the origins of Carmelite devotion to the Infancy of Jesus from the time of St Teresa of Avila, and the background of the Lisieux Carmel’s reverence towards the image of the Holy Face of Jesus, as imprinted on the veil of St Veronica. She draws from the Franciscan Rule, spiritual writings and the ‘Florilegio’ of Francis. The simple ‘stories’ are as profound as the parables of Jesus.

It is easy to be put off by the somewhat sugary French bourgeois style and imagery of the autobiography of Thérèse. She wrote in the manner typical of her era and level of education. This book manages to bypass some of the more difficult aspects of Thérèse’s style and gets to the nitty-gritty of her spirituality. We are not to be deluded into thinking that Therese was a sugary, sweet, fragile creature, neurotic and irrelevant to us in the twenty-first century. She was a very strong young woman whose life was curtailed by tuberculosis and whose life had been overshadowed by the death of her mother and illness of her father. She went through a terrible ‘dark night’ of faith before her death, even to the point of being tempted to overdose on her medication, had it been left by her bedside! Thérèse understood that she had not got the intellectual capacity of the great spiritual teachers of the Church, neither was she physically able to accomplish great deeds in the life of the Church. She came to understand that God accepted her as she was, and that she could make her own way to God in simplicity and with the trust of a child. She offers hope to those of us who consider ourselves ‘little’ in our faith, accomplishments and place in the Church.

Francis is known for his love of nature and is beloved of all animal lovers and ecologists. He is accepted by Christians of all denominations on the grounds of his straightforward Gospel living and his way of life so deeply rooted in Scripture. He is popularly portrayed as a gentle, meek and mild animal lover, a happy-go-lucky man who lived a life free of the kind of burdens and responsibilities we have today. Sister Patricia’s book breaks through this image, showing Francis to be a deep thinker, someone who lived so close to Jesus that he eventually took on his appearance, receiving the wounds of the Lord’s passion on his own body. Francis bubbled over with the joy of the Holy Spirit and shared that with his brothers and wherever he went. His joy and desire to live the Gospel was infectious and attractive to others. He was not someone who just taught and preached; he had a hands-on approach to the faith. Francis understood the need for people to see and experience the Gospel at first hand; building the Nativity scene and getting people to actively participate inthis. Francis loved singing and would effervesce into exuberant dances and songs which he made up as he went along when he could not contain his joy in the Lord. His deep sharing in the Passion of Christ and the human condition drew him into contemplative prayer and solitude.

Francis embodied the extremes of extroverted preaching, joy and sharing with others with the interior need for withdrawing to a lonely place to pray, like his Master. He shows us how to find equilibrium and balance in our lives.

Sister Patricia’s book is beautifully illustrated with line drawings by Elizabeth Ruth Obbard. These pictures reveal the simplicity and overflowing joy of the Franciscan life and the youthfulness of Thérèse.

This book is great for anyone who wishes to get to know Francis and Thérèse, for anyone who wants to learn about Franciscan or Carmelite spirituality. The content of the book is researched in depth; it is obvious that Sister Patricia has done a great deal of background reading and is writing from within the depth of a great spiritual tradition. In reading this book I was personally encouraged to think outside the box of Carmelite spirituality and embrace my brothers and sisters of the Franciscan charism. I would certainly encourage everyone to find in this book food for the journey of faith.

The author is a Franciscan Sister Minoress, and an expert in the life, spirituality and teaching of Francis of Assisi. She leads retreats and workshops specializing in Franciscan spirituality and is based at the ‘Portiuncula’ retreat centre near Alfreton, Derbyshire. (Check out their website for further details.)

Heidi Cooper scl

SILENCE

A Christian History Diarmaid MacCulloch

Allen Lane, 352pp, hbk

978 1846144264, £20

THERE ARE few greater joys in Oxford, after basking in the beauty of the architecture and the wonders of Evensong in a college chapel, than browsing in Blackwell’s bookshop. I was there recently for a launch party for Daphne Hampson’s new book on Kierkegaard and as I was sipping my glass of wine and musing on the current tome produced by a writer who made the idea of Post-Christian Feminism appealing to a whole raft of young scholars I spied this volume by a self-styled ‘post-Enlightenment Christian’, who seeks to strip away the noise of dogma so that people might listen more closely to the will of God.

I was struck by the way in which some theologians have failed to move on from the idea that if we just got rid of the Church (or indeed Christianity) then we would be able to listen more fully to the voice of God. Professor Hampson thought so in the late Nineties and Professor MacCulloch thinks so now. The question for Christians is how are we to engage with what might be broadly described as a post-Christian interpretation of history?

Perhaps we need to begin with a clear understanding of the Church’s

teaching on the ministry of women and of human sexuality; this will take time to explain. Both Hampson in her early writing and MacCulloch in this book seek to challenge the Church. As Catholics within the Church of England we must not be afraid to take on this challenge and work with it, confident in the inheritance of faith we have received.

In the first part of Silence MacCulloch draws from a rich array of Christian and Jewish sources and weaves a vision of Christian thought and experience of silence, in which one hears the voice of God. For MacCulloch it is in many ways the Christian faith, or at least how that is expressed by the Church, that causes too much noise and prevents the believer from listening to God. But there does, of course, need to be some structure to the way in which God is heard and interpreted; the alternative must surely lead to endless division.

For many Christians MacCulloch’s ‘divine wild-track’ might not be such the place of comfort with God but rather one of constant conflict. It is that constant conflict that MacCulloch focuses on in the last part of this book: the ills of the Church, where she has been silent on major issues or sought to cover them up or not acknowledge them, and this does not always make for easy reading. MacCulloch tackles the issues of slavery, child abuse, anti-Semitism, as well as the Church’s teachings on holy order and sexuality. No Church is innocent and no apology it seems is good enough for MacCulloch, and in some cases this must be true.

No apology can make up for the pain and suffering caused by the slave trade and the Church must be ashamed of its involvement, but two hundred years after the abolition of the slave trade in this country the Church cannot still be held responsible for the actions of the past. In the cases of anti-Semitism and of child abuse the Church must apologise and must ensure that they are not allowed to happen again. Here there must be no silence and no cover-up, but once a full apology has been made it should be accepted. While I agree with MacCulloch that we must never be allowed to forget, we should at the same time avoid the continual witch hunts that are better suited to writers in the gutter press.

MacCulloch does offer a very beautiful vignette about the silence of Our Lady of Knock. When Our Lady appears in Ireland unlike at places like Lourdes and Fatima she remains silent – perhaps, MacCulloch suggests, to avoid using Gaelic or

English in a community divided on many different lines. Our Lady appears silently and in the silence calls for reconciliation.

Professor MacCulloch has written a fascinating survey on the subject of silence. This reviewer does not agree with the stance he takes on the issues of the ordination of women or same-sex marriage, but

cannot deny that it is a well-written and fascinating survey. Sometime,s however, in matters of the doctrine of the Church we could all do with being silent, to listen to God and not to the pressures of the secular world around us.

Wesley Turl

 

JOHN HENRY NEWMAN

His Life and Work

Brian Martin

Gracewing, 164pp, pbk

978 0852448076, £9.99

BRIAN MARTIN’S biography of Blessed John Henry Newman was first published in 1982. At the time, it made innovative use of Newman’s journals and diaries. Since then, it has somewhat been overshadowed by the pioneering work of Ian Ker, Frank M. Turner and others. Nonetheless, this book still contains much that is of interest – not least the wide variety of illustrations, ranging from the school in Ealing that Newman attended as a young boy to his last years at Birmingham Oratory, via the Senior Common Room at Oriel College, where Newman is portrayed alongside Hurrell Froude and Thomas Mozley. The reproduction of these pictures is not of a particularly high quality, but their historical interest alone makes this reissue of Brian Martin’s book worth buying for those who do not already own a copy.

 

MUSICA SACRA

Sacred Music:

A Liturgical and Pastoral Challenge

Ignatius, 182pp, pbk

978 1586173012, £14.99

IN 2005, a study day, sponsored by the Congregation for Divine Worship, took place to explore aspects of liturgy following the Second Vatican Council, particularly the (often overlooked) insistence within Sacrosanctum Concilium that Gregorian Chant should continue to have ‘pride of place’ among the sacred music of the Church.

This book is a collection of papers from that conference. Papers include a survey of the present state of Gregorian Chant, and a consideration of how congregational singing of plainsong might be revived. Sacrosanctum Concilium also stressed the continuing importance of choirs capable of singing complex choral music, and called for the laity to be encouraged to sing the parts of the Mass proper to them. Martin Baker, sometime Choir Master at Westminster Cathedral, contributes a chapter on the experience of this at Westminster Cathedral. By far the longest chapter sets all of this in the history of the role and purpose of liturgical music, meaning that this book will be of value not only to those with an interest in plainsong and polyphony specifically, but also those concerned more generally with the vital role which sacred music should play in the liturgy of the Church. ND

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