George Mackay Brown: No Separation by Alison Gray (Gracewing, £14.99). The author, who knew the acclaimed Orcadian poet for 20 years and is herself an authority on the Catholic history of the Orkneys, has written a penetrating study of Mackay Brown’s faith (he was a convert) and how it inspires all his writings. Her apt title, as Bishop Hugh Gilbert of Aberdeen explains in his preface, conveys that for Mackay Brown there was indeed “no separation” between the natural and the supernatural in his poetic imagination. All who love his work will find this book illuminating and perceptive.

Ethical Sex by Anthony McCarthy (Fidelity Press, £17). The author, who works for SPUC, brings philosophical rigour to a controversial subject. Discussing themes such as contraception, natural law, sexual desire and the true meaning of love, Dr McCarthy shows why human sexual behaviour has unique ethical significance. We are moral creatures and therefore sexual relationships “cannot but have a moral meaning”. Lay people who are concerned to oppose the liberal assumptions of the age should read it in order to bring reason to support their intuitive understanding of human dignity and self-respect.

Moments to Remember by Carol Ann Smith SHCJ and Eugene Merz SJ (New City, £10.95). These authors, who have co-written two earlier books on the spirituality of everyday life, bring their attention to bear on “the Third Age”, a growing demographic reality. This work, subtitled Ignatian Wisdom for Aging, is in part an anthology of spiritual writers such as St Francis de Sales. It also offers reflections from literary greats such as Goethe and Rilke and there are helpful questions addressing the reader’s own life. All the seasons of life are reflected upon in turn, showing how they point to God.

A Faithful Presence by Hilary Russell (SCM Press, £10.99). The author, an academic concerned with urban policy who has also been involved in Anglican and ecumenical social action, focuses in this slim book on how Christians can bear practical witness in society today. Asking searching questions, such as “Who is My Neighbour?”, Russell engages the reader in this provocative exploration of the initiatives begun by Archbishop Derek Worlock and Bishop David Sheppard in Liverpool. To work for the common good requires cooperation, courage and vision.

The Pursuit of Holiness by Stephen Haskell (St Paul’s, £7.99). Drawing on the spirituality of St Teresa of Avila, St John of the Cross and St Thérèse of Lisieux, Haskell explores an ancient theme: how do we learn to be “whole” persons, ie holy? Focusing on charity, the author shows that we need to incarnate it in thought, word and deed, and how prayer and mortification are intrinsic to this process. Rowan Williams, who has written the foreword, describes the book, accurately, as “a treasure of wisdom and insight” for its sympathetic exploration of the love “that restores us to our true humanity”.

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