Magnificat has collected together 10 of its published books, past and present, in order to present them to a new readership. Beautifully illustrated, often with Old Master paintings, and drawing on well-known religious writers, they would make thoughtful, devotional gifts for parish priests, married couples and friends, both inside and outside the faith.
Several of the books have been written by Fr Romanus Cessario, senior editor at Magnificat, including Compassionate Blood: Catherine of Siena on the Passion (£11.60). Catherine, a 14th-century mystic, Dominican laywoman and Doctor of the Church, reminds us, in Cessario’s words, that “the shedding of [Christ’s] compassionate blood causes the transformation that once and forever enters our world on that blessed day that the Church everywhere reveres as ‘Good’.” In his essays the author quotes Flannery O’Connor and Oscar Wilde on the reality of sin, as well as the forceful statement of Catherine herself: “If you want love you must begin by loving.”
Heather King, a regular contributor to the monthly prayer guide Magnificat, draws on her own experiences as a former addict in her penetrating meditations on Gospel passages, Holy Days and Gospel Reflections (£9.10). Taking inspiration from writers such as the two great 20th-century mystics, Caryll Houselander and Simone Weil, she reminds us that Weil, for all her eccentricities and failures, “offered up her wounds, her neuroses, her weaknesses, her motives and her body. She ‘sold’ all that she had and distributed it to the poor. That is more than many of us do.”
Comprising a novena in honour of the priesthood, texts for meditation, essays and devotions, The Year for Priests Companion (£1.60) also includes a memorable quotation from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Writing about his own vocation, he admits: “Since I was diffident and downright impractical, since I had no talent for sports or administration or organisation, I had to ask myself whether I would be able to relate to people. Bound up with this was naturally the question of whether I would be able to remain celibate, unmarried, my whole life long.”
Illustrated appropriately by Fra Angelico’s transcendent paintings of Jesus’s life from the monastery of San Marco in Florence, The Magnificat Rosary Companion (£2.30) has a thought-provoking essay by Fr Peter John Cameron OP, answering the question, why should we pray the rosary? He reminds us that the rosary is a powerful way to contemplate the face of Christ, a source of self-discovery, a sublime encounter of friendship, and a supreme source of comfort and solace.
The Seven Joys of Mary (£9.20) and its companion The Seven Sorrows of Mary (£9.20), both by Fr Cessario, are illustrated with Hans Memling’s The Seven Joys of the Virgin and Giotto’s frescoes in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua. They are a delight to the eye as well as profound reminders of the most significant stages of Christ’s life.
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