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Sign of confidence

31 October 2014

William Scott reviews a new prayer-book

The Heart in Pilgrimage: A prayerbook for Catholic Christians
Eamon Duffy
Bloomsbury £20
Church Times Bookshop £18 (Use code CT861 )

THIS is a collection of all sorts of prayer and poetry for many situations. We find the text of the Roman mass, together with prayers to help preparing and giving thanks for holy communion. There are also a helpful section on the sacrament of reconciliation; the Stations of the Cross; and a simple Office that can be used daily.

Besides these traditional matters, there is a large collection of litanies and occasional prayers. Since I have been in much pain recently, I turned to the section "Prayers in Sickness, Suffering or Extremity". It contains quotations from the Psalms, poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins and Christina Rossetti, and prayers by Teillhard de Chardin, Samuel Johnson, and Karl Rahner.

This apart, it is worth buying the book for the foreword by Rowan Williams, the preface by Fr Timothy Radcliff OP, and Professor Eamon Duffy's introduction. Lord Williams gives an explanation of "Catholic", pointing out that it is not a tribal badge. Calling the Church "Catholic" is a matter of grasping that it teaches the whole truth in a way that involves the whole person and is addressed to the whole of humanity.

Radcliffe discusses the nature and meaning of prayer and its difficulties. He points out that the prayers in the book are words of people who dare to converse with God. I found most helpful the words: "Prayer is not our attempt to make contact with God but a sign of our confidence, fragile sometimes, that God is already present, and has always been present, awaiting our invitation to come and be at home in us."

Duffy discusses prayer as the use of the whole person, including the body, with times of fasting and abstinence. Although prayer is beyond words, we, as conversational beings, need at times to pray in words. He is to be congratulated for providing us with such a wonderful compilation, beautifully bound and illustrated, which is a tool to help our heart on its pilgrimage.

Prebendary Scott is Sub Dean of Her Majesty's Chapels Royal.

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