Thursday, August 12, 2010

New Books 1

This year has seen the publication of new titles by three regular contributors to religious debate in Ireland. They are Michael Paul Gallagher SJ, Mark Patrick Hederman OSB, and journalist John Waters.

Fr Gallagher's book is called Faith Maps : ten religious explorers from Newman to Joseph Ratzinger. The idea of a "map of faith" is a potent one. The historian of cartography G.R. Crone once defined the purpose of map-making as being "to express graphically the relations of points and features on the earth's surface to each other". The key term here, feeding into map-making in the figurative sense, is "relation". Through what might be called "conceptual" maps we can detect, define, observe and create relationships. We can show where one element is in relation to others. We can plot an emotional, intellectual or spiritual landscape.

Fr Gallagher explains that each chapter of Faith Maps "takes a major religious thinker and asks how he or she would point us in the direction of Christian faith". His ten "map-makers" range from John Henry Newman to the present Pope, and include theologians such as Hans Urs Von Balthasar, artists such as Flannery O'Connor and philosophers such as Charles Taylor. Fr Gallagher is addressing both reflective believers and questing unbelievers. His book is an invitation to enrich our theological awareness, or (as he puts it), our knowledge regarding "the long tradition of pondering the strangeness and surprise called God".

The value of a "thinking faith" is to the fore also in the books by Fr Hederman and John Waters. In Underground Cathedrals, Fr Hederman assesses the role that art and artists could have in the renewal of religious faith in Ireland. In Beyond Consolation, Waters takes as his starting point the radio interview given by Nuala O'Faolain a month before her death from cancer in 2008. The bleakness of O'Faolain's despair prompts Waters' exploration of what we believe as Christians, why we believe, how we believe. On of this major themes is the impoverishment of the language with which faith is discussed in contemporary Ireland.

These are three very different books, but each one in its own way encourages us to maintain a state of faith through reflection, never taking belief for granted, never resting on the laurels of tradition, working on our own "faith maps".

All three titles are available for borrowing here in the library. For details of these and other recent accessions click on the Library Thing link in our accessions page at