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A much appreciated gift


By: 'Br Brian Grenier CFC' - 15th of March 2018

O GOD OF LOVELINESS: THE POETRY OF ST ALPHONSUS

EDITED BY PATRICK CORBETT CSsR, ST PAULS PUBLICATIONS, RRP $24.95

Reviewed by Br Brian Grenier CFC

 

Many Catholics are aware that St Alphonsus Maria de Liguori (1696-1787) was the founder of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (the Redemptorists). However, even the better informed among them, who know that he was a distinguished lawyer, moral theologian and Doctor of the Church, may have yet to discover that he was also a competent musician, gifted poet and artist—‘the epitome of a renaissance man’ as he has been called.

This is the Alphonsus that we meet in the very beautiful and inexpensive book under review in which Redemptorist Father Patrick Corbett has assembled a selection of the saint’s poems. Collected under eight headings such as ‘God is Love’, ‘Alone with God’ and ‘Jesus Comes among Us: the Cross, the Crib, the Eucharist’ and ‘Sweet Mary My Hope’, they are presented in a two-column format in which the original Italian text is paralleled by the elegant English translation of Enza Russo. Having a good reading knowledge of Italian, I can vouch for the high standard of the latter.

Reproduced throughout the book on quality paper in full colour are many paintings by famous artists and by St Alphonsus himself that are relevant to the themes of the poems. Whoever is responsible for the layout of the book is deserving of high praise, as is Domenika Fairy who designed the very appropriate and eye-catching front cover.

As the writings of mystics can be rather obscure, it is well to note that St Alphonsus’s poems and hymns were written in language easily accessible to the people. They were intended not to display the considerable talent of the author but to serve as a pedagogical instrument for catechising Christians young and old, especially in parish missions, and for nurturing their faith.

The difficulty we might have with some of them today is that their content is expressive of an 18th century style of piety that, in many respects, does not resonate with preferred approaches to spirituality in our 21st century. Given the obvious riches of the text and the artwork, I do not think that that should deter the potential purchaser.

O God of Loveliness is not a book for the casual reader. It will appeal, in the first place, to those who have a special interest in St Alphonsus and the congregation he founded and, more generally, to those who find in religious art and poetry a stimulus for fruitful meditative prayer. For such people it could make a much appreciated gift.

 

THE CATHOLIC LEADER 11TH MARCH 2018


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