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The Way of the Carmelites 

Helpful introduction to Carmelite thinking, but doesn't live up to its subtitle 'a prayer journey through Lent'

Way of CarmelitesThe Way of the Carmelites 
By James McCaffrey OCD
ISBN No: 978-0-281-07529-4
Reviewed By: Jeannie Kendall

Lent is often a season when Christians seek to refocus, to prepare for Easter in various ways, including abstinence, additional reading, and prayer. Wise to this, publishers often produce Lent books, from which genre this is intended to be.

The subtitle of the book is “a prayer journey through Lent”, though within two sentences the author admits that Carmelites rarely if ever speak about Lent. The book consists of six chapters explaining various aspects of Carmelite life: the Rule, the heritage of Elijah, reading scriptures with Mary (Lectio Divina), Terseian spirituality (prayer), the love that leads to Calvary, and the Holy Spirit. Each chapter ends with three questions to reflect on.

Certainly for someone wanting to discover more about Carmelite thinking, this would be a helpful introduction. There are some useful aspects such as the explanation of Lectio Divina, although I personally found the link with Mary a little stretched. What I am not at all clear about though, is how this can be used as a Lent book. Indeed it reads to me as though the publisher has tried to squeeze this into a Lent genre when in reality it could be used at any time of the year. It is not a book of daily readings, for example and there are no suggestions on how to apply the themes of the book specifically during Lent.

My other – linked – disappointment was the lack of practical application in general, with the exception of the useful reflection questions. For example, the author mentions frequently the practice of gazing on Jesus. I was left unsure however of what that might actually mean in practice.

I came away from reading this book with more knowledge about Carmelite saints than ideas on Lenten practice. Perhaps those more in the Catholic tradition might more easily make links: sadly although open and eager to learn some new spiritual practices I was left a little dissatisfied.

Jeannie is co-minister of Carshalton Beeches Baptist Church

Baptist Times, 18/01/2018
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