Brother Barry Coldrey

Cardinal Pell's latest book: a study of the Gospel of St Luke

by Cardinal George Pell
(Connor Court Publishing, 2012, 214pp, $29.95. ISBN: 978-1-92216-805-4)

Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney for the past twelve years, has been a prolific writer and speaker with several recent book titles to his name notably God and Caesar and Test Everything, both well worth reading.

Cardinal Pell has been a major presence in the Australian Catholic Church and a force for orthodoxy when many Catholics have drifted from the truths of faith, influenced by the secular agenda of the dominant culture.

Moreover, he is close to the mind of the modern Church, a regular visitor to Rome and a personal friend of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. He has a place on the Roman Curial Committee which explores the qualifications of candidates for vacant episcopal sees and is a pioneer of the new evangelisation.

One of his colleagues, Cardinal Godfried Danneels, Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels (now retired) recently wrote in an article: "Modern Belgians are often interested in a range of secularised spiritualities but allergic to the teachings and sacraments of the Church". If you substitute the word "Australians" for "Belgians" the comment would still ring true.

Cardinal Pell has constantly to remind Catholics of the basic dimensions of Catholicism: the centrality of the person of Jesus Christ and the four critical areas of Catholic life, namely belief, worship, lifestyle and service, all attuned to, and guided by the Magisterium of the Church. This approach suffuses Cardinal Pell's latest book, Contemplating Christ with Luke.

The book commences with an Introduction which sets out the character of St Luke, his writings and his place in the early Christian Church. There then follow fifty-four brief chapters each taking as its point of departure a quotation from St Luke's Gospel. The book works its way through the Church's liturgical year from Advent to the Feast of Christ the King, with a further chapter on the Assumption of Our Lady.

As always, Cardinal Pell's typically direct language and contemporary allusions make his spiritual writings accessible and appealing to non-specialist readers.

Each self-contained chapter is an ideal springboard for planning homilies or classroom lessons, especially the former. In view of the desperate shortage of (often ageing) clergy, many priests are regularly overworked with insufficient time to prepare personalised Sunday sermons. They need prepared material, crafted by experienced writers such as Cardinal Pell.

Many of these chapters would serve as five-to-seven minute homilies as they are, without any change, for congregations always prefer brief, to-the-point Sunday sermons, rather than, as is sometimes the case, lengthy, unstructured discourses that can be easily forgotten. Contemplating Christ with Luke provides a sure antidote to this.

As a bonus, the book is beautifully illustrated with modern iconic paintings by Francisco (Kiko) Arguello, co-founder of the Neo-Catechumenal Way.

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