Faith and Struggle on Smokey Mountain by Benigno P Beltran (Alban Books, £18.99). The author, a Filipino priest of the Society of the Divine Word, spent 30 years ministering to the scavengers who live on “Smokey Mountain”, a huge garbage dump on the outskirts of Manila. His book, subtitled Hope for a Planet in Peril, appeals for greater understanding of this huge underclass of 25,000 inhabitants, as well learning to imitate their simplicity of life – the scavengers are born recyclers, long before this word became fashionable. Beltran includes his own spiritual insights into what his ministry has taught him.
Goethe: A Very Short Introduction by Ritchie Robertson (Oxford University Press, £7.99). Capturing the scope of Goethe’s intellectual concerns, the intersection between his life and his art, and the crucial issue of his influences and impact is usually the stuff of lengthy biographies. Robertson has less than 150 pages at his disposal but his judgments are sound and his readings always interesting. It is a great shame that, outside of Germany, the vast majority of Goethe’s works are neglected these days. Robertson points the reader interested in rediscovery to the best starting points.
God Mocks: A History of Religious Satire by Terry Lindvall (New York University Press, £23.99). The gap between the aspirations of religion and the realities of how its practitioners comport themselves has always been a rich vein for satirists, be they believers or deniers. Lindvall is an amusing and reflective guide to the topic and the wide-ranging scope of this volume is very impressive. Satire, it seems, has played many different roles: prodding the faithful towards better behaviour, pouring scorn on those across the denominational divide, or (no bad thing) luxuriating in moments of comic relief.
Godless For God’s Sake edited by David Boulton (Dales Historical Monographs, £9.50). Subtitled Nontheism in Contemporary Quakerism, this slim book brings together essays and testimonies by 27 Quaker nontheists. They have all rejected belief in a transcendent, personal and supernatural God but still value the virtues of mercy, pity, peace and love. Contributors share Quaker tradition, worship and language, but hope that nontheism can be part of the diversity of modern and creedless Quakerism. For this group, the idea of God and “God-language” has become outdated and a stumbling block.
The Way of Mercy edited by Christine M Bochen (Orbis/Alban Books, £11.99). The editor has compiled a collection of lively essays by authors as varied as Pope Francis, Leonardo Boff, Joan Chittister and Jon Sobrino. Among some controversial writers, Dorothy Day’s contribution on “The Scandal of the Works of Mercy” stands out: the co-founder of the US Houses of Hospitality makes an eloquent plea for Christians to be more forgiving, more generous, more patient and more courageous than they would like to be. “It is by the Works of Mercy that we shall be judged,” she concludes.
How to continue reading…
This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week
The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection