INFINITE HORIZONS Scripture through Carmelite eyes. JAMES MC CAFFREY OCD.
Teresian Press. ISBN 978-0-947916-13-8 £8 (plus P&P) Available from the Carmelite Book Service (online or by post). Carmelite Priory, Boars Hill, Oxford, 0X1 5HB
BOOK REVIEW by Sr Heidi SCL
Fr James McCaffrey is a well-known writer in Carmelite Circles. He's written a number of books drawing upon the spirituality and writings of our Carmelite Saints. He studied Scripture in Rome and is a dynamic and experienced teacher and retreat conductor. He edits “Mount Carmel” a quarterly review of Carmelite spirituality.
Father Jimmy's passionate enthusiasm for the Word of God and his deep understanding of Scripture shines out as he takes themes from Scripture relating to the spiritual life and draws out valuable insights from our Carmelite Saints. He explores these themes through the eyes of Saints Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Therese of Lisieux, Elisabeth of the Trinity and Edith Stein (three of whom are Doctors of the Church). Every paragraph is rooted in the Word of God, the teachings of the Church and profound Carmelite spirituality.
This book is an ideal taster for those who would like to study the greatest writings of the Saints of Carmel, but who feel somewhat daunted by the original works.
The references at the end of each chapter and the List of Works show clearly where the all the quotes come from allowing for further research and reading. Within each chapter there are clearly marked sections which make it easy to remember which Saint Father Jimmy is drawing from.
Father Jimmy's book is a good introduction for people who have already read works by one or two of our Saints yet have not come to enjoy the writings of the ones they know less well. Some people I know have found Saint John of the Cross, for example, difficult to read, yet they would probably find his writings more accessible after reading this book. Those who have studied the writings of the Carmelite Saints in more depth will find fresh insights and profound teachings as they meditate on the passages and themes.
The book is useful both to serious students of scripture and to those who read the spiritual writings of the mystics, yet is very readable and accessible to those of us who are not academics. As Father Jimmy says to us, we have to relax with the Lord and draw the words from the mind down to the heart. He helps us to do that in this work.
Much of what is in this book, and more besides, is recognisable from the wonderful retreat talks he gives at the Oxford Priory and in the overseas provinces.
Those who have heard him speak will appreciate keeping the book to hand as a resource to refresh their memories and return to again and again. If you want a home-made retreat, just read Infinite Horizons!
Father takes certain well known passages and themes from Scripture and shows us how to meditate and pray with them. He starts by encouraging us to read the scriptures with Mary, to ponder them in our hearts and to bring forth fruit from the Word of God into our lives. He goes on to discuss the process of Lectio Divina, how to read the Word of God in a meditative way so that it becomes part of our being. An appendix to the book explains how to facilitate this in a group situation. The appendix also includes the scriptural texts necessary for looking at these themes.
The themes that he draws on in the book are the witness of Jesus to prayer, the priestly prayer of Jesus, Jesus and the mystery of human suffering, and praying with the Holy Spirit. There are many other books written on these themes, yet this one is unique in that we consider the texts through the eyes of the greatest Carmelite mystics in the Church, seeing them with the eye of the heart, rather than as an academic exercise. Every paragraph is alive and full of the Word of God in a way that makes it understandable in the light of Church teaching, the spiritual and sacramental life, and in the day to day personal experience of prayer and life.
Father Jimmy's book is an act of generosity from the heart towards those who have not been able to hear him speak, yet would be inspired by his enthusiasm, insights and love for the Order of Carmel and Holy Scripture. It is the fruit of many years of prayer, reading, study and meditation yet it gives a zesty and stimulating approach for anyone serious about praying with God's Word.