The Prayer Book 2017
by The Irish Jesuits
Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight. PhD
When I first received this book, I was intrigued by the title. For a long time I’ve thought about sacred space, mostly because I moved often. When I think about the spaces now I do think of how I was able to know Christ better in that sacred space of Miami Florida, Garden City, New York, Rome Italy, Immokalee Florida, Bath England and other places. In our parish now, we have a program in which we celebrate Mass in different condo buildings once a month. That common room in the building becomes a forever ‘sacred space’ to all the people who attend the Mass so that every time they walk through the common room they think of that ‘sacred space’.
The format for this book is unique in the way it assists the readers in keeping the spiritual exercises. The spiritual exercises are based on the spirituality of Ignatius of Loyola who calls us to a daily awareness of God. This book provides a daily prayer experience along with ‘Living Space’ which is a reflection on the Scripture of the day used in the Mass. The section called the ‘Chapel of Intentions’ is just that, the reader brings his/her intentions to the exercise. In the section called, ‘Pray with the Pope’ the users of the text are joined to the International Apostleship of Prayer and our Pope Francis who is a Jesuit.
An example of the layout of the exercise, for example, the Transfiguration, starts with a reflection on the profound experiences of God. In this reflection, Fr. Barry pulls three Scriptures together for meditation: Mark 9:2-8 the Transfiguration, as well as the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, Mark!:9 and concluding with Mark 1:10-11 as Jesus comes up out of the water and hears the Spirit say: “You are my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased”. Through this reflection, the author, Fr. Barry asks questions that challenge us to pray through the Scriptures such as: Could Jesus have had doubts about the course he was on? What is Jesus like for you? This reflection is used the entire week. The next section has five major questions for each week that include: the presence of God, freedom, consciousness, the word, conversation and the conclusion. For each of the variables, there is several lines of reflection to ask Jesus’ help in discerning our challenge for this day. These issues are studied each day. Finally, there is a reflection of the Scripture for that day with moments of meditation: “Transfiguration is about Jesus and about us. When we are with Him, we are with the divine. When he is with us, he is with the human. His love, grace, sacraments, peace, and compassion can transfigure us. May I be present in prayer to this light?
Each year the prayer book is compiled for the year. The one I read is for 2017. There are also special short books put out for Advent and Lent. The books (as well as the internet) provide us with prayer and the challenge of living that prayer. I find it a powerful book to use to live my spirituality. The Sacred Space is where Christ points us to live the life in union with Him.