Composer: Francis Poulenc
Venue: Royal Opera House, London
Date: June 2014

There are very few operas for adults and this, along with Janacek’s Makropulos Case and maybe a dozen others, is one of them. By ‘opera for adults’, I mean that the libretto is actually meaningful and worth pondering in its own right, quite aside from the music and dramaturgy. Carmelites is also probably the most Catholic of all operas and Poulenc wrote both the libretto (with Emmet Lavery) as well as the score between 1953 and 1956 after he had recommitted himself to Roman Catholicism. This even though at the time he had a young man, Lucien Roubert, as his lover. Poulenc was admitted to a psychiatric clinic for a while in 1954, many sources attributing this to conflicts over his faith and his feelings for Lucien. By a strange coincidence, Roubert was dying at the same time as Poulenc was composing the Carmelites – a work with tensions concerning death and martyrdom for one’s faith at its core.

This acclaimed production by Robert Carsen was already well-travelled before its long-awaited arrival at the Royal Opera House this summer; one can see how Carsen’s spare, even spartan style suits the work so well and why it has become so popular amongst critics and opera lovers alike.

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September/October 2014

Author: Philip H. Cattermole
ISBN: 978 1780883 380
Date: 2014
Price: £19.99 RRP
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Publisher: Matador

John Lingard (1771-1851) is an attractive figure. The son of a carpenter, he trained for the priesthood at Douai and was one of the founding professors at Ushaw (1808-11) but he experienced, as he confessed to a friend ‘anxiety and misery’ there. At precisely the mid-point of his life, in 1811, he began a forty-year ministry as gentle pastor in the upper Pennine village of Hornby (where his library can still be seen, in his old presbytery). He liked simple liturgy, and prepared books of English prayers for his parishioners to use, and in Holy Week he allowed a member of his congregation to read the Passion Narrative in English as he read it quietly in Latin, and he complained of other clergy ‘performing as the first dancer in a ballet’.

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September/October 2014

Irish Episcopal Conference
ISBN 978-1-84730-409-4
Date: 2014
Price: 24.99 Euros RRP
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Publisher: Veritas Publications, Dublin

When he promulgated the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) in 1992, Pope St John Paul II expressed the view that ‘the Catechism of the Catholic Church is meant to encourage and assist in the writing of new local catechisms’. This would be desirable so as to ‘take into account various situations and cultures’ (Fidei Depositum).

In practice, few local churches have done this. One exception was the United States of America, whose bishops produced the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults in 2006.

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September/October 2014

Author: Peter S. Williams
ISBN: 978-1842278118
Date: 2013
Price: £13.99 RRP
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Publisher: Paternoster Press

It is not often these days I read a non-fiction book and rave about it. This book however is simply brilliant and as far as I know, a complete original – the first UK textbook to offer an introduction to philosophy from a Christian perspective, though there have been Christians, notably Colin Brown, who have covered the history of Western philosophical thought in their writings.

Williams’ sweep in the one volume is vast – logic, metaphysics, ethics, aesthetics and philosophy of mind are all explored in varying depths – but never shallow, whilst still leaving space to look at freedom and responsibility, aspects of science and religion and the problem of evil.

It is a real tour de force, combining conciseness with crystal clarity and yet avoiding superficiality. This makes it suitable for a wide spectrum of readers from first timers who want to get to grips with basic concepts of philosophy, right through to postgraduate students looking for further resources on some very complex topics.

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September/October 2014

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