Monday 1 October 2018

Footprints of the Northern Saints - Basil Cardinal Hume

Footprints of the Northern Saints
Basil Cardinal Hume
Darton, Longman & Todd
ISBN 9780232521528


I stumbled across this book by chance. I had heard the names Basil Hume, but could not tell you anything about him. But the Catholic Truth Society Book Shop Blog has this book on a list about English Pilgrim Reading. I am very thankful that I did pick the book up. The book is part history or place, part history or people, and part personal story. Basil Hume, was a Benedictine monk, a priest, and eventually an Archbishop and Cardinal. This books was written as a look back, a look at the day it was written and to be honest has an important message for us today. In the preface Hume states:

"This is not a book by a professional historian. It is the work of an enthusiast for the north-east of England and for the saints of that area. I was pleased to be invited, and indeed privileged too, to take part in a television broadcast on Channel 4 entitled 'Return of the Saints'. The test of this book is in the main, though not entirely, from that broadcast.

This is not literary gem either. The spoken word looks clumsy, even crude, on the pages of a book. But I trust that what we have here will whet the reader's appetite to learn more about a subject and a period of history that is rich in interest ad not, in my view, irrelevant in our day. Saints from all ages have something to say to us - their lives speak eloquently of God. We can be more touched by contact with holy people than by any number of sermons. At least I have found it so."

And to be frank, this is an incredible little read. It spans the history of the merging of Celtic and Roman traditions within the church in northern England. It contains stories of many saints, kings, and holy men and women. And it is an easy read. Anyone from middle grade on could read the text. But what I found while reading, was I often paused to pray or reflect. There was much that Hume wrote about his own work as a Bishop, and the roles and responsibilities of bishops that is much needed today 20 years after the book was first published.

The chapters in this book are:

Illustrations (A Table)
The Arrival of the Saints
The Synod of Whitby
Theodore of Tarsus
Benedict Biscop
The Return of the Saints

Hume beings the book with these words:

"What is life all about?
What are we here for?
Where is it all leading?
What Happens after death?

These are questions which haunt people in our day. The early northern saints brought answers to these questions and those answers are as relevant today as they were in their time."

There are 19 full color photos in this book, and considering the book comes in at 95 pages in length the pictures are 20 percent of the book. The only frustrating things is the pictures are a mix of portrait and landscape, they are all full page so if you are reading it, in a tight space, like on a bus, you keep having to shift to flip the book to see the landscape images. And the illustrations are of runions, places or historic sites. A few with Basil in the foreground. Other than that the only other thing I could complain about is that there is no electronic edition. I tend not to keep physical books, but this one is a keeper. Though I will likely pick up a second copy to keep as a landing copy.

As someone who has an interest in saints in general, and Celtic saints specifically, this book was a wonderful little read. I read it in a single sitting and will likely go back and reread it again or read it with my son. I was familiar with many of the saints he mentions, though not all. And likewise, places. But one of the most powerful aspects of the book was Hume's own reflections on his life and ministry. Towards the end of the book he states:

"I doubt weather many bishops thing that they are equal to the task. I have a feeling that if they think they are, then they should not be bishops. I spend quite a lot of my life worrying because I am neglecting some part of my ministry. It is impossible to do so adequately all that we are called to do, and I suspect that most bishops find that. a bishop's main responsibility is the care of priests and people. In a very large or busy diocese, it is difficult to be available in the way that we should be."

And excellent read that am thankful I stumbled across. Now to pursue some of the other on that list that brought this one to my attention. But those will be future reviews.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2018 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by Basil Cardinal Hume:
A Turning to God
Basil in Blunderland
Cardinal Basil Hume: In My Own Words
Cardinal Hume: A Spiritual Companion
Catholic Education: Transforming the World
Consider Your Call
Footprints of the Northern Saints
Hope from the Cross
In Praise of Benedict
Light In The Lord: Reflections On Priesthood
One in Christ
Remaking Europe the Gospel in a Divided Continent
Searching for God
Seven Last Words
The Intentional Life: Making of a Spiritual Vocation
The Mystery of Love
The Mystery of The Cross
The Mystery of the Incarnation
To Be a Pilgrim: A Spiritual Notebook
Credo: A Catholic Catechism

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