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Wednesday, 3 November 2021

Alert, Aware, Attentive - John Cullen - Advent Reflections

Alert, Aware, Attentive:
Advent Reflections
John Cullen
ISBN 9781788122887
eISBN 9781788122894
eISBN 9781788122900
ASIN B08FMB4RBP


This is the sixth book published by Messenger Publications that I have read this year. The first I read was, Saint Ignatius of Loyola: A Convert's Story by Patrick Corkery SJ, and this was one of 4 I picked up while writing and researching for the review of that one. I decided to read this so I could review it to promote it prior to advent. I actually picked up 2 different books from Messenger Publications for Advent, this one and Waiting in Joy An Advent Journey by John Scally. I have mixed feeling about this volume. And I will get to the reasons shortly. But first, the description of this booklet is:

“We often find it hard to believe that we have a unique voice. Advent begins with a voice crying in the wilderness. Every voice matters – especially voices in the wilderness that are stifled and silenced by alienation and apathy. This book dares you to take the time to listen to Advent voices in the wilderness that persist with calls to be heard and respected.”

And the chapters in the book are:

Introduction
First Sunday Of Advent
Monday Of The First Week Of Advent: Feast Of Saint Andrew
Tuesday Of The First Week Of Advent
Wednesday Of The First Week Of Advent
Thursday Of The First Week Of Advent
Friday Of The First Week Of Advent
Saturday Of The First Week Of Advent
Second Sunday Of Advent
Monday Of The Second Week Of Advent
Tuesday Of The Second Week Of Advent
Wednesday Of The Second Week Of Advent
Thursday Of The Second Week Of Advent
Friday Of The Second Week Of Advent
Saturday Of The Second Week Of Advent
Third Sunday Of Advent
Monday Of The Third Week Of Advent
Tuesday Of The Third Week Of Advent
Wednesday Of The Third Week Of Advent
17 December
18 December
19 December
20 December: Fourth Sunday Of Advent
21 December
22 December
23 December
24 December
25 December: Christmas Day
Appendix
Epilogue

First the Good:
There are some excellent devotions in this collection. There are some wonderful Jewish references and quotes. One of the best pieces was about the Jewish-American violinist Itzhak Perlman.

The Bad:
The book is written for a specific calendar year. Though nothing in the description mentions that. Not the end of the world you can do some shifting and depending on the year may miss a day or two.

The Ugly:
There were some very questionable sources and quotes in the volume. Having read Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes I find the reference to it here a great strain form the source material. And a quote from Greta Thunberg almost caused me to add the book to my ‘Did Not Finish’ list. I also find the section on the Koran and Mary completely out of place, and does an injustice to both what Muslims and Catholics believe about Mary and Christ Jesus.

The end of the introduction states:

“These Advent reflections help us to celebrate the truth of ‘God-with-us’, who, despite the lurking questions in the playground of our hearts, invites us in the words of the gospel ‘to listen, to know and to follow’ (John 10:27).”

I feel it does not live up to that. I pick a few Advent and Lenten resources each year. Some I know are written for a specific year and others I have used a few times up to over 20 times. I am uncertain I will even return to this one and read it this Advent. I feel that this volume tried to have so broad an appeal it lost the target audience. And I hope I will have greater success with the other I have already picked up. 

I loved the 4 biographies I have read from Messenger Publications, and have a few others I have picked up including 2 for advent. But this is a book I am not certain I can recommend.  (On a side note I have since read Cullen's Stations of the Cross and loved it.) I was underwhelmed by this one at best, and disappointed at worst. Waiting in Joy: An Advent Journey by John Scally has more than made up for it.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2021 Catholic Reading Plan! For all review of Messenger Publications books and booklets click here

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