Thursday 1 December 2022

Insights - Peter Haverty

Peter Haverty
ISBN 9781955809177
eISBN 9781955809184

This book came highly recommended to me. I am not sure if I read a review or someone reading it mentioned it. I admit the book was a bit of a struggle for me. It took some real effort to not have it end up on my ‘did not finish’ pile. I am not sure if it is the style or the content but I had to work at this book. The description of the volume is:

“My first attempt at writing was based on the fact that I had collected over the years about 500 quotations from Catholic spiritual authors and I selected about 20 of these which I classified as "Insights". I printed them off in a hurry because I thought I was going to die in an impending operation. For a long time while preaching I had decided that to win a hearing from the congregation any discourse needs an arresting mother-idea or insight.

On recovering, I thought I could make it into a decent-sized book by adding on some 20 meditations on the topics following the sequence I use for a retreat. This part constitutes Part Two of the present proposed book.

The style of English corresponds, I suppose to what was current in the 1950's. Although over the years I have tended to preach in a controversial way.”

The sections and chapters in the book are:

More Insights
Original Sin
Transcendental Order

Part I
Chapter 1 God
Chapter 2 Jesus Christ
Chapter 3

Part II
First Step: Creation And Fall
The Devil’s Temptation Of Eve
Consequences Of The Fall
Effect Of The Consequences Of Original Sin
God’s Plan Of Redemption
The Narrow Gate
Divine Filiation
Hope Of Becoming Saints
Sin And Lukewarmness
The Last Things
The Last Supper: The New Commandment
The Passion And Death Of Our Lord Jesus Christ
The Glorious Resurrection Of Our Lord Jesus Christ
The Ascension Of Our Lord And The Coming Of The Holy Spirit
Suggestion For New Back Outer Cover Words

We are informed that:

“This edition is an expansion of the original booklet of ‘Insights’ produced in 2006, consisting of a collection of philosophical observations of the basic tenets of Christianity. These additional reflections are intended to provide the basis for meditations which could be used as the background to a retreat.”

And about the author:

“Peter Haverty joined Opus Dei in 1955 having previously been a student in the Men’s Residence, ‘Netherhall’, in London. He studied Chemical Engineering at Imperial College followed by a Graduate Apprenticeship and qualified as a Mechanical Engineer in 1957. 

In 1985, he went to Rome and attended the Lateran University obtaining his doctorate in Philosophy in 1961. During this period, he lived in the Opus Dei Headquarters in Rome, frequently meeting the Founder, St Josemaría Escrivá.

Fr Haverty was ordained by Blessed José María García Lahiguera on 5th August 1962. 

After spending a further year in Spain, he returned to England where his priestly and pastoral ministry has been carried on in London and latterly in Manchester where he how resides.”

A sample insight is:

In the Gospel of St Matthew, it says ‘Make your way in by the narrow gate. It is a broad gate and a wide road that leads to perdition, and those who go in that way are many indeed; but how small is the gate, how narrow the road that leads on to life, and how few there are that find it!’ (Mt 7:13).

These words give us a lot of food for thought. Of course, it leads to a great deal of speculation about how many will be saved; a number which I am sure Our Lord would say is known only by His Father. When we look around us today and see the sins being committed and very serious sins, so many abortions, so much overt sexuality, hedonism is rife, and abuse of children, which Our Lord said would be punished by tying a millstone round the neck of the perpetrators. The mind boggles; and yet on the other hand we know how loving and forgiving Our Lord is, and how many come back to Him with repentance. A few years ago, we celebrated the Jubilee Year of Divine Mercy and the Pope spoke a great deal about it. Pope St John Paul II wrote his second Encyclical about Mercy in ‘Dives in Misericordia’. This in turn was quite probably inspired by the communications of St Faustina Kowalska about this time of mercy in the life of the Church. Saint Josemaría was quite probably influenced by another holy nun, Madre Esperanza del Amor Misericordioso (Alhama Valero), foundress of the Slaves of Merciful Love, and promoter of the devotion to the Merciful Love of Jesus. Her Congregation was approved by the Sacred Congregation of Religious in 1949 and received the Decretum Laudis in 1970. She constructed the Shrine of Merciful Love in Collevalenza, which was visited by Pope St John Paul II in 1981. All of which leads us to take a more optimistic view of the outcome of those to be judged on departing this life.

But now, what do we reckon is this narrow gate? Briefly, I think it means the pains and sufferings of this present life. St John of the Cross says quite simply that it is the Cross of Our Lord. I feel sure he is not using the words of the precious Gospel just that we can amuse ourselves speculating about how many will go to heaven and how many will go to hell. It is, in effect, a complete waste of time for us to bother our heads about that. He is teaching us, as usual, about a very practical thing which is our attitude once more in approaching our spiritual life. In this case, our approach to the trials, difficulties and sufferings of life because, so frequently, we shy away from them and choose the easy way out. No matter who we are, rich or poor, no matter what age we are, young or old, we all have to suffer. In the Book of Genesis, after the Fall, the dire predictions of God, as a consequence of sin, are directed to the human race universally, without any exceptions whatsoever. God subjects each one of us to trials or tests of our faith and trust in Him. Are we going to be like our first parents, or are we going to be like our Saviour Jesus Christ, and His loving Mother Mary who is our Mother too? Adam and Eve failed and disobeyed God, Jesus and Mary overcame all the difficulties and came through triumphant.

We have to acknowledge that there is a difference between Jesus and us. He is God after all, but it is also true that He fought the good fight in His human nature. And, if we want take an example of someone who has only a human nature and is not God, we have Our Lady. Then, again, we have a whole army of Saints in Heaven who are a wonderful example for us and who were exactly the same as we are in every respect and quite a number of them followed a path which was leading to perdition until they came to their senses and repented of their foolish and evil ways. In this, as always, we have to choose which way we are going to travel the path of life. When Our Lord says ‘make your way in the narrow gate’, he is in effect saying: ‘embrace the Cross’. It is what He said on another occasion: ‘if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me’ (Lk 9:23). But will we?

One of our problems is self-pity. The cross comes in the shape of a great pile of work which tires us out. Or it could be we receive some very sad news which makes us depressed. Somebody we were relying on to help us in our work and other difficulties leaves us abandoned. And what do we say? We say I have suffered enough and switch on the television, or pick up the newspaper, and avoid the cross.

In my opinion, this has a great deal to do with surprise. It seems to us that the extra amount of work which we weren’t expecting is like the last straw which broke the camel’s back, it is too much. Now this, in turn, is because of our failure to be prepared.

Our Lord gives us all these sayings and recommendations in the Holy Gospel and on top of that presents us with Himself, a portrait in pain, on the Cross, in the hope that the message will penetrate - we have to embrace His Holy Cross, so that when the time comes we will accept it generously. In other words, we have to cultivate in our hearts a love of the Holy Cross of Jesus. St Josemaría was well aware of this and encouraged us to meditate on the Cross. There is that interesting point in The Way which speaks about the cross without its crucified:

‘When you see a poor wooden Cross, alone, uncared for and of no value... and without its Crucified, don’t forget that that Cross is your Cross: the Cross of each day, the hidden Cross, without splendour or consolation..., which is awaiting the Crucified it lacks: and that Crucified must be you’. (The Way, no. 178)

St Josemaría, as we know, had a Cross without a figure on it, placed at the entrance of the oratories of the centres of Opus Dei to remind people of this. In addition, as we know, also in the early days of his ministry with young people he came in contact with, he would insist that they carry a crucifix around with them. When he attended his first circle (a ‘circle’ is a class of spiritual and doctrinal formation which Opus Dei offers to people) in Barcelona in 1939, Rafael Termes tells of how St Josemaría asked him if he had a crucifix and when he said he hadn’t, St Josemaría said to Isidoro, one of the first members of Opus Dei (I think it was Isidoro Zorzano who accompanied him on that occasion) ‘you give your crucifix to Rafael, we can get another one for you when we get back to Madrid’. This tells how much it meant to St Josemaría that we all have a crucifix with us all the time. In this way also we are able to kiss it when things get hard. And what is the idea of all this? Well, to be prepared of course, for when we reject the Cross, that is, fail to enter through the narrow gate. That’s because the difficulties, the bereavement, the financial loss, the extra burden of work, came upon us all of a sudden. We were taken by surprise and reacted primo primi with an instinctive, animal-like reaction, and threw it away. The opportunity was lost. One of the things I learnt in hospital was that just as the joys and the perks of life come and go very quickly, so do the pains and sorrows. And what happens is that we miss out on golden opportunities to offer sacrifices to God. No sooner does the pain begin, then it disappears. I am not saying that things like arthritis, sciatica or lumbago, disappear quickly, but most set-backs, sorrows and disappointments do. This means that in our nightly moment of examination of conscience it is sometimes a good idea to look back over the day and ask ourselves about the difficulties and pains of the day to find out if we offered them up. They are like caresses from Our Lord. On the day Pope St John Paul II was shot, and he was in hospital, Blessed Alvaro went to visit him and said to the Pope, that he considered the incident had been like a caress from Our Lady, and the Pope said, ‘that was just what I was thinking myself’!

When we mention St John Paul II, it brings to mind his total acceptance of the Cross in his final illness when he was afflicted with Parkinson’s disease and accepted all the discomfort and pains that went with it. What was it that enabled him to accept it all? I am sure that it was voluntary mortification which he practised throughout his long life. A lot of people know, but for those who don’t, it helps to remember one of his first trips abroad to the Philippines. It happened that in the convent he was to stay they needed extra staff to help the nuns to prepare things for the Holy Father and the entourage. Well, I have it on good authority that a number of women members of Opus Dei were brought in to help out and because they had not had time to clean the whole house, they thought they would leave the chapel to the end when everybody has gone to bed. But when they went back to the chapel at midnight, they found the Pope on the floor of the chapel with his arms outstretched, praying! And this was after a long and tiring flight across the world. Of course, I am not suggesting you or I take these extreme measures, but we can at least take note, make some examination of how ready we are for sacrifice and mortification in imitation of Our Lord and his Saints.”

These insights are intended that they can be used for retreat. Maybe delivered as talks my experience would have been different. There is some excellent material in these Insights. But I struggled with read the book. The material is more than worth the effort and I can easily recommend the book.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan

Books by Peter Haverty:
Only God Can Be Proved To Exist By Reason

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