An unusually thoughtful and literate book of meditations for the season
A Season of Rebirth: Daily Meditations for Lent. By Marc Foley. New City Press, 160 pp., $12.95, paperback.
By Janice Harayda
You might think of this thoughtful guide as “the serious reader’s book of meditations for Lent.” A Season of Rebirth follows the traditional format of small paperbacks that offer daily meditations for Lent: Each entry begins by citing a Bible verse for the day in a year in the three-year rotation of readings used in Christian churches (known as Lectionary Cycles A, B, and C).
What sets this book apart is that Marc Foley takes as a springboard for his reflections an exceptionally wide range of literary and other references, including many books, plays, and poems. In different entries he comments intelligently on Dante, Shakespeare, Woody Allen, Robert Coles, R.D. Laing, William Blake, Ernest Hemingway, Somerset Maugham, Flannery O’Connor, J.R.R. Tolkien and others, with all sources identified in end notes. This breadth of erudition makes A Season of Rebirth valuable not just for its Lenten meditations but as a guide to further reading in any season.
Best line: Foley is particularly good at explaining difficult verses such as Matthew 5:43–48 (“You must be perfect …”), sometimes taken to mean that people should strive for an unrealistic – and even neurotic – perfection. He writes: “Jesus is not telling us that we have to measure up to God; rather, we are called to be like God in a particular way – our charity should be indiscriminate. Our charity should be like the sun, which rises on the good and bad alike or the rain that falls upon the just and unjust.”
Worst line: None. Not everyone will agree with Foley’s views on Allan Bloom and some of his other sources, but he makes his points even-handedly.
Consider reading also: Living Things: Collected Poems (Zoland, 2006), by Anne Porter, with a foreword by David Shapiro, back in stores after having been hard to get for a while. In his introduction, Shapiro suggests that Porter is “perhaps the greatest living Catholic or religious poet.” And while many people would argue that the distinction belongs to the Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney, this is unquestionably one of the best recent volumes in which many poems deal with topics or themes that are especially appropriate during Lent. Living Things includes both new work and all the poems collected in An Altogether Different Language, a finalist for the National Book Award. Among the poems in the book: “An Easter Lily,” “In Holy Week,” and “After Psalm 137” (first published in Commonweal).
Caveat lector: This review was based on the advance readers’ edition. Some material in the final book may differ slightly.
Published: January 2007
© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.