I’ve said before that one of the gifts post-Boomer Catholics are bringing to the Church is a reappropriation of faith traditions that were largely abandoned following the Second Vatican Council. While many of us never experienced the rosary, novenas or Eucharistic adoration as children, we are finding them invaluable practices as we grow into faith-filled adults. That today’s young faithful are rediscovering and embracing these traditions — in the context of their modern lives — completes, in many ways, the promises of ressourcement and aggiornamento that were the hallmarks of the council.
Fr. Phillip Neri Powell‘s new book, Treasures Old and New: Traditional Prayers for Today’s Catholics, sits comfortably within this movement. Consisting of novenas, litanies, a new rosary, a selection of penitential prayers, and short morning and evening prayers, Fr. Powell has produced a prayer book that blends ancient prayer forms with a modern spiritual sensibility. Far from an easy pietism, these prayers both enlighten and challenge the reader to enter more deeply into the teachings of the Church.
Fr. Powell, a Dominican, is especially careful to balance the affective aspects of these traditional prayers with a fidelity to the Church’s theological tradition. Fr. Powell quotes generously from St. Augustine, St. Cyprian, Pope Benedict XVI, and other intellectual giants of the Church. The result is prayers that are “not only devotional, but catechetical as well.”
I was especially intrigued by the Way-Truth-Life Rosary, a scriptural meditation on John 15:5-6. Instead of focusing on Christ’s life, this rosary presents mysteries of his self-revelation. For instance, the “Mysteries of the Life” include
- The Death of Death (Isaiah 25:7-8)
- Exchanging One’s Life (Matthew 16:26)
- Losing One’s Life (John 12:25)
- Sacrificing One’s Life (Mark 10:45)
- Eating from the Tree of Life (Revelation 2:7)
If I had one complaint, it is that only some of the individual prayers have introductions. I enjoyed the background information and would have loved more “behind the scenes” thoughts on the theology of the prayers.
That having been said, Treasures Old and New is a welcome addition to my book shelf and I’m looking forward to two more promised volumes of prayers from Fr. Powell!