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Book Review

Brother Ramon SSF
When they crucified my Lord
ISBN 1841010243

BRF, London, 1999, £6.99
(price at publication of review)

Reviewed January 2000; © Copyright, The Society of Saint Francis, 1999

Lent may be late in coming this year but Brother Ramon has already given it very thorough and serious thought! His second Lent Book written for the Bible Reading Fellowship offers a resourceful scheme of daily readings focussed on the characters of the Passion, ending in the seven words from the Cross during Holy Week itself.

With printed-out daily readings, Ramon draws the reader, with earthy illustrations, into the closer presence of the loving Christ until there is indeed trembling within the soul. Were you there? is the question, and he takes responsibility for guiding the persuaded on-looker to enter the central mysteries of Christian faith. As Jesus needed ‘to plumb the lowest depths of human need and dereliction before the miracle could be accomplished within (the disciple),’ so we are invited to allow the Cross to draw us in to communion with Christ.

Like his first Lent book, The Way of Love (1994), Ramon again asks that the reader gives an hour each day for time to absorb the daily readings and with a suggested prayer and reflection offered at the end. The content of his commentary is both very readable and instructive. In his inimitable and free-flowing style we journey with him through events of his own personal journey, as a child in South Wales, as he discovers aspects of God’s call to him, and as he expresses his yearnings to proclaim a Gospel for life today. For those with opportunity to add the dimension of a group study, there is provision in the appendix for seven meetings before Easter Day.

This is Ramon at his best: colourful, anecdotal, systematic, rich in content, born out of a profound life of prayer and mystery, soaked in the mystery of the crucified Lord who seeks to burst into life within his people. Were you there? I want to be!

Damian SSF

Brother Ramon SSF
A Month with Saint Francis

ISBN 0281052727

SPCK, London, 1999, £7.99

Reviewed January 2000; © Copyright, The Society of Saint Francis, 1999

Yet again Brother Ramon has used his many gifts and wide experience in bringing alive the life and inspiration of Saint Francis of Assisi.

Through meditation and reflection, Ramon opens up the life of the Saint, covering aspects of Francis’ life and ministry, the City of Assisi itself, the earthquake of September 1997 and leading us on into a new millennium.

Set out in an easy-to-read form with simple, yet beautiful line drawings by Molly Dowell, and with instructions on how to use each day’s offering, we are drawn to explore our own Christian life and witness through the example of Francis of Assisi.

In a style of writing that many find helpful, Ramon uses his wise thoughts and guidance to open up our own minds and then, with a gentle push, he helps us to explore our own thoughts and feelings, so making the reflection as personal as is our relationship with the Lord he is trying to help us understand.

The book has been described as a perfect gift and would be as useful to someone beginning their Franciscan exploration as well as to someone who is already well on their journey with Francis.

Jason SSF

Br Ramon SSF & Simon Barrington-Ward

Praying the Jesus Prayer Together

ISBN 1-84101-147-9

BRF, London, 2001, £6.99

(price at publication of review)

Reviewed September 2002;
© Copyright, The Society of Saint Francis, 2002

‘That is my half of the book,’ [Ramon] said, ‘I hope you won’t mind, but I’ve finished it and it’s complete, just waiting for your half!  You see, I was in a bit of a hurry!’  Ramon completed his part of this book during a ‘kind of plateau’ of improved health and physical strength prior to his death from cancer in June 2000, and Bishop Simon completed the project later.  I had eagerly awaited the publication of their book, although when I first held a copy in my hand I realised that I wasn’t quite sure exactly what kind of work it was.  In places it is the kind of systematic teaching on the Jesus Prayer I had expected, with a chapter for instance by both authors on the biblical basis, and another from Ramon of practical ‘how to do it’ teaching.  The book doesn’t start there though, because it really is what the title implies: a description of life in its ups and downs, and spiritual friendship, based in the practice together of this simple yet profound way of prayer.  It is not really surprising, then, that both authors provide touching reflections on their different experiences of Ramon’s illness and death – and surely it is forgivable in the circumstances that the text as a whole felt just a little disjointed.   We read, too, how others have been drawn together in this way of prayer through the ministry of ‘the bishop and the hermit’.

For me, perhaps the most moving chapter was the final one.  Here Bishop Simon describes how the Orthodox monastery in Essex, where both he and Ramon had learned so much, was founded by the Russian Archimandrite Sophrony (who died in 1993), who in his turn had found a spiritual guide in Saint Silouan, at that time (1930) a relatively obscure monk of Mount Athos.  That final chapter is about so much more, but I was moved by the sense of being able to share in the wisdom of the Desert Fathers, passed on from person to person through the centuries to our own day.  This did prove to be a book that helped me to pray.

Desmond Alban SSF



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