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Unlocking and opening hearts to Jesus Christ

By Daniel J OíLeary, Columba Press 2014 (paperback)

Reviewed by Br Brian Grenier CFC 

Leader (O'Leary 2014)IRISH-born Father Daniel J O’Leary, a priest of the Diocese of Leeds, has exercised his priestly ministry in parishes and academia for more than fifty years.

The award-winning author of thirteen books and a frequent contributor to The Tablet and The Furrow, he continues to be much in demand as a speaker at conferences and retreats in the United Kingdom and beyond.

His latest work, Treasured and Transformed, the front cover of which is evocative of Jesus’ parable about the pearl of great price, was published in 2014 and is already in its third printing.

In keeping with its subtitle, the book is divided into two unequal parts, headed respectively ‘Vision for the Heart’ and ‘Understanding for the Mind’.

Part One collects 24 essays, most of which first appeared in The Tablet (2010-2014); and Part Two presents both rewritten extracts from earlier books and new material. Each essay is headed with a summary observation that we might call a ‘focus statement’.

Addressing his prospective readers, Fr O’Leary states: “The thrust of the book is to open your hearts to an astonishing understanding of the implications of the Incarnation for your daily lives.”

In this connection he draws to our attention the experience of the Rhineland mystic, Mechtild of Magdeburg: “The day of my spiritual awakening was the day I saw—and knew I saw—all things in God and God in all things.”

Referring frequently to real life situations, the author invites us to exercise our “sacramental imagination” so that we might “see God in the everyday, the divine in the worldly, the transcendent in the ordinary”.

Only thus may we recognise the deeper reality of things and ‘understand something of the beautiful mystery of the Incarnation’.

The breadth and depth of Fr O’Leary’s own reading is evident in the many quotations he uses from a wide range of authors, secular and religious, to illustrate or support his own insights. Like the mystics, he is well aware of the special contribution of the great poets in rendering the invisible visible.

In Part Two I especially liked his reflections on liturgy and the sacraments, which clearly relate to the basic thrust of the book.

“Before liturgy can be an explicit experience of God, daily life must be an explicit experience of God.”

“The first step towards a deeper understanding of sacraments is to see them in the context of a world already permeated and filled with God’s presence.”

As a grateful reader of Fr O’Leary’s writings over many years, I warmly recommend Treasured and Transformed, especially to those who have yet to make his acquaintance.

For anyone already familiar with his works, no recommendation is necessary.

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