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Death On A Friday Afternoon

Friday Book Pick: Death on a Friday Afternoon: Meditations on the Last Words of Jesus From the Cross by Richard John Neuhaus

As promised, this week I am back to books. Today’s book pick is one you might consider getting a good ol’ fashioned sewn copy of rather than an e-version for your Kindle. Death on a Friday Afternoon is the type of book you might be inclined to use for spiritual reading between now and Easter, and again in future Lents.

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus was a Lutheran Pastor who entered the Catholic Church September 8, 1990, after which he was ordained a Catholic priest by Cardinal O’Connor that same year. He would go on to serve as a priest of the Archdiocese of New York until his death from cancer in 2012, at the age of 72.

His name is one familiar to Catholics and Protestants alike, and also to political conservatives, bioethicists, and to anyone who was paying attention to intellectual political discourse in the 90’s and the first decade of this millennium. Aside from his fascinating achievements as advisor to President George W. Bush, founder of the Institute on Religion and Public Life, founder of First Things magazine, minister and advocate for the poor (especially when he was a Lutheran pastor in Brooklyn), and an unflinching voice for the unborn, Fr. Neuhaus was also a spiritual writer of unusual skill.

Some books you read for the content, regardless of the quality of the writing. Conversely I suppose, some books are read and remembered because they are penned by a gifted wordsmith. But when you find a book of intelligent and deep theological content, articulated with a honed skill for word craft, you might have the makings of a classic. In Father Neuhaus’s reflections on Jesus’ last words, I think we have the makings of a classic.

Using the dying words of Jesus: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do;” “Truly I say to you, today you will be with in paradise;” “Woman behold your son. Son Behold your mother;” “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” “I thirst;” “It is finished;'' and “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit;” Fr. Neuhaus takes his readers on an intellectual, spiritual journey to the cross—a journey made possible because our guide knows the way. Neuhaus writes with the kind of authority of one who has grappled and questioned, reasoned and studied, suffered and prayed.

Each “word” from the cross is a meditation unto itself, and Fr. Neuhaus devotes one chapter for each word—and one is more than enough for a day or even a week. He offers food for the mind and heart, and he leads us to approach our crucified Jesus with a mind filled with light and a heart filled with love.

Mother Clare, CFR

“Good Friday is the drama of the love by which our every day is sustained.”

-John Richard Neuhaus



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