Electric Prayer

The Liturgy of the Hours, the Mass, and other things.

November 2020 newsletter

Posted by universalis on 18 November 2020

This is the time of year to be thinking about books. Advent is round the corner, so if you get the annual or semi-annual e-books for the Amazon Kindle or some other e-book reader, now is the time to be getting the next one. Christmas is round the corner, so if you enjoyed last year’s “New Every Day” e-book, or gave it as a present to a friend, now is the time to do something about that.

But before getting on to these I would like to focus on the other “book thing”, because it is new this year. The Daily Books feature was added to the iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) and Windows versions of Universalis a couple of months ago, and now it has come to Android as well. We were a little anxious about it to start with, as with all new features – was this a genuine benefit to everyone, or just a fun thing to program? – but we were reassured by the many emails of appreciation and gratitude. So if you haven’t tried it yet, do.

Daily Books

A spiritual book is not a web page or a novel. You are not meant to read it from beginning to end. When it has said something to you, you need to stop reading and let it soak in. (When a voice says inside your head, “That is wonderful, it will turn my whole world-view upside down. Quick! Start the next chapter!!”, that is Screwtape speaking).

A disciplined person would mark the place, put the book down, and read more next time. An organised person would, having put the book down, remember to pick it up again next time. Most of us are neither of these things, and this is where Universalis comes in. Just as the liturgy divides up scripture into suitable segments, so the Daily Books feature divides a book so that you can read the right amount next time, not too little, not too much.

A range of books are available, and you can see them listed in the app. You will find full details here.

The Daily Books aren’t only daily. At the moment, on my own phone, I have Dom Aelred Watkin’s Resurrection Is Now daily as an add-on to the Spiritual Reading page, and Ronald Knox’s The Mass in Slow Motion once a week, after the readings at Mass on Sundays (when he originally gave these talks, this is how he did them). You will find your own pattern. Try it, and see.

Revelations of Divine Love

This month, as well as announcing that Daily Books is available on Android, we are happy to announce a new book in the Daily Books collection: Revelations of Divine Love, by Julian of Norwich.

“Revelations of Divine Love” is the greatest work of spirituality ever written in English.

When its author, Julian of Norwich (1342-1416), was 30 years old, she received a series of sixteen visions of the Passion of Christ. She spent the next twenty years in meditation on them and in deep study of the theological vistas which they opened up.

“Revelations of Divine Love” is the result. It presents the visions in all their physical detail; it contemplates the joy of the Passion and redemption from sin, the hidden depths of the Incarnation and the Motherhood of Christ. While reaching to the heights of heaven it keeps its feet firmly on the ground. It speaks with simplicity and directness, and it is ideal material for reading as a daily meditation.

The text presented here is our own edition. Julian wrote in English, but in the English of East Anglia 650 years ago. She is a wonderful writer, and rather than homogenising her by translation, we have worked to make her readable by gentle adaptation. The aim has been to preserve Julian’s distinctive voice while removing stumbling-blocks such as words that don’t exist any more, or turns of phrase that no longer mean quite what they did. You can read more about the process in the Introduction to the book.

Revelations of Divine Love takes Julian’s 86 chapters and divides them into 112 instalments, 16 weeks’ worth if you read them daily, so you will have a good long period of daily inspiration out of it. Because it is so stimulating to the imagination, it is the only book I would seriously thinking of reading at the end of Night Prayer: its images and ideas can then do their work as one is falling asleep. Unlike the other books in Daily Books, Revelations of Divine Love does cost money (about £4.99/$4.99) because we have put so much work into it. But it doesn’t cost much, and you can read through a decent-sized free sample before you need to decide whether or not you want to buy it.

New Kindle e-books

Advent is nearly with us, so if you buy the ready-made Universalis e-books from Amazon, for the Kindle, then the old ones have nearly run out. The new season’s e-books are ready now: the Liturgy of the Hours for the half-year from Advent to next Pentecost, and the readings at Mass for a bit more than a year, from Advent to the end of next year. Our catalogue has links to all the available e-books. Of course you don’t need to buy from Amazon: if you have a Universalis registration code, you can make e-books for yourself whenever you want, and it won’t cost you anything. You will find the instructions here.

New Every Day

“New Every Day” is the sort of e-book you will want to keep with you all year, to read or just dip into. Your friends will love it too. It is the perfect present. “New Every Day” has 365 chapters, one for each day of the year. It celebrates not only every day but also a huge number of saints: over 600 of them. There are spiritual readings for every day and for many of the saints of the day. There are biographies of the saints and over 300 illustrations.

The readings come from all periods, from the early 2nd century to the end of the 20th. Some of the authors are famous, like St Augustine. Some are great orators, like St Leo the Great. About others, nothing at all is known, like the anonymous ancient author (11 April) who imagines Jesus going down into the underworld and meeting Adam face to face. There are readings by the saints and readings about them. St Peter Claver (9 September) describes the arrival of a slave ship in Colombia and what has to be done for its passengers. Mr Masten, Protestant chaplain of Newgate prison, writes (23 June) about the last night and morning of the martyr St Thomas Garnet: “I never saw him so full of life, and almost miraculous cheerfulness”. St Thérèse of Lisieux (1 October) lays out her unique spirituality, which changed our notions of sainthood for ever and led her to be acclaimed as a Doctor of the Church.

If you are familiar with the Office of Readings: the readings in “New Every Day” are taken from the Second Readings for every day. But not just the ones you would see if you celebrated that hour today. All the possible readings for today are included in today’s chapter, including readings from all over the world, wherever we have the data in our database. For instance, you would never normally see Mr Masten’s story about St Thomas Garnet unless you lived in Arundel diocese, in southern England.

“New Every Day” is not a prayer-book. This is actually a good thing. A prayer-book is rather like a gym subscription – it carries a feeling of obligation with it; and, if you give it to someone as a present, there is more than a hint that you’ll be asking them how the exercise programme is going!

“New Every Day” is more human and delightful than that. It is a treasury of spiritual uplift and refreshment. You can dip into it most days, or look through and explore whenever you need it, or just feel like it.

And your friends and family will love it as well.

“New Every Day” is available as an e-book in Kindle and ePub formats. Read all about the book, and how to buy it from the Amazon Kindle Store and Apple Books.

App updates

To see the Daily Books, you need the latest version of the apps and programs. Updates are (or should be) automatic on Android and iOS, while on the Mac and on Windows, the Universalis program checks for updates from time to time and lets you know when one is available. In case any of this doesn’t happen, we have instructions for updating manually here.

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