Each month, a deceptively simple envelope arrives from Belgium. Hidden behind its plain exterior lies one of the riches of Catholic publishing, Magnificat. Physically, the book doesn’t promise a great deal. At 4.4″ x 6.6″ and 476 pages, it fits comfortably in my jacket pocket. Weighing only 178 grams, it is light enough to hold in one hand for an extended period. And hold it I do, three times a day.
It would be fair to describe Magnificat as seductive. The seduction begins with the beauty of art. Each month, two artworks are featured. A brief essay comments on the cover art, and an extended essay explores the masterpiece reproduced near the end of the book. In the May 2015 issue, the cover reproduces Adoration by Giuseppe Magni (1869-1956) and the featured artwork is The Ascension of Christ, a terracotta sculpture crafted by Luca della Robbia in 1446 in Florence.
Each day, Magnificat leads the reader through morning prayer, the daily Mass readings and evening prayer. Taking May 1, the Feast of St Joseph, as an example, the reader would encounter:
- John 14:2, “There are many rooms in my Father’s house….”
- Psalm 131, “O Lord, remember David and all the hardships he endured…”
- Revelation 21:3, “…his name is God-with-them.”
- The Canticle of Zechariah (Lk 1:68-79) “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel! He has visited his people and redeemed them….”
- General intercessions: “You have chosen us as your resting place for ever: grant us peace in your presence.”
- Acts 13:26-33, “…this message of salvation is meant for you.”
- Psalm 2: “The Lord said to me: ‘You are my Son. It is I who have begotten you this day.'”
- John 14:1-6, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God still, and trust in me.”
- Meditation of the Day: a brief essay, “United with Saint Joseph the Worker” by Anthony Esolen.
- Matthew 6:20-21, “Store up treasures for yourselves in heaven….”
- Psalm 48, “Why should I fear in evil days the malice of the foes who surround me.”
- 1 Peter 1:17-21, “If you are acknowledging as your Father one who has no favourites….”
- The Magnificat, Lk 1:46-55, “My soul glorifies the Lord….”
- A brief essay on saints who were physically disabled.
- A two-page essay about Sister Ida Peterfy
During May, one would encounter 46 of the Psalms, various essays and a close reading of the Gospel for the sixth Sunday of Easter. The saints one would meet include St Gilbert of Sempringham (died 1189), St Charles Borromeo (died 1584), St Bede the Venerable (died 735) among many others. Meditations are drawn from St Alphonsus Liguori, Willa Cather, St Catherine of Siena, Pope Francis, Pope Benedict XVI, St Philip Neri, St Symeon the New Theologian and twenty-five other writers.
For those who wonder about our Latin heritage, the Kyrie, Gloria and Creed are provided in Latin and English.
A short note about the versions. Magnificat in English is available in an American and an International English version. The American version uses the New American Bible while the International version uses the Jerusalem Bible. Since the Canadian lectionary is based on the NRSV translation, I felt free to indulge myself and choose the version which includes “Glory be to the Father…” in the formula I grew up with. If you recognize the reference, you would probably make the same choice.
Magnificat is also available in French and Spanish versions. A subscription to the printed edition includes access to the online version. A iOS app is also available on the rare occasions when the book is not close at hand.