Monday, April 13, 2009

The Classics of Catholic Spirituality

As part of a course I am teaching to deacon aspirants for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, I am using the book called The Classics of Catholic Spirituality, by Peter John Cameron, O.P. (New York: Alba House, 1996). The book consists of fourteen brief chapters on the great spiritual classics of the past 1600 years, beginning with St. Augustine's Confessions, and ending with Story of a Soul, by St. Therese of Lisieux. Among the works covered are The Cloud of Unknowing, The Little Flowers of St. Francis, The Revelations of Divine Love, by Julian of Norwich, Dialogues, by St. Catherine of Siena, The Imitation of Christ, Spiritual Exercises, by St. Ignatius of Loyola, The Ascent of Mount Carmel, Interior Castle, Introduction to the Devout Life, The Practice of the Presence of God, True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Abandonment to Divine Providence.

Each of the chapters, though brief, is insightful about the distinctive contribution of these works has made to western Catholic spirituality. I am particularly impressed by the Conclusion, which lists the seven common characteristics of Catholic Spirituality and goes into some detail about what each one means. Here they are
  • Belief in God's Love
  • God's mercy, sin, and the mode of the Soul [The is about the role that knowledge of our own sinfulness and knowledge of the mercy of God plays in the transformation and purification of our souls].
  • The instrumentality of the the Church and the Communion of Saints
  • The Importance of prayer and the struggle with aridity
  • The dynamic of detachment and holy indifference
  • The redemptive role of suffering
  • Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary
Fr. Cameron emphasizes among other things the role of submission of the intellect to the guidance of the Church, and the value of what many "sophisticated" Catholics condescendingly dismiss as "piety."

I wonder if a similar book were written about eastern authors, what the list would consist of? 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"The Little Flowers of St. Francis"? That Spirituals' screed?