Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Notices of new Carmelite books (3) PHILIP HARVEY

Damien Peile, the Provincial Delegate for The Carmelite Family, issues a Monthly News via email.  These bulletins include my own notices or brief reviews of books of interest to readers in Carmelite spirituality and history. Here are the third four. These notices are posted on the Library blog. Philip Harvey.

‘Modern Orthodox Icon’ (St. Petersburg, Versta, 2013 ISBN 978-5-91555-018-5) is a bilingual Russian and English folio book of icons made by contemporary Russian iconographers. This beautiful book was given to the Library by the Seraphim Icon Group, as a token of thanks for the use of the Library space during November for its exhibition of original works. Over fifty icons are on display, including icons of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, St. John of the Cross, and St Teresa of Avila. Once the tricky business of Cyrillic transliteration has been managed by the cataloguer, the book will join others in the Library’s splendid icon book collection, one of the best in the country. 

The Library has a history of support for local iconographers. Talks, workshops, and shows on icons will continue to be part of the Library’s life. Coincidentally, this month saw the donation of the magnificent library of the Icon School of St. Peter (Melbourne) to the Carmelite Library. This came as both a surprise and delight. The School, situated at the Anglican Church of St. Peter’s Eastern Hill, Melbourne, came to a decision this year to close after thirty years of operation. As part of the process of winding up incorporation, the School chose to give its collection to the Library, where the books can continue to be accessible to icon writers, researchers, and all students of this ancient devotional practice.

-          Philip Harvey (November 2018)   

Elizabeth Ruth Obbard is a contemplative nun living in England. She has been novice-mistress of a Carmelite community in Norfolk, which may explain the series of books under her name that give simplified introductions to some of the great spiritual guides. Her book ‘The music of silence’, for example, is subtitled ‘Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity for everyone’, everyone in this case meaning you and me. She has a gentle storytelling style, a way of naming the essentials in her subjects’ teachings, and turning these into matter for reflection and prayer.

The Library has this year ordered the back run of Obbard, all published in recent times by New City (London), including books ‘for everyone’ on Hildegard of Bingen, St. Angela of Foligno, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Francis de Sales, as well as the central figures in Carmelite spirituality. Her bibliographies recommend which books to read next to deepen our understanding, while her own personal illustrations compliment the simplicity of style that makes these texts ideal starters for reading groups or individual enquiry.

-          Philip Harvey (September 2018)

When Professor Bernard McGinn spoke to us in Melbourne for the anniversary of St Teresa in 2015 he said he and his wife were on their way to London for a similar celebration. His London lecture, ‘True confessions : Augustine and Teresa of Avila on the mystical self’,  opens a collection of papers from that conference published in ‘Teresa of Avila : mystical theology and spirituality in the Carmelite tradition’ (Routledge, 2017, ISBN 978-1-4724-7884-9) Other contributors include such luminaries as Wilfrid McGreal, Rowan Williams, Peter Tyler, Iain Matthew, and Julia Kristeva.

They substantiate the observation made in the Introduction: “The occasion of the anniversary of her death in 2015 enabled a new generation of scholars, spiritual seekers, religious and interested laypeople to reflect once again on the legacy of this remarkable woman for a new generation in the ‘post-Christian’ world of the troubled twenty-first century.”  

-          Philip Harvey (June 2018)

’Maria Maddalena de’ Pazzi : the making of a Counter-Reformation saint’ is the most important recent work in English about the Florentine Carmelite nun and mystic. Published by Oxford University Press in 2016 (ISBN: 978-0-19-878538-5), Clare Copeland’s book is a study of her life, but also an analysis of holy life as understood and practised in a 16th century convent. The author takes a special interest in saints and devotions of early modern Italy, so here is the ideal subject.  

Living in the immediate aftermath of Trent, with its new ground rules for canonisation, Maria Maddalena’s life was the subject of close investigation, which the author goes into in fine detail. Her fabled ecstatic writings are looked at, but also convent records, letters, and miracle accounts, as well as the documents of the process itself. The always tricky business of Florence’s political families also gets plenty of attention. Maria Maddalena was one of only five women canonised in the 17th century, 1669 to be precise, and reading this book you start to see why.

Philip Harvey (May 2018)

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