Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Notices of New Carmelite Books (1) 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 first four. I will post these notices on the Library blog quarterly. Philip Harvey.

Rowan Williams, at the age of 40, wrote ‘Teresa of Avila’ (ISBN: 0-225-66579-4), a book regarded by many as the best in-depth introduction of contemporary times. The book was the result of his own re-reading of Teresa. He writes: “The things that came home to me included, above all, Teresa’s passionate focus on the Incarnate Jesus, and her near-obsessive concern to eradicate considerations of social and racial distinction from her communities. I began to see her as a genuinely incarnational theologian.”

That memory comes from Rowan Williams in his 60s, appearing in his latest book ‘Holy Living: the Christian Tradition for Today’ (ISBN: 978-1-4729-4608-9), a book which dedicates an entire section to ‘The Genius of Teresa of Avila’. This is one of his more personal and accessible works, ranging over many subjects, so it is both inspiring and instructional to find that Teresa’s example continues to be so central in his own life. Not only that, it shows how we can return and learn new things from those we ourselves have identified as life sources for our own living.  

-          Philip Harvey (December 2017)

When Professor Bernard McGinn visited Melbourne in 2015 he confided to the large audience at his lecture that he likes the sacred number seven, which is why he still has to write the seventh volume of his ‘The Presence of God’ before he dies. Volume 6, Part 2 is almost Volume 7. It has just been published, containing many good things including a revised version of that same lecture, ‘Teresa of Avila: the Contemplative in Action’. Those of you who were there will remember the clarity, honesty, and depth that Bernard brought to the subject. This is authoritative scholarship at its best.

Volume 6, Part 2 is subtitled ‘Mysticism in the Golden Age of Spain, 1500-1650’ (ISBN: 978-0-8245-0090-0), a period that produced reformers, visionaries, teachers, missionaries, and mystics. Saint Ignatius of Loyola’s work is identified as “a mysticism of apostolic service”. Some two-thirds of the book is devoted to Carmelite spirituality, so if you wish to read some of the latest, most informed and insightful writing on Teresa, Saint John of the Cross and other Carmelites of the period, this is the place to go.

-          Philip Harvey (November 2017)

Mirabai Starr’s website says that she “teaches about the interconnected wisdom of the mystics of all spiritual paths, contemplative life, and the transformational power of longing.” That’s one thing. She teaches; she also translates. Her versions of St John of the Cross’s ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ (2002) and St Teresa of Avila’s ‘Interior Castle’ (2003) brought to popular attention a writer whose English is refreshing and direct. Thomas Moore has described her style as fluid and inviting. If you wish to connect with these great works then Mirabai Starr is a good starting place.

More recently she has produced an excellent translation of the ‘Showings’ of Julian of Norwich, a version used in the Carmelite Library’s last spiritual reading group on that medieval English mystic. And returning to Teresa, Starr has produced ‘Saint Teresa of Avila, passionate mystic’ (ISBN 978-1-62203-070-5), a collection of prayers and other writings, recommended to anyone wanting to go quickly into the liveliness of Teresa’s teaching. For example: “The important thing is not to think much, but to love much, and so to do whatever best awakens us to love.”   

-          Philip Harvey (October 2017)

One of the best collections of Carmelite reflections and prayers in English is ‘Meeting God’. First produced by the Irish Province in 2007, the book went into a second revised edition in 2014 under the aegis of the Carmelite General Curia in Rome. This is its own recommendation, and rightly so. You’ll find it in the Carmelite Library for free, or you can buy it online after googling the ISBN: 978-1-78218-142-2

‘Meeting God’ serves as a succinct introduction to the charism of the Carmelites, their history and practices. But more usefully, the book contains prayers, quotations, and other writings that you may return to at any time. These words are taken from greater and lesser known Carmelite spiritual writers , from sections of the Carmelite Liturgy, statements of the Prior General, and other heritage documents. The text of the Rule is set out clearly and attractively, with an excellent parallel commentary that provides context and purpose. The book is a handy way into the richness of Carmelite tradition. 

-          Philip Harvey (September 2017)