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Posted June 4, 2003

Book: The Search for Spirituality: Seven Paths within the Catholic Tradition
Editor: Stephen J. Costello
The Liffey Press, Dublin, pp. 212

Excerpt from Jacket:

The Search for Spirituality explores seven traditional paths within the Catholic tradition: Augustinian, Benedictine, Carmelite, Cistercian, Dominican, Franciscan and Ignatian (Jesuit). It is intended for all those on a search, for all those struggling with meaning, suffering, hoping, hating and loving. It weaves together a tapestry of Catholic Christianity, with each contribution being a thread that connects us to a living historical tradition and a vibrant, sometimes unknown, path of prayer in the present.

A distinction is often drawn between (academic) theology and (lived) spirituality, but though they are distinct they are not opposed. Spirituality must be rooted in theology and tradition lest it become sentimental and saccharine. Theology should not become divorced from an existential commitment to faith lest it become irrelevant and impotent. Each presupposes and is required by the other. That said, the stress on this book is on spirituality. Every reader will find something in it that will speak to them of ultimate love because it is for this that the human heart longs.

Excerpt from Book:

It is said that the Rule of St. Benedict has been translated more often than any other book except the Bible. . . .

Reverential awe, it has been said, is the central spiritual value of Benedict’s Rule. The monastery is the household of God in whose presence the monk is living at every moment and wherever he may be:

at the work of God, in the oratory, in the monastery, in the garden, on the road, in a field or anywhere else, whether he is sitting, walking or standing (7:63).

It is this fundamental reality of God’s presence which inspires and motivates the profound sentiments of attentiveness, obedience, humility, reverence and love which should characterize every aspect of monastic life.

Reverential awe is not servile fear. On the contrary, Benedict promises that, by the Holy Spirit’s action, all that we initially perform with dread, we will soon begin to observe through:

the perfect love of God which casts out fear (1 Jn 4:18), without effort, as though naturally, from habit, no longer out of fear of hell, but out of love for Christ, good habit, and delight in virtue (7:67:70).

Three times Benedict tells us that we should prefer nothing to the love of Christ (4:21, 5:2, 72:11). Christ is the true king for whom we fight (Prol. 3), whom we follow in hardship (Prol. 50, 4:10) and to glory (Prol. 7). It is Christ that we reverence and serve in our superiors and communities, in guests, the poor, pilgrims and above and before all else, in the sick who must be truly served as Christ, for he said, “I was sick and you visited me” and “what you did for one of these least brothers you did for me” (36:1-3). To Christ also we turn in times of temptation, dashing our evil thoughts against the rock which is Christ (Prol. 28; 4:50).

If we seek God and serve Christ in all these ways, it is because it is He who seeks us first.

Seeking His workman in a multitude of people, the Lord calls out, “Is there anyone here who yearns for life and desires to see good days?” If you hear this and your answer is “I do”, God then directs these words to you. “If you desire true eternal life, keep your tongue free from vicious talk and your lips from all deceit; turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. Once you have done this, my eyes will be upon you and my ears will listen for your prayers; and even before you ask me, I will say to you: Here I am.” What, dear brothers, is more delightful than this voice of the Lord calling to us? See how the Lord in His love shows us the way of life. Clothed then with faith and the performance of good works, let us set out on this way, with the Gospel for our guide, that we may deserve to see Him who has called us to His kingdom. (Prol. 14-21).

Table of Contents;

Stephen J. Costello, Ph.D.

1. Augustinian Spirituality
Thomas Martin, OSA

2. Benedictine Spirituality
Andrew Nugent, OSB

3. Carmelite Spirituality
Wilfrid McGreal, Ocarm

4. Cistercian Spirituality
Nivard Kinsella, OCSO

5. Dominican Spirituality
Aidan Nichols, OP
Franciscan Spirtuality
Francis Cotter, OFM

7. Ignatian Spirituality
Joseph Veale, SJ