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Paperback Christian Spirituality In The Catholic Tradition Book

ISBN: 0722019173

ISBN13: 9780722019177

Christian Spirituality In The Catholic Tradition

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Of perennial value

Christian Spirituality in the Catholic Tradition starts off with a solid grounding in emphasizing Sacred Scripture and Tradition as the soul of theology, with the Gospels containing "Christian spirituality par excellence." This survey of the history of Catholic spirituality rightly starts out in Scripture (both Old Testament and New) and runs through key individual figures, types of spiritualities, and various religious orders, while not shying away from describing heresies and heterodox teachings. Written in 1985, Fr. Aumann, takes us right to Vatican II. As a companion volume to Fr. Aumann's "Spiritual Theology", the stated goal in the Preface is to move from the theory and principles of that book to the actual life and witness of Catholics throughout the centuries. The hope is to acquaint the modern reader with the origins, development, and adaptation of Christian spirituality, perhaps helping to discern "what is of perennial value in Christian spirituality." In this "modest" one-volume history, Fr. Aumann meets -- and exceeds -- his goals. Aside from wishing he had spent more time on later 20th century figures and movements (it takes up only seventeen pages - mainly covering the late 19th century into the early 20th century), the rest of this historical survey is exceptionally well done. It flows very well and is eminently readable, but it is very dense in content -- the author has a wonderful gift of being able to condense and distill the most important aspects of a certain time and place, spirituality, or individual. (For example, St. Augustine may have been given the most space in this book at about seven pages, but it is the best treatment of him in so little space that I have ever seen - one really gets an excellent understanding of his spirituality.) What this provides is a correct understanding of the topic being covered in its proper context. This should not be underestimated because spiritual movements so often depend on world and Church events. Acknowledging that it is one volume (a rich 277 pages sans end notes), the extensive footnoting provides the interested reader the opportunity to go in depth on any subject with these solid sources. But footnotes or not, one can easily find additional resources on, and writings of, key figures in any major book outlet or through the internet. Chances are you will, like me, run out and purchase additional materials on particularly striking individuals to dive into their writings. And because of his wonderful scholarship and engaging style, you will want to check out his other books, especially the aforementioned "Spiritual Theology". My highest recommendation to any Christian (Catholic or not), or any other spiritual person for that matter, who wants to understand better the history of the Church, its leading lights, and how we got where we are today. And maybe while you're at it, you'll discover what spirituality is of "perennial value" to you.

Centuries of Spirit

Recently I was looking for a one-volume summary of the various Catholic spiritual movements and developments during these past two millennia. Aumann's book was suggested to me by a nice Catholic lady whom I asked about it. It turned out to be a serious but still very readable history of the various individuals and orders that contributed to what is now a vast and multi-faceted spiritual tradition. This is a book about the many ways that people of different times and cultures, but of the same basic belief system, prayed, fasted, meditated, contemplated, listened, and laboured to know and love their God. It is not a book of prayer texts. Of interest to Catholics wanting to engage with their spiritual roots, other christians who want to learn about spiritual history, or non-christians wanting an account with some depth of the evolution of christian spiritual beliefs and practices, this is a solid work. Bearing in mind that until 1054, there was essentially one christian church, and until the early 1500s, there were no 'protestants', this book does valuable service for christians of whatever background. The author begins with a fine introduction to the spiritual groundings in the Bible, then takes a look at apostolic and post-apostolic traditions. He does an excellent comparison of the rise of monasticism in both the eastern and western churches, and then focuses more closely on the Benedictines and the hermetic orders. From the 'isolationist' and communal spiritualities, Aumann describes the rise of the medieval military orders (which seem so odd today), and the different orders of the mendicant friars, who relied so heavily on visionary and charismatic founders, such as St. Francis and St. Dominic. From there, he takes us into the lives and spirit of the English, Germanic, and Italian mystics, such as Eckhart and St. Catherine of Siena. The remaining third of the book deals with the post-reformation period, right up to modern times, and includes material on Ignatius Loyola, Teresa of Avila, Alphonsus Liguori (all canonized for their spiritual advances), as well as Charles de Foucauld. This is not casual reading; it does take some effort and time. But it is worth it. Aumann has done all seekers a service by providing an accessible source of many christian approaches to a relationship with God. Others have covered this territory, but not so well, and so clearly, in so few pages (277 of text). Aumann provides thorough notes, and a good index. If I wanted one book to give to a serious student of religion, a seminarian, or a church study group, that summarized the long history of spiritual 'trends' within the Catholic tradition, this would be it!
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