Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Rule and the Catechism

Book Notice:

The Rule of Saint Benedict, Roman Catholic Books, $16.95 USD
The Catechism of the Council of Trent, Roman Catholic Books, $39.95 USD

There is a growing appreciation on the part of both book buyers and booksellers for quality printings of classic texts. This is particularly the case for those books which are literary or spiritual classics, which are sure to remain in family libraries for some years to come, and which should hopefully be well used and well read.

Roman Catholic Books has done it again in this regard. The same publisher who recently brought a long overdue reprint of Papal Legislation on Sacred Music has also brought out similar attractive cloth bindings of the Catechism of the Council of Trent and The Rule of Saint Benedict.

I. The Rule of Saint Benedict

Aside from the sacred scriptures, there is probably not another single spiritual book in the Latin rite which has had as much perennial and widespread influence as the Rule of Saint Benedict. St. Benedict, founder of the Benedictine order of monks and father of Western monasticism, founded his monasteries on a rule which has proven down the centuries to be remarkable for its balance and prudence, so much so that what might seem like an unlikely spiritual classic, a rule for monks in monasteries, did in fact become as such. To this day, multiple editions of it exist, and to those who particularly find an affinity for Benedictine spirituality, it is simply known as “the rule”. It is here that is to be found the source of the famous Benedictine balance of ora et labora: work and pray.

This particular edition, republished by Roman Catholic Books, is an edition translated and edited by Abbot Justin McCann, OSB, and includes the full English and parallel Latin translation, made originally for the Lady Abbess of famed Stanbrook Abbey in England. A wonderful feature of this edition, besides its deep green cloth binding with gold gilt lettering on the spine and cover, is the inclusion in the margins of a cycle which separates the text in sections which could be thereby be read (as in monasteries) day by day throughout the year. Following this cycle, the text would be read completely three times per year. For one who wishes to make the Rule a part of their day to day spiritual life, this provides an excellent, quite manageable way to do so.

While some of the matters found in the Rule do relate specifically to those within a monastery, there are many treasures to be found herein, and laity have long made use of the rule as a sure guide in their own spiritual lives. There are reasons why some texts stand the test of time, and one which has contributed towards and guided so many saints for more than 1500 years surely cannot be absent from any Catholic home or library.

A beautiful edition and a beautiful and profound text.

II. The Catechism of the Council of Trent

While the Catechism of the Council of Trent is of significantly less vintage than the Rule, it is no less important a text, being an official summary of Catholic teaching written after the Council of Trent in the 16th century in response to the Protestant reformation. In fact, it has been said that upon the release of the new Catechism of the Catholic Church, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who was intimately involved in its creation, had stated that these two catechisms were to be understood as complimentary. Indeed, some may ask, if one has the present Catechism, then why have this one?

Answering this question is much like answering a question about why one might have two spiritual books rather than only one. Each Catechism was written within its own time period, with its own concerns of the day brought to the fore. Thus, while the modern Catechism does particularly well to bring up many issues that effect modern man, particularly in the domain of Catholic morality, our view of technology, and so forth, the Catechism of Trent has its own emphasis particularly in the domain of faith and dogma having been in part a response to the Protestant movement and claims, which attacked many doctrinal matters. Both texts are of course definitive guides for the Faith and Morals of the Church, but the two put together make for a powerful synthesis of Catholic doctrine.

As both Catechisms follow upon the method of explicating upon the ten commandments and the Creed they naturally have an affinity with one another. In consulting the catechism therefore, one would do very well to read from both and thus be enriched by the Magisterium past and present which forms a seamless garment and a hermeneutic of continuity.

Like The Rule of Saint Benedict, the Catechism is bound in a very sturdy cloth binding, a beautiful navy blue, with gilt lettering on the spine and cover. This is not only practical insofar as a reference volume is concerned, but is also a fitting binding to a book whose contents encompass the dogmatic truths of our Faith. It is a beautiful binding and it would be well worth replacing your paperback copy, if you own one, and replacing it with this fine edition.

We can be thankful for publishers like Roman Catholic Books who make these fine editions again availble in beautiful new bindings.

Link to products:

The Rule of Saint Benedict

The Catechism of the Council of Trent

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