Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Announcing Several Excellent New Books and Reprints

I have been remiss in reviewing good books sent to me by publishers. In fact, I am remiss even in announcing books that I have reprinted myself! So I will take some time now to recommend these works to NLM readers.

Ludwig Ott. Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. Trans. Patrick Lynch. Ed. James Canon Bastible. Revised and updated by Robert Fastiggi. N.p.: Baronius Press, 2018. Hardcover, with gold ribbon, 568 + xxii pp. $59.95.

I shall begin with what is certainly one of the most impressive books to appear in a long time, and something that should be on everyone's shelf: a beautifully printed new edition of the classic Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by Ludwig Ott, published by Baronius Press with the same exceptional quality that we have come to expect from all of their books.

Many will already be familiar with this brilliant summary of dogmatic theology, first published in 1952. It has a special place in my heart because it was the first book of serious theology ever placed into my hands in high school, at a time when I was awakening to my Catholic faith for the first time, and looking for meaty explanations, which I had never heard or seen in 16+ years of mainstream Catholicism. A teacher put me on to Ott, and I was riveted to it. I even prepared handouts from it for my youth group, not realizing that the text and the audience did not quite match up. But enough of reminiscing. The point is that Ott is the best comprehensive guide to Catholic dogma ever produced, laying out the Scriptural, patristic, liturgical, and magisterial sources of each Catholic doctrine, and indicating the level of authority attaching to it. This latter feature is particularly helpful, in that one can quickly see whether a teaching is de fide or is held with a greater or less certitude by the Church.

An indication of the usefulness, completeness, and reliability of Ott is the fact that the monastery of Le Barroux (and perhaps others, too, unbeknownst to me) has all of its monks studying for the priesthood read Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma in its entirety, chapter by chapter, as they proceed through their program of formation. Really, any Catholic who wants to know the actual content of the Catholic Faith, as well as which doctrines are matters of opinion or dispute (and to what degree), should consult Ott on a regular basis.

The original English translation of Ott by Dr Patrick Lynch, while it helped countless readers, was afflicted with numerous errors of translation. There has been an "errata sheet" floating around for a long time. The Baronius edition has been compared page for page to the definitive German edition (Bonn: nova & vetera, 2010) and corrected in hundreds of details by Dr Robert Fastiggi. The formatting is cleaner and easier to follow, and of course, being newly typeset and printed in hardcover with a sewn binding, is much nicer on the eyes and much more durable than the old TAN glued paperbacks that would split if you just looked at them too intently.

This edition features an eloquent little foreword by Bishop Athanasius Schneider and a preface by Dr Fastiggi giving examples of how the translation has been improved.

I simply cannot recommend this book and this new edition of it highly enough. If you do not have Ott, wait not a moment longer. If you already have an old Ott, replace it with the new Ott, which is handsomer and better translated. To order, visit its Baronius Press page.

Uwe Michael Lang, ed. Authentic Liturgical Renewal in Contemporary Perspective. Proceedings of the Sacra Liturgia Conference, London, 5-8  July 2016. London/New York: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2017. Paper, xii + 197 pp. $26.95.
I'm not sure why it is the case that this third Sacra Liturgia volume has been somewhat neglected or even forgotten in the world of liturgical studies and renewal. One might speculate that after two substantial volumes of Sacra Liturgia proceedings (both of which have been reviewed at NLM: the first here, the second here), there may be a market saturation phenomenon; but I think that this is not true, or at least not the main explanation. I believe that people are just not aware of this book and how valuable its contents are, and that the general ecclesial mayhem swirling around us, with seems to worsen with each passing year or even each passing month, is not a congenial atmosphere for the study of scholarly literature.

Yet this third volume is no less worthy than its predecessors of our careful attention. The book includes, needless to say, the definitive edition of Cardinal Sarah's plenary lecture in which he made his now-controversial recommendation that priests should begin celebrating the Ordinary Form ad orientem in Advent. This was not the first time the Cardinal had made this proposal, but it was the first time that he attracted the notice of hostile powers in high places. But the other papers in the volume, less notorious, are more intriguing: for example, Dom Charbel Pazat de Lys on "The Public Nature of Catholic Liturgy"; Stephen Bullivant on how confusion about the evangelistic needs of modern man not only dictated the liturgical reform but now require its reversal; Fr Uwe Michael Lang's precise and detailed account of the Tridentine liturgical reform, which nicely complements the study of the same subject by Anthony Chadwick in the T&T Clark Companion to Liturgy; and Alcuin Reid's fascinating account of the conciliar debate over what became article 50 of Sacrosanctum Concilium, namely, the demand that the Order of Mass be revised.

In short, if you have benefited from the earlier volumes, you will undoubtedly benefit from this one as well. The series, which I hope will soon be joined by a fourth containing the proceedings from Sacra Liturgia in Milan, truly sets a benchmark for current liturgical studies, which are submitting decades of ruling assumptions to penetrating critique and contributing to the recovery of lost elements of Catholic tradition.

Emile Mersch, S.J. The Whole Christ. The Historical Development of the Doctrine of the Mystical Body in Scripture and Tradition. Trans. John R. Kelly. First published 1938. N.p.: Ex Fontibus Company, 2018. Paperback, xvi + 623 pp. $21.77.

Emile Mersch was once among the most appreciated theologians, especially in regard to ecclesiology. Then the Second Vatican Council hit, and someone who is customarily depicted with cloven hoofs and a pointed tail pressed the "delete" button. Today, vast swaths of magnificent preconciliar theological work is totally forgotten. It would be more accurate to speak of "the Chernobyl" than of "the Council."

Happily, this is beginning to change as some of the old classics are rediscovered and reprinted. Ex Fontibus has played a vital role in this process, as one can see from consulting their now-extensive catalogue. The latest addition is Mersch's extraordinarily rich and illuminating study of the concept and reality of the Church as Mystical Body of Christ, as it was prefigured in the Old Testament, clearly shown forth in the New Testament (he has many chapters on St. Paul and St. John), powerfully proclaimed by the Greek Fathers (chapters on St Ignatius of Antioch, St Irenaeus, St Athanasius, St Hilary of Poitiers, St Gregory Nazianzen and St Gregory of Nyssa, St John Chrysostom, and St Cyril of Alexandria), and fully articulated in the Western tradition (chapters on Tertullian, St Cyprian, St Augustine, the early Middle Ages, the Scholastics, and the French school).

When I taught ecclesiology at the International Theological Institute, I always assigned the chapters on St Cyril of Alexandria and St Augustine out of this book, as there is no better synthesis of their theology of the Church. In general, I would place it in the top ten books on ecclesiology for any serious reader's shelf. The quality of the reprint is fine.

The last two books featured today are reprinted under my own reprint service, Os Justi Press. I do not yet have a website, but posts about other titles may be found here, here, here, and here.

Pius Parsch, The Breviary Explained. Trans. William Nayden and Carl Hoegerl. First published in 1952 by Herder in St. Louis. Reprinted by Os Justi Press, 2018. Paperback, viii + 459 pp. $19.95.

Does Pius Parsch require any introduction? Although one can see occasional touches of pastoralism and antiquarianism in his work, Parsch was in fact one of the finest writers of the original Liturgical Movement and his commentaries on the Mass and the Divine Office always make for worthwhile reading. His insights are copious and his style sparkles with his strong love of the Church's daily round of public worship.

This book is a particular masterpiece, and it surprises me greatly that it has been out of print for so long. The contents spell out the scope of the work: Fundamental Notions (e.g., Why pray the breviary?); The Constituent Parts (psalms, lessons, orations, verse and versicle, antiphons, responsory, hymns); The Spirit of the Breviary (structure, cursus, seasonal variations). It is, in fact, a compendious introduction to the Roman Breviary in Pius X's revision, and will immensely enhance the understanding and devotion of anyone, cleric or layman, who uses this edition of the breviary, which would be the vast majority of members of the traditionalist movement.

Anthology of Catholic Poets: 200 Years of Catholic Poetry in English. Compiled by Joyce Kilmer. First published in 1917; last edition 1939. Reprinted by Os Justi Press, 2018. Paperback, xxx + 389 pp. $19.95.

It has always been my intention to bring this fine anthology by Joyce Kilmer back into print, alongside a similar sort of volume (also from 1939) by Thomas Walsh, The Catholic Anthology: The World's Great Catholic Poetry. The difference is simply that Walsh's much larger book contains translations from all major languages and spans many more centuries, while Kilmer's focuses on English poets only, from the start of the 18th century onwards. As one would expect, it includes selections from such literary lights as Belloc, Benson, Faber, Hopkins, Lionel Johnson, Maynard, Meynell, Newman, Patmore, Thompson, and Wilde.

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