Saturday, October 23, 2010

Catholic Books in Protestant Bookshop

Occasionally, I pop into Koorong books, which is some sort of Evangelical Protestant book outlet – sadly, since the sorry closure of Launceston's Catholic bookshop, the only resort for Christian books here bar the Internet (the same has happened in Hobart).  It is interesting for its large shelves of serious Biblical commentaries, including the series quoting from the Fathers, some of which I have purchased from time to time.  Now, as one may imagine, only modern Protestant tomes of a Reformed tone are there in the main (some very gauche, as for instance the "financial" section, which I imagine to contain motivational paperbacks expounding the prosperity gospel in gushing Yankee prose), but it is interesting to look over what can be found therein; I bought some good Chesterton there for example, of which more anon.

In any case, just to-day I turned up an inexpensive interlinear Bible there, which I hope (read with due awareness of its Protestant point of view) will stand as a helpful crib to my copies of the Greek New and Hebrew Old Testaments – though mindful of Trent, I do adhere to the Vulgate as a sure and trusty standard, with the Douay-Rheims as a painful translation thereof.

What again caught my attention was the small selection of Catholic classics that clearly hold an affectionate place among Christian classics, even for modern evangelical Protestants, maybe happy-clappy or otherwise, but from all I can see satisfyingly conservative on moral questions, unlike the self-murdering liberalism of Australian Anglicanism, the Uniting Church, and, sad to say, the run-of-the-mill deviations of Catholicism so commonplace in parishes.

Herewith, the authors and titles I spotted:
  • St Augustine's Confessions;
  • Chesterton's Heretics, Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man (the latter particularly interesting, as written after his reception into the Church);
  • a small work of Archbishop Fenelon;
  • The Little Flowers of St Francis;
  • Thomas à Kempis' The Imitation of Christ;
  • Br Lawrence of the Resurrection's The Practice of the Presence of God;
  • St John of the Cross' The Dark Night of the Soul;
  • St Teresa of Avila's The Interior Castle.

It is interesting to see how three Carmelites feature very prominently in this list, as well as the ever-popular St Francis and followers.  Augustine, of course, has always been a favourite of Calvinists and Lutherans no less than of Catholics, and in this case for his pious introspection... and Fenelon, because of falling somewhat into bad odour during the Quietist controversy, though remaining quite a faithful Catholic, has perversely enough been ever since favoured by Protestants (and I suspect that the teaching of Br Lawrence has been welcomed among them for not dissimilar reasons, despite its impeccable orthodoxy, for just like de Caussade's writings, it is concerned with interior devotion); I once had a tiny nineteenth century American edition of Fenelon's works, but I can't find it and may have given it away.  The Imitatio, "that golden book" in Pius XII's lapidary phrase, has ever been popular among all manner of Christians for similar reasons, despite its robustly Catholic fourth book all about devotion to the Sacrament of the altar.  

The presence of Chesterton (alongside, it must be said, an overlong C.S. Lewis section – like Tolkien, his johnny-come-lately status as yester-day atheist, to-day theologian of "mere Christianity", horrid phrase, has never much appealed to me) is most intriguing, since in these works he writes more of dogma and doctrine, and especially as the prefaces of all three books, all of which I have bought therefrom, are perfectly open and honest about his eventual becoming a Catholic.

Pray all these saints and pious men (and Chesterton, too, whose cause is now being advanced at last) may by their words and prayers help bring souls to the Truth.

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