Reviewed by ARCHBISHOP ROBERTS, S.J.
Solitary Refinement by Sister Madeleine, O.S.A. (S.C.M. Press 50p) NO reward is offered to the
reader for guessing whether the author is a nun of the Roman or Canterbury obedience. If the S.C.M. Press has not made the point quite clear, we can all be grateful for the publication of a work up to the best of its many notable contributions.
Sister Madeleine has drawn upon her deep and wide kn owledge of Church history anti of her own experience as a nolsice mistress to help us all in the task of spiritual renel,val demanded by Vatican 11 and leaders of all religion.
We say all in spite of the fact that the author envisages directly members of religious orders and institutes; but she does so in such a way as to bring out with clarity that their problems are in essence those facing all Christians. Indeed, the forgetting of that truth is itself a principal cause of the "crisis of vocations."
No educated Catholic today can be unaware that the layman or laywoman may find in the married state problems of obedience to ecclesiastical authority requiring study and understanding as vital as to any soul under vow of obedience.
Since all orders have instructions to make such studies for renewal together and in depth, most of us have naturally had much reading and study to do. For all such, this little book is so useful •that one hopes for future editions which will enable the author to develop some such questions at greater length. Meanwhile, it is already possible to acquire and to deepen our knowledge of Church history.
This alone would replace much of our present tension and dispute with peace and harmony. This work would make a good beginning, with a most perceptive account of religious orders, especially in the Anglican and Protestant world.
Sister Madeleine has some just criticism about Jesuit influence over nuns in spite of "a decree from the Pope that it should not undertake the direction of nuns." Fair enough.
About the 67 religious communities of •the Church of England, as about Protestant bodies abroad, there is the same informed, objective and critical approach, all too rare today. Dare one liken Sister
Madeleine to the football spectator who applauded neither Celtic nor Rangers and was adjudged to be an atheist?
The suspicion is not deepened by a typical passage like this: "Immediately opposite Nashdom there is a retreat house owned and run by the Sisters of the Cenacle, a Roman Catholic community. Between the two is a wonderful interchange whlich results in mutual respect and participation in various aspects of each other's life and work and worship.
"In fact it is amiong religious of different denominations that the absurdity of disunion within the Chris tian Church is most apparent. For the essential object of religious life is not to know about but 10 become Christ."
So, after all. the reward is in the book — perhaps in spite of title and cover.
T. D. Roberts, S.J.