The Spiritual Doctrine of Sister Elizabeth of the Trinity. By M. M. Philipon, O.P. Translated by a Benedictine of Stanbrook Abbey. (The Mercier Press, Cork, -21s. net.) Concerning the Inner Life, with The House of the Soul. By Evelyn Underhill. (Methuen. 5s. net.)
Reviewed by PETER ANSON SISTER Elizabeth of the Trinity
was a Carmelite nun at Dijon. She joined the community in 1901 and died five years later at the age of twenty-six. It is doubtful if any religious book has ever been such a startling success in modern times as the Souvenirs of this enclosed nun. In less than thirty years of its publication, without any Press publicity or other advertising stunts, over ninety thousand copies have been sold, not counting translations into a dozen foreign languages. There is even a Chinese edition. Sister Elizabeth has become a " best seller " I How surprised she would have been if she had been told that, one day, her spiritual memoirs would be read all over the world, by cardinals, bishops, priests, seminanans, and layfolk. In his Introduction to this book Pre Philipon asks the reason for such a widespread attraction. He maintains that it is due to the doctrinal character of the holy Carmelite's writings. This book is best described as an exhaustive survey of the spiritual doctrines of Sister Elizabeth by a recognised authority on Mystical Theology. There was nothing novel or exotic in these doc trines she expounded. All she did was to " follow the vocation Baptism itself marks out." She raised herself to complete union with God. " without miracles or extraordinary mortifications, by' perfect obedience to the Divine Will, amid the ordinary happenings of daily life." Her spirituality was the result of constant meditation on the Epistles of St. Paul and the writings of St. John of the Cross. Long hours of silence worked the miracle. Considering that this book will be in great demand, it is a pity that it should be priced at one guineanot that it is not worth the money! However, this is probably due to the fact that it was printed and published in America and imported into Ireland.
The late Evelyn Underhill popue Iarised the "Inner Life " among
non-Catholics in many widely-read books she poured forth since the publication of her learned treatise Mysticism over thirty years ago. Its fact she became a sort of " high priestess " of the mystical life among Anglicans. The present volume is a reprint of two little books which appeared in 1926 and 1929, both of which were so popular with the clergy and laity that they were reissued several times. The matter ut largely based on recognised Catholic mystical writers, and there are innumerable references to St. Ignatius Loyola, Fr. Augustine Baker, Ruysbroeck, De Caussade, and St. John of the Cross, mixed up with non-Catholic writings.
In Maurice to Temple-the ScottHolland Lectures for 1946-Mr. M. B, Reckitt (Faber, 16s.) shows how the " comprehensiveness" of the Established Church burgeoned into " Christian Socialism" during the Victorian upheaval. In our own disillusioned days we may find much to admire in the efforts made by Anglican clergy and laity to Christianise social unrest. As the lectures are solely concerned with Anglican activities, the name of Manning does not occur in the Index. Within its defined scope this fine volume will be of interest to Catholic social students.
Within the convention of imags inary correspondence with earnest young people ("David" and "Susan" have now joined "Theophila") Fr. Ferdinand Valentine, 0.1'., in The htside of the Cup (Blackfriars, 6s.) gives much useful iestruction on Prayer and the spiritual life. We have found the chapter on the Rosary most helpful to a potential convert. We regret that Fr. Valentine should fear that the use of the Missal may " disturb habits of _prayer " (p. 51). Pace Dr. Jurgensmeier, we do not think that there is any " merciless " in liturgical forms which unite Priest and the People in a collective Action.
We regret that in our last issue we ascribed the illustrations in Fr. Bernard Basset's Christmas story to pupils of the St. Maur's Convent, Weybridge. They were. in fact, by pupils of the Hillside Convent, Farnborough, Hampshire.