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The Spiritual Tradition of Catholic England

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Nov 22, 2011

Now here’s a real prayer for you:

The holy Body of Christ Jesu be my salvation of body and soul. Amen. The Glorious blood of Christ Jesu bring my soul and body into the everlasting bliss. Amen. I cry God mercy; I cry God mercy; I cry God mercy; welcome my maker; welcome my redeemer; welcome my Saviour; I cry thee mercy with heart contrite of my great unkindness that I have had unto thee.

This is an extract from the first work of Catholic spirituality printed in the English language, printed by William Caxton in 1484 on the first press in all of England. It is also the first entry in a wonderful new anthology from Oxford University Press, put together by deeply spiritual and widely-read Catholics led by Fr. John Saward, entitled Firmly I believe and Truly: The Spiritual Tradition of Catholic England.

The work features short selections from over 150 outstanding Catholic writers from 1483 to 1999, each with a brief introduction on the author and the circumstances. It includes extracts from homilies, pamphlets, letters, books and poetry. To be included, a writer had to have died in full communion with the Church as well as having been in full communion with the Church when he wrote the work in question. This promises to be a brilliant offering, not only a many-jeweled crown in itself, but a guide to those authors one would wish to read in greater depth.

I’m just at the beginning, but I promise to pass some good things along and, in due course, to provide a more complete review. You should be aware that each selection is from one to just a few pages long, by which I mean that this anthology floods the plain of the English Catholic tradition rather than sinking a smaller number of deep wells. If that suits you, you may well wish to buy it quickly, without waiting to hear more from me, the better to have it for yourself or a loved one in time for Christmas.

There is no question that the nicely-bound 730 page book is well worth the price. Even if you do not ultimately read it straight through, it will be a treasured addition to your library.

[Note: A sharp-eyed reader noticed that the original Amazon description listed Anne Askew (a 16th century Protestant martyr) as one of the authors in the book. As it turns out, so does the dust jacket! That's simply an error; the online description has been corrected, and the dust jacket will be fixed in the next printing. Anne Askew is not represented in the book, which is completely true throughout to its own stated selection criteria: Authors in full communion with the Catholic Church only.]

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