05 April 2012

Meditations on Christian Dogma, two excellent books. . .

Two books recommendations for you. . .

Meditations on Christian Dogma, Vol. 1

Meditations on Christian Dogma, Vol. 2

Both volumes were written by The Rt. Rev. James Bellford, D.D. and first published in England in 1898.  The links above will you give the 3rd editions of these volumes published in 1906 and reprinted by St Pius X Press.

Bishop Bellford gives us two excellent volumes of meditations on basic Christian dogma.  Volume One covers God, The Incarnation, and The Blessed Virgin.  Volume Two covers Beatitude, Laws, Grace, Virtue, Human Acts, and The Last Things, among others.  

Three qualities highly recommend these books:  orthodoxy, clarity, and brevity.

First, orthodoxy: these meditations provide thoroughly orthodox insights and explanations of the principle dogmatic truths of the Catholic faith.  Written before modernist and postmodernist innovations infected our theological vocabulary and thought, these volumes lay out the fundamentals of our apostolic traditions as the Church has received them from the beginning.  The Good Bishop was deeply influenced by Aquinas and his books can be read as commentary on the Summa.  Though there is no critical apparatus to link specific meditations to individual articles of the saint's major work, a quick glance at the table of contents will confirm that Bellford has structured his work along a line similar to Aquinas'. 

Second, clarity:  without the gobbledegook of modernist and postmodernist theological language to clutter up his thoughts, Bellford's meditations are strikingly clear.  He relies principally on scripture, conciliar documents, papal decrees, and the Church Father for his images, vocabulary, and tone.  For example, he introduces his meditation on The Last Supper, "In the Last Supper Jesus Christ exhibits His love, and proves Himself to be our best Friend. . ."  He then quotes John 13.1 and continues, "This was the farewell banquet on the last evening of His earthly life; in it He delivered His Testament, His final work of love, and bequeathed as a keepsake and eternal memorial of Himself.  This bequest was not His portrait, not even the most valuable of His created works, not an empty type or figure of Himself; it was Himself under the form of a simple creature, it was His own Body and Blood, it was the food of eternal life for our souls under the appearance of perishable bodily nourishment. . ."  Simple, clear, concise.  Some of the more philosophically complex topics naturally use more sophisticated language, but the overall style of his writing is easily comprehended but nonetheless rich for reflection. 

Third, brevity:  each meditation is exactly two pages long.  This means that he gets to the meat of the matter w/o sputtering on about his feelings or personal experiences.  If you want a book of meditations that touches your emotions, then you will have to look elsewhere. Bellford's books are meant--in their brevity and clarity--to shoot you with the large dose of intelligent insight quickly and cleanly.

I highly recommend these books for Catholics who suffered through the Dark Days of butterflies and rainbows catechesis and who now find themselves grasping for an anchor in the faith.  For new Catholics, these books will give you more than just the basics; they will give a foundation and a solid framework from which to grow in holiness.  For seminarians and clergy, these books will give you a basis from which to access newer theologies and often provide excellent prompts for papers and homilies. 

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  1. Thanks for the recomendations, Father. I've added the books to my wish list. Keep the good ideas coming!
    Have a blessed Easter.

  2. It is rather gratifying to see my great-uncle's book reissued. I have just been reading his "God's Dealings vs. Our Social Conditions". Perhaps I am biased but I found it extraordinarily well written and highly relevant to the present situation in England where we suffer from a Godless perversion of Socialism. One sentence particularly struck me: It [Socialism] sometimes seeks to establish by organization and minute rules those relations between men which can only proceed from a heart transformed by faith, and generosity and justice, into the like of Jesus Christ. It seems to be the belief of all our political parties in the UK that we can all be made good by endless legislation rather than following Christian ethics. Hence the "Equality Act" leading to same-sex marriage etc.