Friday, November 04, 2005

Overview of the Ressourcement Series

The Editorial Statement of the Ressourcement Series defines ressourcement as "a spiritual and intellectual communion with Christianity in its most vital moments as transmitted to us in its classic texts, a communion which would nourish, invigorate, and rejuvenate twentieth-century Catholicism."

These words present two selection criteria for the Ressourcement Series, published by Bill Eerdmans and edited by David Schindler: 1. The encounter with texts that represent "the most vital moments of Christianity" and 2. engagement with the complexities of modern life.

Judging from certain reviews (for example, the conclusion to this one), one would think that the Ressourcement Series should be focused only on presenting a handy collection of theological texts from the first half of the Twentieth Century. Instead, the Series presents an eclectic and profoundly personal group of selections, whose point is less to build an academic library, but instead to provide the strongest resources for a culture torn apart by the crises of modernity. It is no wonder then, that the genres include not merely the strictly theological or philosophical, but also poetry, personal reflections, fiction, sermons, and meditation. For it is in these other genres that the breadth of human experience comes to the fore.

I was surprised, for example, when I read Letters from Lake Como. It is difficult to read because it is the fruit of Guardini's struggles in thinking about humanity and technology. He has several false starts, but he does succeed in framing this question in a serious and substantial way.

French Catholicism lurks in the background of a number of these works, especially The Portal of the Mystery of Hope, but also in the works of Madeleine Delbrel and Dorothy Day (via Peter Maurin). Peguy, Delbrel, and Day all converted from atheistic socialism to Christianity, but they never turned away from those human cries that they heard before embracing the Gospel. Bernanos's short stories offer confrontations between modern sensibilities and the Gospel: "Joan, Heretic and Saint," "The Sermon of an Agnostic on the Feast of St. Therese," and "Dialogues of the Carmelites." The last work especially refuses to bury the holiness of a martyr in sancimonious hagiagraphy.

John Paul II said that "a faith that does not become culture is a faith that is not completely accepted, not totally lived out, not faithfully lived" (16 Jan 1982). If we are begging for Christ to make Himself present anew in our world today, in culture, art, literature, the movies, and indeed in our daily life and work, we would do well to pay close attention to the titles in the Ressourcement Series, published by Eerdman's Press.

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