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Items from Woodstock Library Rare Book Collection
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Woodstock Library Rare Book Collection

On April 11th, Lauinger library will be hosting the author, George Saunders, who will give the Annual Casey-McIlvane Memorial Lecture on the intersection of Catholicism, Buddhism, and writing. Saunders most recent book, Lincoln in the Bardo, is a text deeply indebted to religious themes found in Christian and Buddhist theology such as sin, salvation, dukkha, and samsara. Saunders uses the historical event of President Lincoln's midnight visit to the fresh grave of his son, Wille, along with an invented cast of ghostly residents of the cemetery, to beautifully explore these themes. In play-like dialogues, the reader is confronted by questions which stand at the heart of Christianity and Buddhism, questions regarding permanence, the good life, and ultimate truth. 

For those interested in dialog between Christianity and Buddhism, the Woodstock Theological library has a great number of books worth checking out.  God, Mystery, Diversity, by Gordon D. Kaufman, Zen and the Birds of Appetite by Thomas Merton are particularly fruitful. For a larger list of books related to Saunders, Literature Liaison and Reference Librarian, Melissa Jones, has created a book display on the third floor as well as a webpage for further reading.

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In honor of the feast day of St. Thomas Aquinas, we're republishing a blog by Amy Phillips. 

Today's feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas is often associated with the Dominican friars because Aquinas himself was a member of the order and stands out as one of the greatest scholastic thinkers of the 13th century. In the 19th century, however, it was the Society of Jesus that led the revival of Scholasticism and a renewed interest in the work of Thomas Aquinas. Pope Leo XIII's encyclicalAeterni Patriswas issued in 1879 and called for a renewal in the study of philosophy. Jesuits were already at work in establishing a Thomistic orientation in their own education and scholarship. In 1850 the Jesuits founded La Civiltà Cattolicaa scholarly journal devoted to philosophy, especially the promotion of Scholasticism.

Page from Ad primam secundae D. Thomae tractatus quinque theologici

Though engaged in this revival, Jesuits weren't committed to Thomas Aquinas in the same ways. Interpretations and applications of his philosophy varied widely among the Jesuits. One approach to Aquinas was known as Suárezianism. As the term suggests, this was a method or school that followed the Jesuit philosopher of the 16th century, Francisco Suárez (1548-1617). Though Suárez was trained in scholasticism, he developed his own philosophy that departed from Aquinas and which is often referred to as a "second Scholasticism." The Jesuits of the 19th century who revived Aquinas, balanced his work with that of Suárez, other philosophers, and socio-political phenomena of the time, such as the ascendancy of democracy. Thus, their Suárezianism was the approach of expanding or, sometimes, refining Aquinas's ideas, which could not always accommodate intellectual and cultural developments in the 19th century. Woodstock Theological Library has many rare copies of books authored by Francisco Suárez. Shown here is his Ad primam secundae D. Thomae tractatus quinque theologici published by Jacob Cardon of Lyon in 1628. It was edited by Baltasar Alvarez, S.J. (1533-1588) who was trained in theology and philosophy by Dominicans in Ávila. He is best known for being the spiritual director of Teresa of Ávila.

entry authored by Amy E. Phillips, Rare Materials Cataloger for WTL on 1/27/2017

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Items from Woodstock Library Rare Book Collection
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Woodstock Library Rare Book Collection

Chinese Print

The Jesuits at Woodstock College were trained in academic and spiritual disciplines. This was done in the spirit of Ad majorem Dei gloriam, for the greater glory of God. Their training in languages, world literatures, and global civilizations enabled them to live in different geographic locations and among diverse cultures and people. Thus, their work, or “missions”, took them all over the world where they contributed to, but most often gained from, the societies they inhabited.

In the 20th century, Woodstock Jesuits were sent to China, following a long tradition of Jesuits in China which began in 1582 with Matteo Ricci. While there, they not only taught and learned from the Chinese people but they consumed and enjoyed their traditions.

As any traveler can testify, souvenirs are important material markers of time spent abroad. Among the keep-sakes the Woodstock Jesuits brought back from their work in China were a group of prints depicting scenes from the The Three Kingdoms, the historical novel attributed to Luo Guanzhong (ca. 1330-1400) and set in the 2nd century at the close of the Latter or Eastern Han Dynasty.* The story centers around three characters, Liu Bei, Guan Yu, and Zhang Fei, who make an oath to become brothers and to defend the Han Empire in the Peach Garden.

Chinese Print

The famous first line of the novel is: the empire, long divided, must unite; long united, must divide.  In the context of the prints obtained by the Woodstock Jesuits one can’t help but contemplate how closely it echoes the history of the Jesuits – from its extraordinary beginning and flourishing during 16th and 17th centuries, to its suppression and expulsion from Europe in 1773, to its restoration in 1814.

Post by Amy Phillips, Rare Materials Cataloger for Woodstock Library

* Many thanks to our colleague, Ding Ye, for helping us identify these prints.

 

 

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Items from Woodstock Library Rare Book Collection
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Woodstock Library Rare Book Collection

On this day in 1989, six Jesuits and their domestic worker and her 16 year old daughter were brutally murdered by American trained Salvardoran soldiers at their residence at the University of Central America (UCA) in the city of San Salvador. They were murdered because they and the UCA were perceived by right-wing political powers as favoring the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), an insurgent group that fought against the corrupt government. Moreover, one among them, Ignacio Ellacuria, S.J., was openly critical of the government and the violence it perpetrated against its own people. The Jesuit Order, which ran the UCA, always expressed and lived in solidarity with those made poor and victimized by the political perversions of the Salvadorian regime The names of those martyrs are:

Ignacio EllacuríaS.J.

Ignacio Martín-Baró, S.J.

Segundo Montes, S.J.

Juan Ramón Moreno, S.J.

Joaquín López y López, S.J.

Amando López, S.J.

Elba Ramos

Celina Ramos

The liberation theologian, Jon Sobrino, S.J., was close friend and colleague of the assassinated Jesuits at the UCA. About his friends he wrote:

Witnesses to the Kingdom Book Cover“It is true that they worked and served in the university, in the Society of Jesus, in the church, but in the final analysis they were not serving and working for the good of the university, the Society of Jesus, or the church. They were working to bring the crucified people down from the cross, in the language of Jesus, to eliminate the anti-kingdom and build the kingdom of God. Thus, they did not use the poor as a means to further their academic or religious interests – an ever present temptation, since we human beings manipulate for our benefit even that which is most sacred – but on the contrary, they used the latter as means for practicing mercy.” (Witness to the Kindgom: The Martyrs of El Salvador and the Crucified People. New York: Orbis Books, 2003. page 198)

 

Post by Amy Phillips, Rare Materials Cataloger for Woodstock Library

 

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Items from Woodstock Library Rare Book Collection
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Woodstock Library Rare Book Collection

This year marks the centenary of the influenza epidemic that claimed an estimated 50 million lives worldwide, and nearly 700,000 in the US.1 At the end of World War I global troop movements provided the perfect conditions for the disease to spread. By some calculations, nearly one third of the world’s population contracted the disease.

Though Woodstock College was a somewhat secluded population, it too felt the effects of the influenza epidemic. We get a glimpse of the effects of the disease on the community, from the pages of the diaries held within the archival collection, which describe the advent of the disease.

Page of Woodstock Philosophers Diary

Woodstock Choir Diary Pages

To combat the spread of the disease recreational activities and visitors were curtailed and barred, respectively. Spiritual measures were also taken. During the height of the epidemic, with a number sick novices, an around the clock prayer vigil was held before the sacrament. With nearly 110 cases of the "grippe" reported at the novitiate in St. Andrews-on-Hudson, there was very real fear within the community. 

 

Woodstock Philosopher Diary

Choir and orchestra practice was also cancelled so as to mitigate the Jesuits contact with each other, and so as to avoid disturbing the sick within the infirmary.

Fortunately, unlike some of the other novitiates in New York, Woodstock escaped with relatively few deaths.

For more information on how Jesuits responded to the Influenza epidemic visit the Woodstock Theological Library.

Post by Adrian Vaagenes, Digital and Archival Services Librarian 

 https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1918-commemoration/1918-pande...

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Items from Woodstock Library Rare Book Collection
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Woodstock Library Rare Book Collection

Saint Oscar Romero

On October 14th, Oscar Romero was canonized by Pope Francis. His life was and remains an example of strength and courage in the midst of a terrorizing, unjust, and corrupt government.  

When Saint Oscar Romero was appointed Archbishop of San Salvador, he could not have known how radically his life, his heart, and his involvement with the people of El Salvador would change, placing him at the forefront of a lived theology of liberation. The people of El Salvador were living under an oppressive and violent military government that sought to silence, through torture and death, anyone who spoke out against its corruption. Saint Oscar was one who spoke out. He did this through his homilies which articulated his support and commitment for peace, non-violence, and human rights. He often delivered messages on YSAX (the radio station of the archidiocese) and, of course, from the pulpit.

In a homily preached by Saint Oscar on the Fifth Sunday of Lent, March 23, 1980, his following statements were met with applause from the congregation*

“The great task of Christians is to become absorbed in God’s kingdom and, with our souls so absorbed, to work also on projects of history. It is a good thing to unite in the people’s organizations; it is a good thing to create political parties; it is a good thing to take part in the government. All this is good, as long as you’re a Christian who reflects the kingdom of God and tries to implant it wherever you are working….” (A Prophetic Bishop Speaks to his People: The complete Homilies of Archbishop Oscar Romero. Translated by Joseph V. Owens, SJ; edited by Rafael Luciani, Felix Palazzi, and Julian Filochowski. Vol 6. p. 402).

Book - A Prophetic Bishop Speaks to His PeopleAs with many whose fate is bound up with the poor, oppressed and marginalized, Saint Oscar experienced a violent and unjust death. His final words, a homily given at the Anniversary Mass for Sara Meardi de Pinto [i.e., Doña Sarita] and delivered at the Chapel of the Divina Providencia Hospital, March 24th, 1980, are more enduring and penetrating than the bullets that were the instrument that tried to silence him:

“This holy Mass of thanksgiving, then, is just such an act of faith [as demonstrated by Doña Sarita]. By Christian faith we know that at this moment the host of wheat becomes the body of the Lord who offered himself for the redemption of the world, and that the wine in this chalice is transformed into the blood that was the price of salvation. May this body that was immolated and this flesh that was sacrificed for humankind also nourish us that we can give our bodies and our blood to suffering and pain, as Christ did, not for our own sake but to bring justice and peace to our people. Let us therefore join closely together in faith and hope at this moment of prayer for Doña Sarita and ourselves.” (Owens, p. 422)

At that moment, a shot rang out.*

*The editors of A Prophetic Bishop Speaks to his People: The complete Homilies of Archbishop Oscar Romero, transcribe the congregation responses, and situate each homily in the events of week.

 

Post by Amy Phillips, Rare Books Cataloguer 

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19th Century Jesuit Poetry Book
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Detail from 19th Century Jesuit Poetry Book

Hermit

One of the works used in our most recent exhibition, Demons, Death and the Damned: The Underworld of Woodstock Library, is a beautiful exploration of the hermetic life of the early saints, titled Sylvae Sacrae. The collection of engravings, originally published in 1594 by the Flemish printmaker Marten de Vos, depicts the early ascetic saints of the church each in his hermitage. For our exhibition we chose to showcase a print in which a hermit is shown contemplating skeletal remains, however, most are not nearly so morbid, but are beautifully rendered scenes of lone individuals in acts of prayerful supplication, pious repose, or zealous action.

Hermit

The Sylvae Sacrae was part of a movement within the counter reformation to defend and uphold the contemplative life of the religious. As art history scholar Leopoldine van Hogendorp Prosperetti puts it,  “the case to be made in each single print was to show that solitudo as a form of life promises to turn a wilderness into a flowery meadow, a squalid hut into an attractive hermitage, and the uncouth anchorite into an angel of the desert.”*

Hermit

De Vos wonderfully utilizes the foreground and background elements to juxtapose the pious life of the saint amongst the sylvan wilderness with the life of the city off in the distance. These depictions of quiet solitude maintain their power to this day in a world with less and less wilderness and more and more distraction.

Hermit

 Hermit

Many of these scenes are rendered by De Vos as charged with the unreal and the fantastic, with demonic and divine figures often in visitation, as if by drawing away from humanity, the saints draw closer to the eternal.

 Hermit

 

Post by Adrian Vaagenes, Digital & Archival Services Librarian

 * Leopoldine van Hogendorp Prosperetti, “Helenus and Dorotheus: Marten de Vos and the Desert Fathers,” in Imago Exegetica: Visual Images as Exegetical Instruments, 1400–1700, eds. Walter S. Melion, James Clifton, and Michel Weemans, Intersections: Interdisciplinary Studies in Early Modern Culture 33 (Leiden: Brill, 2014), 423–48.

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Page from  Solitudo : sive, Vitae patrum eremicolarum, per antiquissimum patrem D. Hieronimum eorundem primarium olim conscripta, iam verò primùm aeneis laminis.
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Demons, Death, and the Damned: The Underworld of Woodstock Library

Engraving of Hell from Nadal, Gerónimo, Wierix, Antonie, Wierix, Jeronimus, Wierix, Jan, Collaert, Adriaen, Collaert, Jan, Mallery, Carel van, et al. Adnotationes et meditationes in Euangelia quae in sacrosancto Missae sacrificio toto anno leguntur : cum Euangeliorum concordantia historiae integritati sufficienti : accessit & index historiam ipsam Euangelicam in ordinem temporis vitae Christi distribuens 2. ed. Antuerpiae: Excudebat Martinus Nutius, 1595.

The Halloween season is almost upon us, and to help you get in the mood, on October 1st Woodstock Library will debut an exhibition titled, Demons, Death, and the Damned: The Underworld of Woodstock Library. This exhibition is a chance to explore the spooky, devilish, and more lurid aspects of the collection, which some might mistakenly believe is all prayer books, biblical tomes, and catechisms. As the title suggests, the exhibition will highlight works and images related to the doctrine of hell, demons, and death.

Page from Drexel, Jeremias. Infernus damnatorum carcer & rogus aeternitatis Pars IIa. 1st ed. Monachii: Apus Cornelium Leysserium, 1631.

 

In the 16th and 17th centuries, one of the ways church leaders attempted to ward believers from a sinful path was to write of the horrific torments awaiting the unrepentant. Mixing biblical, pagan, and post-canonical sources, these books would paint terrifying images of the afterlife, filled with flames, snakes, and demonic torture. One example within our collection is Infernus damnatorum carcer et rogus aeternitatis, by Jeremias Drexel, a former Lutheran turned Jesuit priest. A popular preacher of his day, Drexel’s prominence was in part due to devotionals such as the Infernus, which combined imaginative and vivid etchings of hell with extended meditations on every horrific detail, all in a pocketable size.

 

Page from Nadal, Gerónimo, Wierix, Antonie, Wierix, Jeronimus, Wierix, Jan, Collaert, Adriaen, Collaert, Jan, Mallery, Carel van, et al. Adnotationes et meditationes in Euangelia quae in sacrosancto Missae sacrificio toto anno leguntur : cum Euangeliorum concordantia historiae integritati sufficienti : accessit & index historiam ipsam Euangelicam in ordinem temporis vitae Christi distribuens 2. ed. Antuerpiae: Excudebat Martinus Nutius, 1595.

A common feature of these devotional hellscapes was the presence of demons. Not just confined to the underworld, the demonic realm was also widely believed to influence day-to-day events and one’s personal fate, making up a whole genre of literature. Woodstock owns a number of these demonologies and exorcism manuals, which both describe the demonic and delineate methods of discernment and resistance. One such manual is the Thesavrvs exorcismorvm by Valerio Polidoro, a copy of which can be seen in the exhibit.  

 

The idea of death also played a role within 16th and 17th century literature, not only as a figure to be feared, but as a positive object for spiritual and moral contemplation. The contemplation of death as a path of moral cultivation is known as Memento Mori, and a number of pieces within our exhibition trade on this theme. One example is the 17th century devotional by Jeremy Taylor, The Rule and Exercises of Holy Dying. The mirror of death is a common trope in this literature, deployed here by Taylor, as a symbolic confrontation of the viewer with their own mortality.

Page from Taylor, Jeremy. The Rule and Exercises of Holy Dying. In Which Are Described the Means and Instruments of Preparing Our Selves and Others Respectively for a Blessed Death; and the Remedies Against the Evils and Temptations Proper to the State of Sickness: Together with Praiers and Acts of Vertue to Be Used by Sick and Dying Persons, or by Others Standing in Their Attendance. To Which Are Added Rules for the Visitation of the Sick, and Offices Proper for That Ministery. Printed by R. Norton for R. Royston, 1668.

If you’re interested in seeing more material like this, the Booth Family Center for Special Collections is also featuring an exhibit titled Macabre, which is currently on display in the special collections gallery.

Post by Adrian Vaagenes, Digital and Archival Services Librarian

 

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Items from the Woodstock Library Rare Book Collection
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Woodstock Library Rare Book Collection

Woodstock Theological Library is not just a repository of rare books and archives but it is also a growing collection of books and journals. It is not just growing but it houses retrospective materials that contain a treasure trove of authors and their writings that outline the intellectual and cultural developments of the recent past.

There is nothing more exciting than to turn the pages of a journal like The Christian Century and encounter articles that are now historic documents. When first issued, however, they may not have caught the attention of the general public, or, perhaps, the readership of the time may not have grasped the import an article would someday come to have.  In the The Christian Century issue of February 6, 1957, an article was published entitled “Nonviolence and Racial Justice,” the author? Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Article by Martin Luther King Jr.

Front Page of Christian Century

King ends his article by pointing out that non-violence “is based on the conviction that universe is on the side justice.” Given that the reality King faced (in fact, we still face more than a half century after the civil rights movement), that conviction seems nothing less than an act of impossible faith and hope. In calling for non-violent protest of segregation and racism rampant in the United States at that time, he also gives a brief historic summary of slavery and the subsequent horrors faced by African Americans from that time onward.

But King’s conviction was strong and it sustained him even as he faced the evil and injustice that sought to dehumanize him and African Americans throughout the United States. This was because he believed in the Good News told by Christ, which was a message of liberation and reconciliation between the oppressed and oppressor.  

King draws an analogy between the violent and oppressive circumstances the African Americans endured and the Passion of Christ. King refers to this as “cosmic companionship” and he gave proof of this companionship when he writes: There is something at the very center of our faith which reminds us that Good Friday may reign for a day, but ultimately it must give way to the triumphant beat of the Easter drums.

Post by Amy Phillips, Rare Materials Cataloger for Woodstock Library

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Poetry Book Cover

While the connection between poetry and the Jesuits is widely known (as mentioned in last week’s post), what you may not know is that Jesuit novices also tried their hand at poetry. Within the Woodstock College Archives, there are three large boxes of poetry books created between 1920 and 1869 by Jesuit novices. These poems were composed by philosophy and theology students as part of annual collections, and for specific feast days. They served both as a work of devotion and as a chance for students to practice their linguistic skills. While a small number of the poems are in English, most are in either Latin, Greek, Hebrew, or Arabic.

One of the reasons that these poetry collections stand out from their peers is the highly decorative covers of the books. The covers are incredibly ornate with branch-like lettering, floral motifs, geometric patterns, gilded backgrounds, and exquisite calligraphy found throughout. While we don’t which students illustrated these covers, they may have been done by those novices less poetically inclined as a chance to take part in the devotional work. A sampling of the many beautiful covers can be seen by clicking on the picture below. 

Post by Adrian Vaagenes

 

 

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