Oblate Program at Belmont Abbey, NC

Reading the Cistercian Fathers

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This is a continuation of an interview with Fr. Michael Casey, OSCO January, 2010.

Br Chris:  How do you recommend reading the Cistercian Fathers?

Fr Michael Casey:  It depends on the individual.  Some people you give them a reading list and they read it, other people you give them a reading list and they don’t read it.  They’ll read anything but books on the reading list!  So it depends on whether you’re a contrarian or not.  Generally, I think you have to start with some texts that are fairly easy.  For me, it has to be the Sermons.  The “so called” Sermons, though I’ve taken a vow never to use that word because they were chapter discourses.

We have the chapter discourses of Guerric of Igny, which are very polished, very humane, a very gentle introduction which you can follow through the liturgical year.  We have the chapter discourses of Bernard of Clairvaux, unfortunately not fully translated into English, it’s very incomplete.  Some of these are quite spectacular.  Then we have the chapter discourses of Aelred of Rievaulx.  Ninety-nine of these are in the process of being edited because they were only discovered in 1989, the Cluny-Redding collection.  We only have about half of his discourses and even some of these are of comparatively recent discovery.  About 20 to 30 have been translated into English and these are mainly discourses which he gave while he was abbot at Revesby.  This was before he came to Rievaulx so they are his earlier ones.  It takes a certain amount of patience, it takes a certain amount of skill, but they are talks, chapter talks given to real monks, in a real situation.

[continue to part 3]

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