Permit me to heartily recommend two scholarly books hot of the press. The first is a companion to that ubiquitous medieval and early-modern institution known as a “confraternity”—lay spiritual clubs or societies, if you will. Recent decades have witnessed an upsurge of scholarship on the topic, so the time is ripe for a guidebook that synthesizes recent work and suggests new areas of inquiry. Herewith the details:
Konrad Eisenbichler, ed., A Companion to Medieval and Early Modern Confraternities (Brill Companions to the Christian tradition), 2019, 492pp, $258.
After the State and the Church, the most well organized membership system of medieval and early modern Europe was the confraternity. In cities, towns, and villages it would have been difficult for someone not to be a member of a confraternity, the recipient of its charity, or aware of its presence in the community. In A Companion to Medieval and Early Modern Confraternities, Konrad Eisenbichler brings together an international group of scholars to examine confraternities from various perspectives: their origins and development, their devotional practices, their charitable activities, and their contributions to literature, music, and art. The result is a picture of confraternities as important venues for the acquisition of spiritual riches, material wealth, and social capital.
The second is a massive Oxford-University-Press handbook to Catholic theology—all of it! With 56 chapters on topics ranging from “Faith and Reason” to “Holy Orders” to “Bonaventure and the Franciscan Tradition” to “Theologies of Liberation,” this will be a definitive, go-to source for years to come on all sorts of research on Catholic theology and intellectual history. The details:
The Oxford Handbook of Catholic Theology provides a one-volume introduction to all the major aspects of Catholic theology. Part One considers the nature of theological thinking, and the major topics of Catholic teaching, including the Triune God, the Creation, and the mission of the Incarnate Word. It also covers the character of the Christian sacramental life and the major themes of Catholic moral teaching. The treatments in the first part of the Handbook offer personal syntheses of Catholic teaching, but each offers an account in accord with Catholic theology as it is expressed in the Second Vatican Council and authoritative documentation. Part Two focuses on the historical development of Catholic Theology. An initial section offers essays on some of Catholic theology’s most important sources between 200 and 1870, and the final section of the collection considers all the main movements and developments in Catholic theology across the world since 1870.
This comprehensive volume features fifty-six original contributions by some of the best-known names in current Catholic theology from the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Africa. The chapters are written in an engaging and easily comprehensible style functioning both as a scholarly reference and as a survey of the field. There are no comparable studies available in one volume and the book will be an indispensable reference for students of Catholic theology at all levels and in all contexts.
Neither book is cheap, but this is why God invented libraries. If you know a librarian, let them know that these books should be on the purchase list.