Translated by Giles Gonacher, OSB | Introduction by Donato Ogliari, OSB | Foreword by Roberto Ferrari, OSB
Anselm Stolz, the author of this book, was a Benedictine monk of the German abbey of Gerleve. He was called to Rome to teach theology at Sant’Anselmo, the Roman Benedictine college, until his early death from typhus in 1942. In his life and teaching, as his confrère Elmar Salman points out, he united Christian belief and Christian living, he not only talked the talk in books and lectures, he walked the walk, in his life and death.
A lifetime later, another Benedictine professor, Gellért Békés, would recall how, when he arrived from his Hungarian monastery as a new student, his confrères left him to his own devices, and as he stood there in the dark, alone and somewhat bereft in a strange house and country, Anselm Stolz came up and greeted him—in Hungarian!—and made him feel welcomed and at home. This gesture of kindly fraternal charity by a professor to a new student inspired him. The end of Stolz’s life was of a piece with this. Sent to minister to typhus patients in hospital, he caught the disease, and died of it, giving his life for others.
Stolz taught that mysticism, in the sense of having a deep personal relationship with Jesus, was for everyone, not just the preserve of a spiritual élite—in this he was a precursor of the Second Vatican Council’s emphasis on the universal vocation to holiness. As Salman says, this book “is the final stage of Stolz’s journey towards perfection.” It is, as Abbot Ogliari says “intended to provide inspiration for living with inner freedom and joy the following of Christ and his Gospel.”
So, in a succession of chapters, Stolz offers advice on the means to come closer to Christ, and, more importantly, to removing obstacles to Christ coming closer to us. He draws his teaching from the Scriptures and the writings of the saints, the Fathers and Doctors, who have followed the same paths and so are reliable guides for us.
The demands of the Gospel can seem frighteningly uncompromising, costing not less than everything. But if you have found the pearl of great price, the treasure hidden in a field, if you have found Christ, everything falls into place. All you have to do, is respond to the call of the Master, putting one foot in front of the other, following Him. This book is your invitation to set out. — From the translator
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I have learned that such a sapiential theology cannot be developed without an intimate union between doctrine and life, because—as in the person of Fr. Anselm—it is precisely the ascetical practice of the imitation of Christ which creates that spiritual sensitivity without which one cannot succeed in fully grasping the depth of the mystery of Christ. But above all I learned that such a theological mindset and such a unity of doctrine and life must be accompanied by an authentic sense of that humanity, which joined to a certain amount of good humour, is a certain sign of the grace of God. — Gellért Békés, OSB (1915–1999), professor at Sant’Anselmo and the Gregoriana, co-founder of the inter-congregational Sapientia College of Theology in Budapest.
The Benedictine scholar Anselm Stolz is well known for establishing the biblical, patristic, sacramental, and monastic roots of Christian mysticism. The present book—spiritual conferences Fr. Stolz delivered at the threshold of the Second World War—completes his task. Christian Asceticism is an essential document in the history of ascetic and mystical theology and a landmark in the twentieth-century renewal of Catholic and monastic thought. — Carol Zaleski, Professor of World Religions, Smith College
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Christian Asceticism by Dom Anselm Stoltz
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