Religion Booknotes

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The Varieties of Vernacular Mysticism

1350–1550

Bernard McGinn

Crossroad, $70, 721 pp.

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Bernard McGinn’s The Varieties of Vernacular Mysticism is the fifth volume of a projected seven-volume history of Western Christian mysticism. This encyclopedic undertaking is one of the most impressive works of scholarship by an American Catholic theologian in the past few decades. In the opening volume of the series, The Foundations of Mysticism (1991), McGinn argued at length that mysticism (a modern word) should be construed as a deepening sense of the presence of God in a person’s life and could be studied by careful analysis of texts that are not always patently autobiographical. As he notes about Jan van Ruusbroec in this volume, a sense of God’s presence is open to every Christian through the “life of prayer and the sacraments, the practices of the virtues, and the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.”

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About the Author

Lawrence Cunningham is John O'Brien professor of Theology (Emeritus) at the University of Notre Dame.