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Book Review

Peter Day
A Dictionary of Religious Orders
ISBN 0-860-12314-6
Burns and Oates, London, 2001, £35.00

(price at publication of review)

Reviewed January 2002; © Copyright, The Society of Saint Francis, 2001

This is an A-Z of Religious Orders, both past and present, mainly Roman Catholic, but with many Anglican and others, too. In it, you can look up the familiar Benedictines and Carmelites, but also find out about others whose names may surprise you - from the Sisters of the Abandoned Age to the Zelatrices of the Sacred Heart, under every letter of the alphabet (bar Q). It includes most Anglican communities, but there are some omissions - and be aware that some entries are not where you might first think of looking for them, for example, the Clares are listed under Franciscans, not under Clare. Space restrictions limit most entries to a mere paragraph.

Some entries are helpful, but with others the brevity is frustrating. The Anglican sisters at Rempstone, for example, are given just one sentence - and that tells us they use CHC after their name not OSB even though they are Benedictines. When one thinks of the fascinating sentences that could be written about these sisters and their long history, this seems an odd choice for the one fact the editor chooses to give us. Some of the longer entries give the impression of a hurried approach, with a few facts thrown together rather than a considered précis. For example, the SSF entry concentrates on Giles and the founding of Hilfield, with no mention of Algy or Douglas, or that Giles founded BSFA not SSF. The glossary, too, has a few odd definitions: for example, CSF sisters will be mystified that 'First Order' is defined as consisting of 'men only'. Entries then must be used with care, some are misleading.

Despite these reservations, the book does have interesting nuggets of information to intrigue you and can be dipped into with enjoyment - as long as you do not regard the book in any way authoritative.

Petà Dunstan

Fellow, St Edmund's College, Cambridge


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