Thursday, January 7, 2010

Allies on the Monastic Life. A Benedictine oblate blog

Here is a quote from The Monastic Life by Thomas W. Allies, 1898(1) on the history and importance of the monastic life:

"The fact that the Son of God had become man for the salvation of men, and died upon the Cross, laid hold of the heart in all its force, and the word of the Apostle that baptism into Christ was baptism into His death, had its full meaning for every believer. Such a conviction might of itself draw a young and fervent spirit, such as that of Antony, into the desert; but there is a great step between an individual mind actuated with such feelings, and a community living a joint life together in the exercise of them. While Antony was thought to be the most perfect example of the ascetic life in itself, Pachomius rather bore the title of its legislator. The first community life at Tabenna was formed by him. The power by which such a community became a house, having its own corporate life; a father, was the mainspring of its action; members, whose office was as distinct as the office of the eye, the hand, and the foot of the human body, yet who grew together from day to day, from month to month, from year to year, this power added to the individual ascetic an impact of numbers which betokened another creation. Herein lay the vast importance of the new life which sprung from the action of the Fathers of the Desert.

"Basil entered very much into this new life. He had seen it in his visits to Egypt, Palestine, and Mesopotamia. He carried it out personally in his own life with St. Gregory on the banks of the Iris in Pontus. He furthered its attainment in his capital city, Cæsarea. The formation, growth, and consolidation of the monastic family is the crown of the ascetic life; the persistence of such a family to endure not merely for single lives but for generations, preserving one spirit, is the crown of perfect success — a success incomparably more difficult than an individual life, however high its purpose and perfect its accomplishment. Since the Church herself in all her grandeur, as in all her tenderness, is one family of Christ, it may well be that a monastic family, as a crystal of like quality, however small, may be the most perfect specimen of the one Church."


The picture is new 037a.jpg by jdurham and is used subject to license.

(1) Thomas W. Allies, The Monastic Life, From the Fathers of the desert to Charlemagne (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, & Co. Ltd, 1898) pg. 97.

These two contemporary reviews of The Monastic Life attested even then to its merit. The Month 1896 and see also The Dublin Review 1896.

The Monastic Life can be read on Google Books and Archive I could not find an old used-book version of the book (1896 or 1898) — If anyone knows where one is for sale, please email me. There are many good new reprints in hardback or paperback.


  1. I'm enjoying a search through the blogs you list on your sidebar...good information on monastic life! Thanks for making the links available.

  2. Hi, Beccky,  thank you.  I enjoy the other blogs too. 

    Too often I think that everyone else should see the monastic spirit the same way I do, but reading the other blogs corrects that view with the historically accurate one. It's a big family even on the Internet. 

    I am grateful for all the monastic blogs, including your beautiful one at Abbey Style.

  3. pax
    we live for our faith and die for our faith

    benedictine oblate