Thursday, January 21, 2010

Overview of English Benedictines. A Benedictine oblate blog

Monastic Life is an overview English Benedictine communities. The short, well-organized 14-page PDF summary has a detailed drawing of a typical monastery, describes daily life, and has a good description of how monasteries affected and improved the life of the wider community. This resource is from Feltonfleet School in Cobham, Surrey, England.

From "Monastic Life"

"The Importance of Monasteries

"A monastery existed to serve God in a number of ways.

● To worship and praise God
● To help the poor, elderly and sick.
● To look after and help travellers
● To maintain learning and to educate people
● To feed and cloth the inhabitants of the monastery to ensure that they could carry out their duties.
● The Medieval monastery played an important part in relieving the suffering, poverty and ignorance that was prevalent in those days of war and hardship.
● The monks were experts on medicine and farming techniques.
● They offered shelter and hospitality to the poor.
● They were often the only hospital around.
● The monastery offered a certain number of places for teaching pupils the elements of reading, writing, and Latin. This was virtually the only source of education in the Middle Ages. There was many a baron who could not read or write.
● The monasteries set a rare example of hygiene and cleanliness. Rivers were tapped to provide a supply of fresh water.
● Since the monks were some of the very few who could read and write, they have provided us with invaluable information in the form of books, pamphlets and pictures.
● Monks also promised to look after elderly (rich) people in exchange for a gift of money or land. This was called a corrody. This was rather like a medieval insurance policy that was only of benefit to those who could afford it."
I liked finding "Monastic Life" on the Internet recently especially because the document is part of the educational resources available at Feltonfleet School in Cobham, Surrey, England. The Feltonfleet School is an independent day and weekly boarding Preparatory School for boys and girls aged 3-13 years. How about that!

I am sure there are other schools providing information about the Benedictines in Medieval times, but this was the first one I found that has the information on the Internet. Well done Feltonfleet School.



Picture is "The remains of the Abbey" (Shaftesbury Abbey) by Digging For Fire and is used subject to license.

From Wikipedia:

"Shaftesbury Abbey was an abbey that housed nuns in Shaftesbury, Dorset. Founded in the year 888, the abbey was the wealthiest Benedictine nunnery in England, a major pilgrimage site, and the town's central focus. The abbey was destroyed in 1539 by the order of Thomas Cromwell."

"Thomas Hardy wrote of the Abbey ruins:
"Vague imaginings of its castle, its three mints, its magnificent apsidal Abbey, the chief glory of south Wessex, its twelve churches, its shrines, chantries, hospitals, its gabled freestone mansions—all now ruthlessly swept away—throw the visitor, even against his will, into a pensive melancholy which the stimulating atmosphere and limitless landscape around him can scarcely dispel."
Note: the links to the file on the Feltonfleet School's web site did not work when I first posted this blog, here is a copy of Monastic Life.

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.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

List of oblate newsletters. A Benedictine oblate blog

A list of online oblate newsletters has been added to the Oblate Spring web site, the companion to this blog. The list is by state and includes links to the oblate program’s web page, the monastery’s main web page, and locator maps.

The 1971 Guidelines for Oblates of Saint Benedict (adopted by oblate directors) lists what proper oblates strive to do. One duty is to foster a spirit of community. It’s clear the Guidelines mean the oblate community of the oblate’s final oblation, but fostering that local community can sometimes be helped by knowing what other oblate communities are doing.

If we were talking about most kinds of organizations, we would be interested in what new idea, new activities, or new practices have been successfully applied elsewhere. But being Benedictine, perhaps we are also just as interested in hearing what traditional ideas, ancient activities, and past practices are being followed at other monasteries and oblate programs.
Of course, new ideas are worthy of following too. For example, as my previous blog showed, I think the Benedictine communities should be encouraged to embrace the Internet and link people to the light of Benedictine spirituality. Yes, the more, the quicker, the better!

The nifty Connect Saint Meinrad page is the first of its kind I have seen by any monastery — it’s Saint Meinrad Archabbey’s separate web page devoted exclusively to electronic connections to Saint Meinrad, you know, I mean like Twitter, blogs, Facebook, RSS feeds, ringtones, YouTube, iTunes, etc.

The list of online oblate newsletters may help us hear the wider oblate community.

Jan. 7, 2010 Update: on the same topic is my article, St. Meinrad Archabbey uses social media to stay connected.



Picture is sunset3.jpg by cohdra and is used subject to license.

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year, New Universalis Calendar. A Benedictine oblate blog

Each year around this time I toss out the last page of my Universalis calendar and print a new one for the year. When printed it’s about 16 pages so it folds up nicely and fits well with my stack of books I have for praying the divine office, reading in The Rule of Saint Benedict, and monastic study.

The Universalis calendar has the saints’ and feast days, but many web sites have that. Universalis also has the Psalm Week which is handy if you use Benedictine Daily Prayer (BDP).

Universalis is a leader in electronic versions of the divine office/liturgy of the hours (LOH) see my example of the LOH. You can read the Universalis LOH at their web site, by daily e-mail, on your iphone, and as an e-book on Kindle, Sony Reader, Barnes & Noble, etc. Some parts of Universalis are available as RSS feeds.

While I use a low-tech printed version of the Universalis calendar daily to check what day it is, the wide use of Universalis technology means that it is just a matter of time until we see monks in choir each holding an e-book-type device instead of several sets of liturgical books.

Monks with Kindles? Monasteries will create electronic versions of their liturgy of the hours materials: psalms, readings, and hymns, and download them into all the monks’ devices each week. The devises will have the names of monks beside the parts they are to lead.

I do not know if Universalis will be the first to offer monasteries electronic versions of the entire liturgy of the hours for hand-held devices, but the technology is available and its benefits are becoming more widely accepted.

Whether you enjoy Universalis because you can get a handy paper calendar or enjoy the fact that when sitting at a red light or waiting in line you can read the Office of Readings for the day, take an Internet journey over to the good folks at Universalis and see the future of the liturgy of the hours.