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15 Feb 2007

Timeline: The Rise of Western Monasticism

by compiled by Antonia Ryan with contributions from Carmen Acevedo Butcher | Issue 93

The Rise of Western Monasticism—250–

c. 280 s Antony withdraws to the Egyptian desert

312/313 Constantine becomes a Christian; Edict of Milan calls for persecution of Christians to end

c. 320 Pachomius, founder of cenobitic (communal) monasticism in Egypt, receives his first disciples

325 Council of Nicaea approves creed proclaiming that Christ is divine in the same way as the Father

356 Antony dies; Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, writes The Life of Antony

370 Basil the Great, monastic founder in Cappadocia, becomes bishop of Caesarea; he...

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15 Feb 2007

A Devoted Life: Recommended Resources

by The authors and editors | Issue 93

Monasticism

● Christopher Brooke, The Age of the Cloister (Sutton, 2003)
● Marilyn Dunn, The Emergence of Monasticism (Blackwell, 2003)
● Joan Evans, Monastic Life at Cluny , 910–1157 (Oxford, 1931)
● Hugh Feiss, OSB, ed. and trans., Essential Monastic Wisdom: Writings on the Contemplative Life (HarperSanFrancisco, 1999)
● Jennifer L. Hevelone-Harper, Disciples of the Desert (Johns Hopkins, 2005)
● William Johnston, ed., The Encyclopedia of Monasticism (Routledge, 2000)
● Peter King, Western Monasticism (Cistercian Publications,...

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16 Feb 2007

Did You Know

by The Editors | Issue 93

A living tradition

Today there are about 25,000 Benedictine monks and nuns, as well as over 5,000 Cistercians and others who live according to the Rule of St. Benedict. In the last 40 years, these numbers have been declining, but the number of “oblates,” lay people associated with monasteries, is growing rapidly and now exceeds the number of monks and nuns. Many of them are Protestants.

—contributed by Hugh Feiss, OSB

Walking in Benedict’s steps today

Visit Clear Creek Monastery in Oklahoma and you will see something as close to...

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20 Nov 2015

Restoring order, restoring life

by Steve Harper | Issue 116

CH 116Order Christian History #116: Twenty-Five Writings that Changed the Church and the World in print.

Subscribe now to get future print issues in your mailbox (donation requested but not required).

When things are in disarray , God brings order out of chaos. Within about 60 years of each other, God used Benedict of Nursia and Pope Gregory to do just that. Benedict’s Rule for monastic community life and Gregory’s Book of Pastoral Rule both intended to bring new life where the church was in decline.  

a new way of life

As a teenager young...

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18 Aug 2014

Reading scripture, washing feet

by Benedict of Nursia | Issue 110

Chapter 35: Kitchen servers of the week

1 The brothers should serve one another. Consequently, no one will be excused from kitchen service unless he is sick or engaged in some important business of the monastery, 2 for such service increases reward and fosters love. 3 Let those who are not strong have help so that they may serve without distress, 4 and let everyone receive help as the size of the community or local conditions warrant. 5 If the community is rather large, the cellarer should be excused from kitchen service, and, as we have said,...

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1 Sept 1988

The Monastic Life: Benedict of Nursia

by Benedict of Nursia | Issue 19

XXXIII. Whether the monks should have anything of their own.  More than anything else is this vice of property to be cut off root and branch from the monastery. Let no one presume to give or receive anything without the leave of the abbot, or to retain anything as his own. He should have nothing at all; neither a book, nor tablets, nor a pen—nothing at all. For indeed it is not allowed to the monks to have bodies or wills in their own power. But for all things necessary they must look to the Father of the monastery; nor is it allowable to...

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15 Nov 1990

540 Benedict Writes His Monastic Rule

by Bennett D. Hill | Issue 28

WE HAVE, THEREFORE, TO ESTABLISH A SCHOOL of the Lord’s service, in the institution of which we hope to order nothing that is harsh or rigorous,” wrote Benedict in the prologue to his Rule. The Rule of St. Benedict is a short document, perhaps thirteen thousand words, yet it has influenced all forms of organized religious life, Protestant and Catholic, in the West.

Reading the Rule

Scholars speculate that Benedict (c. 480–549) wrote the Rule in the early sixth century (a) as a constitution for his own monastery of Monte Cassino between Rome...

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15 Feb 1986

Into the Desert: the First Monks

by the Editor of Christian History | Issue 9

SOME PEOPLE THINK that Christian monasticism began in the sixth century with Benedict of Nursia and his Rule of Life. But in fact it goes back far beyond that, to a time before there were monasteries, even before the ‘ desert fathers’ of the third century. Monasticism, as a recognizable and named phenomenon in the church, has no official beginning, no official foundings. It emerged, in several places at once, as a spontaneous development from the various forms of the ascetic life: the tradition of strong self-discipline which had taken...

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15 Feb 2007

A Life of Listening

by Hugh Feiss, OSB | Issue 93

Listen!" wrote Benedict at the beginning of his monastic Rule. Writing around A.D. 540, he offered a way of listening in a setting where God's voice could be heard, where those who wished to seek God through humility and obedience in a community of like-minded Christians could practice the disciplines of prayer without the distractions of family life.

In his prologue, Benedict invites the reader to listen to the voice of God calling him or her to service in prayer, faith, and good works. Such a disciplined life may be difficult at first,...

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15 Feb 2007

The Blessing of Benedict

by Carmen Acevedo Butcher | Issue 93

Beside a lake, a monk wielded a scythe up and down in fluid arcs, clearing a thicket of thorns for a garden. He had hacked at the wild, tangled weeds most of the morning and stood briefly to wipe the stinging sweat from his eyes before returning to work. But when he swung the heavy scythe heavenward this time, its iron blade loosened without warning and flew from its wooden handle, landing with a splash far from shore. The dark water swallowed it up, along with his heart. His hand and the abandoned tool handle shielded his eyes against the...

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15 Feb 2007

From the Editor - Rediscovering Benedict

by Jennifer Trafton | Issue 93

Not long ago a church history professor at a prominent Protestant seminary remarked to us, “No topic touches young evangelical students more than monasticism.” Surprised? We were. Why monasticism? Why now?

In 1996 Kathleen Norris's Cloister Walk, the quiet memoir of a Protestant woman's experience in a Benedictine monastery, became an unexpected New York Times bestseller. In recent years, monastic spiritual disciplines such as lectio divina, a way of meditating on Scripture, have enjoyed newfound popularity among laypeople—seen, for...

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