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Chapter 12. Monasticism of the early Middle Ages. Questions to be addressed in this chapter. What is the Rule of Benedict? What contribution did monasticism make to Christian thought? What is the significance of Pope Gregory the Great? How did Irish monasticism relate to Roman Christianity?.

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chapter 12

Chapter 12

Monasticism of the early Middle Ages

questions to be addressed in this chapter
Questions to be addressed in this chapter
  • What is the Rule of Benedict?
  • What contribution did monasticism make to Christian thought?
  • What is the significance of Pope Gregory the Great?
  • How did Irish monasticism relate to Roman Christianity?
the rule of benedict
The Rule of Benedict
  • Benedict was born sometime around 480 in the town of Nursia about 100 miles northeast of Rome.
  • There is in Benedict a continuity to be discerned with the desert fathers and mothers of the previous couple of centuries. But his emphasis was on life in community rather than the solitary pursuit of God in the desert.
  • Benedict had not necessarily intended by writing his Rule to found an order of monks, but rather he was trying to give guidance to those in the monastery he had founded for the sort of life that would be most conducive to bringing about their goal of advancing in spirituality.
the steps of humility from the rule of benedict
The steps of humility from The Rule of Benedict
  • That a man keeps the fear of God always before his eyes.
  • That a man loves not his own will nor takes pleasure in the satisfaction of his desires.
  • That a man submits to his superior in all obedience.
  • That in this obedience under difficult, unfavorable, or even unjust conditions, his heart quietly embraces suffering.
  • That a man does not conceal from his abbot any sinful thoughts or wrongs committed, but confesses them humbly.
  • That a monk is content with the lowest and menial treatment in whatever work he is given.
  • That a man admits with his tongue and is convinced in heart that he is inferior to all.
  • That a monk does only what is endorsed by the common rule of the monastery and the example set by his superiors.
  • That a monk controls his tongue and remains silent unless asked a question.
  • That he is not given to ready laughter.
  • That a monk speaks gently and without laughter.
  • That a monk always manifests humility in his bearing no less than in his heart.
other benedictines monks
Other Benedictines/monks
  • When Benedict went to Monte Cassino to found his monastery, his twin sister Scholastica came to meet him and started a convent just five miles south at Plombariola. This functioned loosely under the Rule of Benedict too, thus making Scholastica the first Benedictine nun.
  • Immediately after the death of Benedict around 547, the Benedictine order was only a local phenomenon. In due time, it would become the dominant model for monasteries throughout Europe.
  • Cassiodorus and his monks were instrumental in that stereotypical activity of copying and preserving manuscripts of antiquity for later thinkers to use.
pope gregory the great
Pope Gregory the Great
  • Gregory the Great, as he is often called, was a remarkable person whose influence ranged from music (Gregorian chant) and relief efforts among the sick, to defending the city of Rome against Lombard invaders when the public officials proved inept; he was also a prolific writer.
  • He was the first monk to become Pope, becoming so in 590 when Pelagius II died.
  • The Life of Benedict he wrote was probably the most important factor in the early spread of the Benedictine Rule throughout the Roman world.
irish monasticism
Irish monasticism
  • Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and traditionally ascribed with bringing Christianity to Ireland in 432. But there were Christian influences in Ireland before him.
  • The monks of Ireland are known to us primarily through their penitential writings.
  • There would be later misunderstandings and abuses of the practice of penance. But this is an important strand of the way Christians have understood sin, forgiveness, and the pursuit of closeness to God which grew out of the Irish monastic movement.
summary of main points
Summary of main points

1. The Rule of Benedict became the standard guide for the organization of monasteries throughout the Latin Church in the Middle Ages.

Monks were the keepers and transmitters of the classical works of antiquity, and they fostered a climate of work that encouraged human participation in spiritual development.

3. Pope Gregory the Great contributed to the spread of monasticism and influenced medieval theology with his ascetically influenced doctrines of penance and purgatory.

Celtic Christianity was originally dominated by monasticism and accommodation to its own peculiar cultural expression, but came to accept the pattern of Rome.