Revised Essay on Understanding the Anglican Patrimony. Part I: The Monastic Charism.

Revised Essay on Understanding the Anglican Patrimony. Part I: The Monastic Charism.

[The image is of a statue of St. Benedict of Nursia at Tre Fontane Abbey of the Cistercians of the Strict Observance, Italy]

[Links to parts of this essay: Part I (The Monastic Charism); Part II (England’s Monastic Roots); Part III (Patristic/Monastic Spirituality and the English Reformation); Part IV (Patristic/Monastic Spirituality and the Caroline Divines). Yet to be published: Part V and Part VI]


Responding to the call to understand and live the Anglican patrimony must, in my opinion, include relying on objective sources and authorities more than on subjective preferences.  In aid of this effort, I have revised research I published earlier and present it on this blog in several installments.  This revision includes more extensive research than published previously, thus building a stronger foundation for identifying the Anglican patrimony objectively rather than as a congeries of subjective preferences.

This revision also includes new sections.  They have developed from attempts to respond to questions that arose from the earlier versions of the research.

As I have delved deeper into the research, it affirms again and again that there is such a thing as English spirituality, to use Martin Thornton’s term, and that this spirituality, though not closed to other spiritual influences across time, draws most profoundly from patristic/monastic spirituality.

Several challenges present themselves in efforts to identify the characteristics of this English spirituality and its importance as a component of the Anglican patrimony.  The first is that scholarship in the area of what we now call spirituality does not claim to be an exact science.  At the outset, then, it is best to caution against expecting to pin down any spiritual tradition with too much precision.  Moreover, any spiritual tradition, in order to be viable, must develop, which makes it even more elusive when seeking hard-and-fast definitions.  The best one can do in identifying the characteristics of a spiritual tradition, then, is to look for recurring elements over time and especially those that demonstrate an ability to adapt and to do so organically.  The spiritual tradition that flows from the Rule of St. Benedict, for example, is one that still cherishes the Rule but acknowledges that some changes in observance have been necessary over time.  Some of the adaptations have gone too far, which has resulted in reform movements within monasticism.  But when reform movements succeed, they do so because they are able to point to constants in the tradition.

Another challenge is a similar reticence about clear definitions and distinctions in much of the history and culture of England, where the Anglican patrimony’s English spirituality took root and flourished.  English culture tends to rely on tradition and its development rather than to fix identity by means of clear definitions and distinctions.  It is therefore relatively difficult to find direct, explicit statements that define English spirituality.  Nonetheless, this English spirituality had distinctive elements at the time of the English Reformation, which were inscribed into the Prayer Book and continued to provide a context not only for the Prayer Book texts but for a Prayer Book spirituality that has characterized the Anglican patrimony.

Yet another challenge in the effort to identify the Anglican patrimony is that the charm or luster or quaintness of English culture is so widely appreciated in the anglophone world that it is easy to stop at this level and look no deeper.  But the Anglican patrimony is about a spirituality (a spiritual ethos) more than a national culture (an ethnicity).  This spiritual ethos happens to have taken root in England in a way it did not take root in other regions of medieval Europe, which means that the spiritual ethos and the ethnicity are intertwined.  But stopping at the ethnicity and looking no deeper is to misunderstand a spirituality that is available for anyone, regardless of his or her ethnic identity.

Nothing daunted by these challenges, I offer this research in the hope that it can contribute to constructive discussions on the Anglican patrimony.

In this first installment, I discuss—as preparation for exploring the monastic characteristics of the Anglican patrimony—the monastic charism itself.  Though I can offer nothing more than a summary in this first part of the essay, I attempt to present salient characteristics of monasticism both on its own terms and as compared with the charisms of other institutes of consecrated life.  I then present evidence that supports the oft-mentioned claim that medieval and renaissance England was monastic in the sense that it was influenced by monasticism—mostly the Benedictines—in ways that were unique to England.

Perhaps one of the more important quotes from this section is the following: “much of monasticism’s influences in Anglicanism can be distilled into this one characteristic of common worship that values recollected listening.” 

The Extraordinary Form tends to emphasize seeing.  Even the sound of bells at the consecration—which follows the priest’s silence, when the faithful have nothing to listen to—is meant to direct worshipers’ sight to the elevated host and chalice.  The Ordinary Form tends to emphasize dialogue and proclamation.  Most celebrations of Mass according to the Ordinary Form tend, moreover, to focus on community and very much the community gathered at that time and place.  The Anglican tradition, and thus the Divine Worship Form and its spirituality, tend to value listening.  The quality of the language of both the Prayer Book and the Authorized Version invite a sense of listening even when speaking the texts.  There is also the expectation that preaching should be of a high standard.  And Anglicanism’s musical heritage considers liturgical music to be a kind of preaching or lectio divina in song—worthy of careful listening, in other words.  Anglicanism’s High Church tradition has favored a general sense of recollection and reserve in liturgy that leave room for apprehending the “still, small voice” (I Kings 19:12) of God in word and sacrament.

One way to make one’s way through the following essay would be to look for recollected, contemplative listening as a kind of leitmotiv.  The early Church—the Church of the era of the Church Fathers and the beginning of monasticism—did not always privilege listening over proclamation/petition.  Indeed, emphasizing listening versus emphasizing proclamation/petition is one of the main distinctions between monastic prayer and cathedral prayer, respectively.  But when the English reformers looked back to the patristic era, they tended to opt for the monastic way of doing things.  Among the most important quotes of this essay—a quote that appears in the fourth installment of the essay—is the following by Paul F. Bradshaw, who observes that while the

“compilers of the Prayer Book no doubt sincerely believed … they were returning to the spirit and forms of prayer current in the congregations of the early Church, [they were] in a large measure restoring the spirituality of the fourth-century desert … which was essentially … concerned primarily with personal ascetical growth, rather than with praying as the Church for the sake of the world.”[1]

Br. John-Bede Pauley, O.S.B.

Revised Essay on Understanding the Anglican Patrimony. Part I: The Monastic Charism.


A commonly-held view about Anglicanism might be summarized as follows.  The Church of England resulted not from theological principles but because of an absolute monarch’s desire for a divorce.  As the establishment of the Church of England arose from political concerns, so too did the shaping of its theological identity.  The strong claims in sixteenth-century England of both Catholic and Protestant beliefs led to the “Elizabethan Settlement,” a politically astute, if theologically nebulous, compromise between the two theological perspectives.  This theological identity means that if the Anglican tradition has anything to contribute to the Catholic Church, especially in English-speaking countries, it is not in its theology but in its aesthetic sense.  Examples might include sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English translations of liturgical and scriptural texts (translations that, if regarded now as archaic, nonetheless set an example of what can be accomplished in vernacular liturgies); choral evensong; the preservation and renewal of certain ecclesiastical architectural styles; the literary/theological writings of an array of writers from John Donne though R. S. Thomas; and so on.

Though not free from a charge of inaccurate generalization, this summary makes its valid points.  The Anglican patrimony’s aesthetic contributions to Western Christianity, such as Tallis’s or Stanford’s choral anthems, are impressive and readily recognized as Anglican.  But it is not as easy to discover a core theological perspective in the Anglican tradition.  England in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries could not avoid a significant degree of theological compromise and accommodation for the sake of claiming an established religion.  Furthermore, Anglicanism’s preferred way of thinking theologically eludes precision because it does not privilege the logical and the systematic.[2]

But this preferred way of thinking theologically happens to be an ancient one.  It is that of the patristic era and medieval monasticism.  This longer historical view of the patristic/monastic theological perspective’s important role in English religious life justifies use of the term “English spirituality”[3] as well as—or perhaps rather than—“Anglican spirituality.”  The paradox of the English Reformation[4] is that though some aspects of Western Christianity were abandoned, the patristic/monastic theological perspective continued its influence.  It did so, moreover, while it had been largely supplanted among Catholic theologians on the continent by the more recent scholastic perspective; it did so even to the extent of influencing the Church of England’s identity, Protestant though it was in many respects; and it did so as an important element in the nineteenth-century Oxford Movement.  The Oxford Movement, in turn, intensified Anglican overtures for reunion with Rome that eventually led to Anglicanorum coetibus, Pope Benedict XVI’s apostolic constitution that explicitly recognizes the Anglican patrimony’s place in Catholic liturgy and spirituality.[5]

Complicated and at times elusive though the effort of identifying this Anglican perspective is, it is worth doing for the sake of a Catholic both/and appreciation that different theological approaches can co-exist and mutually enrich each other.  It is also worth doing for other reasons I discuss at the end of this essay.

Monasticism and Other Forms of Consecrated Life

Previous versions of this research[6] have revealed understandable confusion among some readers over the term “monastic.”  This term and its related terms (“monk,” “nun,” “monastery,” and so on) are often used imprecisely to refer to consecrated religious in general.  For example, statements that refer to Martin Luther as having been a monk before he launched his reform movement are inaccurate since he was an Augustinian friar.[7]  And nuns “properly so-called” are distinct from other women religious.[8]

Perfectae caritatis, the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on the Adaptation and Renewal of Religious Life, asserted the continuing importance of distinctions between various charisms of consecrated life by calling for “a constant return to the sources of the whole of the Christian life and to the primitive inspiration of the institutes.”[9]  Since an in-depth discussion of what distinguishes the monastic charism from other charisms would be beyond the scope of this essay, however, I offer here a few key distinctions.[10]  I present them in the context of a chronological overview from the inception of the monastic movement in the third century, through the thirteenth-century appearance of the mendicant orders, to the creation of new religious institutes at the time of the Protestant Reformation movements and the Catholic Counter-Reformation.

From roughly the third century through the twelfth, Christianity in both East and West knew only one kind of consecrated religious life: monasticism.  But two somewhat distinct understandings of monasticism rather quickly emerged.  The distinction can be summarized by looking at two interpretations of the Greek μοναχός (monachos), which can be translated “singleness,” and which is the etymological root of the English word “monk.”

The desert tradition, so well exemplified by the monastic movement in the Egyptian desert, began in the late third and early fourth centuries.  It understood μοναχός, singleness, in the sense of living as a solitary for the sake of discovering “the desert as a place of spiritual retreat”[11] and spiritual combat.  Retreat to the desert also meant little interest in being part of the Church’s hierarchy.  Even when desert monasticism began to include ordained monks, which was not the case in its earliest years, holy orders were regarded as “accidental and secondary, and … superadded to”[12] this understanding of the religious life.

The subsequent development in the Egyptian desert of this solitary, eremitic (ἐρῆμος, of the desert or uninhabited) ideal into the coenobetic (κοινοβιός, communal) way of life was a development that continued to value solitude while offering mutual support in prayer, spiritual direction, and attending to practical needs.  The coenobitic life, though communal, was regarded as living together alone. 

Monks and nuns of the coenobia gathered to pray in common (in the Σύναξις, synaxis) but with an emphasis on recollection and profound listening to the divine word.  The importance of listening was not only a literal, rational attentiveness but also a figurative listening with “the ear of the heart”[13] as a reflective, interior pondering of Scripture and especially the Psalms.  This was in contrast to the liturgy one would expect to find in non-monastic worship, which has been called “cathedral” prayer.[14]  Cathedral prayer tended to favor praise, monastic prayer listening.  Monastic prayer inclined towards praying all of Scripture, both in private and in common, whereas cathedral prayer used a limited selection of Psalms and Scripture readings and included the latter only occasionally.  Though the early Church was wary of music (for reasons too involved to discuss here), cathedral prayer was more open to the place of music in liturgy than was monastic prayer.

As this brief comparison between the two ways of praying reveals, each liturgical milieu had its own emphasis.  The spirit of monastic common prayer privileged personal, interior reflection.[15]  The spirit of cathedral prayer emphasized corporate proclamation and petition as the body of Christ, “praying as the Church for the sake of the world.”[16]  This is a distinction to which I return below in discussing the underlying expectations of the Prayer Book.

It is counter-intuitive, at first, to see any connection between fourth-century monasticism’s emphasis on solitude for the sake of listening and parish life in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England.  But this is a recurring theme throughout this essay because much of monasticism’s influences in Anglicanism can be distilled into this one characteristic of common worship that values recollected listening.  Common prayer of fourth-century Egyptian coenobitic monasticism was very austere, including the nearly-total exclusion of any musical expression.  But over the centuries, this very emphasis on recollected listening to the divine word developed into poetry and music that both expressed and led back to this attitude of prayerful attentiveness.  The cadences of the Book of Common Prayer and of the Authorized Version of the Bible (also known as the King James Version) as well as the beauty of choral Evensong are thus developments not only from more recent European spiritual-and-artistic developments, such as the poetry of the Carolingian Renaissance,[17] medieval plainchant, and Franco-Flemish polyphony, but also from the Egyptian desert.

The second interpretation of μοναχός is famously articulated by Saint Augustine of Hippo, who regarded singleness not as dwelling alone (even if in community) but singleness of heart and mind shared by members of a community.  Saint Augustine’s monks lived together so as “to make one man, so that they really possess what is written, one mind and one heart.”[18]  This understanding of μοναχός has been called urban monasticism since it saw no need to withdraw to the desert and, regarding holy orders as a principal aspect of the charism, engaged in what we would today call active ministry rather than a way of life specifically ordered to contemplation and recollection.

The RB was written around 530,[19] by which time there had already been approximately two centuries of monasticism.  Though St. Augustine’s view of  μοναχός  influenced passages in the RB, the document opted for μοναχός in the living-together-alone sense, favoring solitude for the sake of prayerful listening.  Indeed, the RB opens with the injunction “listen,” obsculta … et inclina aurem cordis tui (listen … and incline the ear of your heart).[20]

The ideal of holy solitude also inspired clergy and laity in the early centuries of the Church.  The most popular hagiographical accounts were of three saints—Saint Anthony, Saint Martin, and Saint Benedict—who lived extended periods of seclusion.[21]  Of these three accounts, that of the most eremitic of the saints, Saint Anthony, was the “first and most influential of the genre.”[22]

Saint Augustine’s[23] understanding of μοναχός was favored by bishops rather than monastics.  This Augustinian expression seems to have been fairly widespread until the eleventh century.  Clergy “everywhere” lived or were expected to live in some form of regular or canonical life under their bishops.[24]  In the eleventh century, some clergy departed from the old discipline.  It was in this period that the terms canonici saeculares and canonici regulares came into use to distinguish the two types of diocesan clergy.[25]  But this canonical clerical life existed with less continuity, permanence, and far-reaching influence during the first millennium of Christianity in the West than was the case with monasticism understood eremitically/coenobitically and Benedictine monasticism in particular.

In the twelfth century, the Cistercian reform of Benedictine monasticism provided the last great flourishing of the ideal of the desert in Western religious life.  At around the same time, a widespread desire for reform in religious life inspired a newfound organizational cohesion for urban monasticism in the form of canons regular.  This coincided with the phenomenon of European cities gaining more political, economic, and cultural significance, thus enhancing appreciation of the mission-centered charism of the canons.  The ideal not of withdrawal from the world but of serving, preaching, and teaching in urban centers contributed, in the thirteenth century, to the creation of the mendicant orders, such as the Dominicans, the Franciscans, the Carmelites, and the Augustinian Friars.[26]  None of these new orders would have claimed they spurned the value of the desert as a place of prayer in solitude, only that it was now to be lived interiorly rather than being expressed geographically by situating religious houses in rural areas.

Mission and action became even more imperative in response to the upheavals of the Protestant reformation movements of the sixteenth century.  Hence the creation of the clerks regular, such as the Jesuits.[27]

Figure 1 provides a visual overview of these developments.

Figure 1.

At the risk of over-simplification, there are two important desert-city contrasts in this historical overview that I must mention.  The fourth-century desert-city contrast marked significant differences in the early Church between monastics and, generally, all other Christians, as suggested above in discussing differences between cathedral and monastic prayer.  Yet, there were significant similarities such that the spiritual ideals of all in the early Church (the laity, secular clergy, and monastics) were basically the same.  Theologians (Church Fathers), whether they sought to live in seclusion, such as St. Jerome, or were in the thick of active ministry, such as St. Ambrose, shared the same basic understanding of how to read and think about Scripture and how this reflective reading and prayer was part of an integrated whole with the liturgy.  Liturgy (both the Eucharist and some form of what we would now call the Liturgy of the Hours) was regarded as the holy obligation of all Christians.  For the laity to absent themselves from the Liturgy of the Hours would have been thought of as “weaken[ing] the body [of Christ at prayer and depriving] the head of his members.”[28]  This is in contrast to later centuries, when the prevalent view was that liturgy was primarily the duty of clergy and religious, leaving the devout laity to focus on private devotions, even during the liturgy (praying the rosary during Mass, for example).

Because of the basic unity among monastics and non-monastics in a common liturgico-scriptural spirituality, this essay uses the terms “monastic” and “patristic” interchangeably.  To the extent that monasteries throughout the Middle Ages were faithful to this theological perspective, monasticism maintained thepatristic theological approach in the West after the end of the patristic era.

There was also a desert-city contrast in the late Middle Ages (around the thirteenth century) that resulted from urban centers in the West becoming larger and more influential than had been the case previously.  This was one of several factors[29] that gave rise to a newer theological method, scholasticism, that gained prominence and also caused something of a division in Western Christianity between monastics (whose theological perspective was now on the wane) and scholastics.  Scholasticism had developed in cathedral schools before the appearance of the mendicants in the thirteenth century.  But the mendicants took to it in part because their active focus allowed less time to accommodate the “laborious leisure” (otium negotiotissimum)[30] of the patristic/monastic approach.

To present the patristic/monastic theological approach as concisely as possible, it values reflection and meditation by means of lectio divina, the prayerful savoring of Holy Writ.  This theological approach naturally tends to take the divine authority of Scripture as a given.  Texts borne of this meditative reading of Scripture tend not to focus on systematic logic and aim to inspire in the reader or listener a deeper appreciation of “God’s loving design”[31] and to spark a desire to more fervently live according to that design.

Scholastic theology is less interested in inspiration than in reason.  Scholastics “believed with faith, of course, but also understood by reason.”[32]  They incline towards the discursive and posed quaestiones.[33]  If they refer to the authority of Scripture and/or of the Fathers, they place that authority in contrast with the authority of reason.  The aim is to reach a “synthesis between authority and reason in order to reach a deeper understanding of the word of God.”[34]

In 1185, the distinction between monastic and scholastic was clear enough for Godfrey of St. Victor to write, “let us [non-scholastics] leave … the disputations of the scholastics, and devote our attention to other things.”[35]  Making too firm a distinction between the two perspectives, however, would be misleading, since the scholastic approach, once it developed, has always been closely interrelated with the patristic/monastic perspective.[36]  But they are distinct enough that the differences persist.  These very differences proved to be an issue in the nineteenth century, after John Henry Newman became Catholic.  Cardinal Manning (himself a former Anglican, but having thoroughly imbibed the scholastic approach) objected to Newman’s “old Anglican, patristic, literary, Oxford” tone being “transplanted into the Church.”[37]  (Perhaps Manning was forgetting that though patristic theology was no longer preeminent, it was still part of the Church’s spiritual treasury.)

The ideal would be that various theological methods and perspectives co-exist, all of them complementing the others.  History shows, however, a tendency to favor one theological perspective at a time.  The following table represents this in an admittedly simplistic timeline that nonetheless serves as a heuristic device.

No less an authority on church history than Blessed John Henry Newman can supply a few observations to describe something of the character of each era in the timeline.  Newman assigned to St. Benedict—by which he meant the patristic/monastic approach to theology reflected in St. Benedict’s Rule—Catholicism’s poetic element; to St. Dominic, the scientific; and to St. Ignatius Loyola, the practical.[38]

By assigning to monasticism the badge of poetry, Newman was not suggesting that monks are most true to their charism when writing or reading poetry.  It refers simply to the patristic/monastic preference for reflective and meditative reading—especially of Scripture, the Fathers, and liturgical prayers—rather than the systematically logical approach of pursuing quaestiones.

Though not all monastics are poets, monasticism’s poetic badge has fostered writing—especially when connected with Scripture read reflectively and with the liturgy—with an eye to literary style.  Early monasticism was not interested in writing.  The sayings (ἀποφθέγματα, apothegmata) of the Desert Fathers do constitute a rich literature, but they were not set down in writing in the earliest years of monasticism.  Yet, monastics meditated daily on the Psalms, which are poetry, and read the Fathers, some of whom were eminent men of letters.[39]  It did not take long, then, for monastics to emulate the literary standards of the Fathers.[40]

Patristic/monastic literature has made significant contributions to genres that favor such poetic devices as metaphors, repetitions (including the chiastic repetitions abundant in the Psalms), and imaginative comparisons.  These genres include sermons, hymn texts, and theologically-rich letters.  So important is this poetic element to monasticism and patristic literature that when the twelfth-century Cistercian reforms embraced stark simplifications in architecture, music, vestments, and so on, they refused to renounce the art of writing well.[41]  For, literary quality was regarded as a way of expressing monastic/patristic lectio divina.  Manning, though dismissive of the “patristic” in his statement quoted above, correctly associated it with the “literary.”

Monastic poetry is not only about reading and writing but also about discovering the beauty of God’s presence in the ordinary, which means perceiving liturgy, theological reflection, and quotidian tasks as forming aspects of the same integrated whole.  Even utensils—garden tools, for example, or stirring spoons—are to be treated, according to the RB, as though they are “sacred vessels of the altar.”[42]  Conversely, the ordinariness of the garden shed, the kitchen, and other places of everyday life has its resonance in the oratory.  All is both reverent and familiar, awe-filled and quotidian.  Patristic/monastic spirituality favors the stillness of the domestic and the “homely”[43] rather than the “disputations” of scholastics or the exaggeration and drama that characterized much spirituality and art in the late Renaissance and the Baroque.

An example of exaggeration in spiritual literature is the dark night of the soul, the via negativa, of which St. John of the Cross wrote.  Such literature merits some discussion here because though it has always deserved an important place in the wide array of expressions of Catholic spirituality, it exercised no noteworthy influence in Anglicanism,[44] further confirming the unique ethos of English spirituality.  When referring to the via negativa, writers such as St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa d’Avilà emphasized kenosis and a sense of pain, distress, and emptiness.  This literature was part of the Catholic Church’s Counter-Reformation, which in turn contributed to the Baroque aesthetic, the very term “baroque” conveying the idea and feeling of exaggeration.  In comparison with spiritual writings of earlier eras, the writings of John of the Cross and Teresa also tended to be exaggerated in that they strove to be exhaustive, monumental systems.

Some of the Church Fathers, such as Origen and St. Gregory of Nyssa, had also referred to the dark night of the soul.  But patristic literature favored a sense of balance, regarding the negative aspects of darkness as being simultaneously accompanied by a certainty of divine presence, thus bringing comfort as well.  The “Spouse approaches, [giving] the soul some sense of his presence, even while he eludes her clear apprehension.”[45]

This too-brief summary of the patristic/monastic charism can be summarized even further by the word “listening.”  It is a theological approach more intent on listening than praise, proclamation, or discursive reasoning.  This listening attitude characterizes the monk’s or nun’s attentiveness to, and savoring of, the divine word in lectio divina.  It is also this listening attitude that tends to favor poetry over science. 

The patristic/monastic approach also regards the spiritual life as an integration of lectio divina, liturgy, and work into an entirety.  It is for this reason that this essay does not focus on liturgical texts themselves, what might be referred to as a text-centric approach to the study of liturgy.  Exact wordings and structures of liturgical texts are immensely important, as is the study thereof.  But what I explore here is the theological perspective in which liturgy, lectio divina, and day-to-day tasks and activities (labora of the monastic maxim ora et labora) are understood as an entirety and how that theological perspective has influenced Anglicanism’s understanding of liturgy and spirituality.  The emphasis in this essay, then, might be referred to as spirituality-centric (though the noun “spirituality” as applied to the spiritual life did not exist until seventeenth-century France[46]). 

[Links to other parts of this essay: Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI]

[1] Bradshaw, “Daily Prayer,” 73-4.

[2] Geoffrey Rowell, “Spirituality in the Anglican Tradition,” in An Introduction to Christian Spirituality, ed. Ralph Waller and Benedicta Ward (London: SPCK, 1999), 136.

[3] Martin Thornton, English Spirituality (Cambridge, Massachusetts:Cowley, 1986), xiii.

[4] I refer to this historical series of events simply as the English Reformation but with the caveat that identifying England’s religious upheavals of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in this way runs the risk of over-simplification.  (See Kenneth Hylson-Smith, Christianity in England from Roman Times to the Reformation, Volume III: From 1384 to 1558 (London: SCM Press, 2001), xvi-xxi, for a discussion of competing historiographies of this period.)

[5] Benedict XVI.  Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus: Providing for Personal Ordinariates for Anglicans Entering into Full Communion with the Catholic Church—accessed 12 December 2018.

[6] John-Bede Pauley, “The Monastic Quality of Anglicanism,” Anglican Embers 1 (Lent 2005): 109-15; John-Bede Pauley, “The Implication of Monastic Qualities on the Pastoral Provision for the ‘Anglican Use’,” Antiphon 10, no. 3 (2007): 261-76; John-Bede Pauley, “The Monastic Quality of Anglicanism: Implications for Understanding the Anglican Patrimony,” in Anglicans and the Roman Catholic Church: Reflections on Recent Developments, ed. Stephen Cavanaugh, 161-183 (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011).

[7] M. Heimbucher, “Hermits of St. Augustine,” in The Catholic Encyclopedia,—accessed 12 January 2019.

[8] Arthur Vermeersch, “Nuns,” in The Catholic Encyclopedia,—accessed 12 January 2019.

[9] Second Vatican Council, “Perfectae Caritatis: Decree on the Up-To-Date Renewal of Religious Life,” in Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, study edition, ed., Austin Flannery (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1992), 612.

[10] To list only a few studies readers might find helpful in understanding expressions of spirituality that have flowed from different charisms of religious institutes and other sources: Lavinia Byrne, ed., Traditions of Spiritual Guidance (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1990); Cheslyn Jones, Geoffrey Wainwright, and Edward Yarnold, ed., The Study of Spirituality, (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986); Robin Maas and Gabriel O’Donnell, ed., Spiritual Traditions for the Contemporary Church (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1990); Arthur Vermeersch, “Religious Life,” in The Catholic Encyclopedia,—accessed 2 April 2017.

[11] Boniface Ramsey, “The Spirituality of the Early Church: Patristic Sources,” in Spiritual Traditions for the Contemporary Church, Robin Maas and Gabriel O’Donnell, eds. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1990), 38.

[12] Vermeersch, “Religious Life.”

[13] Prologue to the Rule of St. Benedict.  Passages taken from the Rule of St. Benedict are drawn from The Rule of St. Benedict: In Latin and English with Notes, ed. Timothy Fry (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1980).

[14] Paul F. Bradshaw, Two Ways of Praying (Nashville: Abingdon, 1995), 14-20.  See also George Guiver, Company of Voices: Daily Prayer and the People of God (New York: Pueblo Publishing Company, 1988) and Robert Taft, The Liturgy of the Hours in East and West: The Origins of the Divine Office and Its Meaning for Today (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1993).

[15] Taft, The Liturgy of the Hours in East and West, 66-67.

[16] Bradshaw, “Daily Prayer,” 73-4.

[17] Jean Leclercq, The Love of Learning and the Desire for God (New York: Fordham, 1993), 236 et seq.

[18] Augustine of Hippo, On the Psalms, in Ancient Christian Writers, trans. Scholastica Helgin and Felicitas Corrigan (Westminster, Maryland: Newman Press, 1960), 49, quoted in Gabriel O’Donnell, “Monastic Life and the Search for God,” in Spiritual Traditions for the Contemporary Church, Robin Maas and Gabriel O’Donnell, eds. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1990), 62.

[19] George Cyprian Alston, “Rule of St. Benedict,” in The Catholic Encyclopedia,—accessed 20 January 2019.

[20] Prologue to the Rule of St. Benedict

[21] Boniface Ramsey, 38.  The Life of Saint Anthony was written by Saint Athanasius in the fourth century, the Life of Saint Martin by Sulpicius Severus in the late fourth century, and the Dialogues: Book 2, The Life of St. Benedict by Saint Gregory in the late sixth century.

[22] Boniface Ramsey, 38.

[23] Popular though the hagiographical accounts of Saints Athanasius, Martin, and Benedict were, St. Augustine’s Confessions was and is a classic in hagiographical literature.  Its appeal continues into our day since—unlike contemporaneous hagiographies that tell of miracles, demonic attacks, precocious spiritual maturity, and so on—it is a relatively “‘normal’ story” (Boniface Ramsey, 38) that, because of its autobiographical candor, is modern avant la lettre.

[24] Anthony Allaria, “Canons and Canonesses Regular,” in The Catholic Encyclopedia,—accessed 4 April 2017.

[25] Allaria.

[26] “The Franciscans were founded by St. Francis in 1209; they are now divided into three orders recognized as really belonging to the common stock. … The Dominicans … go back to 1215. Since 1245, the Carmelites, transplanted from Asia into Europe, have formed a third mendicant order. Alexander IV added a fourth by his Constitution “Licet” (2 May 1256) which [established the Augustinian Friars, which are not to be confused with the Augustinian Canons.] The Servites were added in 1256 as a fifth mendicant order; and there are others.”  Vermeersch, “Religious Life.”

[27] Vermeersch, “Religious Life.”

[28] Taft, The Liturgy of the Hours in East and West, 56.

[29] The Crusades had contributed by encouraging the learning of Greek, hence the re-discovery in the west of works by Aristotle, hence Aristotle’s contribution to the development of the scholastic method.

[30] André Louf, The Cistercian Way (Kalamazoo, Michigan: Cistercian Publications, 1983), 109.

[31] Benedict XVI, “Monastic Theology and Scholastic Theology,” 28 October 2009 General Audience celebrated in St. Peter’s Square,—accessed 5 January 2019.

[32] Benedict XVI, “Monastic Theology and Scholastic Theology.”

              [33] Leclercq, The Love of Learning and the Desire for God, 1-2.

[34] Benedict XVI, “Monastic Theology and Scholastic Theology.”

              [35] Godfrey of St. Victor, Microcosmos, Book 3, P. Delhaye, ed. (Lille, 1951), 210, quoted at Leclercq, The Love of Learning and the Desire for God, 3.  Leclercq’s quote has Godfrey identifying himself as a monk.  He was an Augustinian canon.

              [36] Leclercq, The Love of Learning and the Desire for God, 3.  Indeed, after the rise of scholasticism, especially in the universities, patristic theology’s place even within monasticism was not always assured.

               [37] Edmund S. Purcell, Life of Cardinal Manning, Archbishop of Westminster (London; New York: MacMillan and Co., 1896), 323.  I am grateful to Fr. John Hunwicke for bringing this statement to my attention.

              [38] “To St. Benedict, then, who may fairly be taken to represent the various families of monks before his time and those which sprang from him (for they are all pretty much of one school), to this great Saint let me assign, for his discriminating badge, the element of Poetry; to St. Dominic, the Scientific element; and to St. Ignatius, the Practical.”  John Henry Newman, “The Benedictine Schools,” in Essays and Sketches, vol. 3 (New York: Longmans, Green, 1948), 236.

[39] St. Jerome’s famous dream in which angels scourge him for being not a Christian but a Ciceronian, which is to say more interested in literary style than in virtue, is said by classicists to be written in language worthy of comparison with Cicero’s literary style.  The Principle Works of St. Jerome, trans. William H. Fremantle (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994) 35.  St. Augustine was more direct in his defense of eloquence in holy writings.  Writings of St. Augustine (New York: CIMA Publishing Company, 1947) 175–176.

[40] Religious of other religious institutes have also shone as writers and poets.  John of the Cross, a Carmelite, and the two celebrated English Jesuit poets, Robert Southwell and Gerard Manley Hopkins, are examples.  Their work, however, is not as closely connected to the liturgy and tends to be more devotional and/or mystical (in the late-medieval sense of the word).

[41] Etienne Gilson, The Mystical Theology of Saint Bernard (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1940), 7.

              [42] The Rule of St. Benedict, (1980), 31:10.

              [43] This same easy commerce between reverence and familiarity is a theme in the writings of Julian of Norwich, the fourteenth-century anchoress who has had a significant influence in the English spiritual tradition.  Her terms for reverence and familiarity were, respectively, “courtesy” and “homeliness.”  Anna Maria Reynolds, C.P., “‘Courtesy’ and ‘Homeliness’ in the Revelations of Julian of Norwich,” Fourteenth-Century English Mystics Newsletter, 2 (1979): 12-20, also available at—accessed 20 May 2015.

              [44] Thornton, English Spirituality, 55.

[45] Andrew Louth, “The Cappadocians,” in The Study of Spirituality, ed., Cheslyn Jones, Geoffrey Wainwright, and Edward Yarnold (London: SPCK, 1986), 167.

[46] Philip Sheldrake, A Brief History of Spirituality (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007), 3.


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