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SEEKING THE ABSOLUTE: The Founders of Christian Monasticism

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 Contents - Mar 2007AD2000 March 2007 - Buy a copy now
Editorial: How we can help young East Timorese - Peter Westmore
WYDSYD08: Salesian provincial urges parishes to sponsor Timorese to World Youth Day 2008 - Peter Westmore
News: The Church Around the World
Sandhurst: Goddess worship at Victorian education conference? - Michael Gilchrist
Formation: Continuing growth of Sydney's Catholic Adult Education Centre - AD2000 Report
Catholicism flourishes in South Korea - Richard Stokes
Leadership: The scandal of Australia's anti-life Catholic politicians - Marcel White
'Professional', a l carte Catholicism and its papier mch schools - Andrew T. Kania
Survey of Catholic teachers
The changing panorama of Victoria's historic 'Rupertswood' - Michael Moore
Catholic religion courses and the challenge of relativism - Audrey English
Letters: Reform needed - T. Kalotas
Letters: Catholic schools - Kevin McBride
Letters: Null and void - Fr. G.H. Duggan SM
Letters: Presumption - John H. Cooney
Letters: Suitable wedding attire - Tom and Barbara Phillip
Letters: Modesty of dress - Greg Byrne
Letters: Ten Commandments - Arthur Hartwig
Letters: Abortion counselling - Frank Bellet
Letters: Leadership needed - Anne Lastman
Letters: Human embryos - Rebecca Soares
Letters: Ecumenism? - Peter Davidson
Books: The Glory of These Forty Days, by Fr James Tolhurst - Michael Gilchrist (reviewer)
Books: LISTEN MY SON: St Benedict for Fathers, by Dwight Longenecker - Michael E. Daniel (reviewer)
Books: SEEKING THE ABSOLUTE: The Founders of Christian Monasticism - Michael E. Daniel (reviewer)
Media: The Rosary of the Virgin Mary - 4 DVD or 4 CD set - Michael Gilchrist (reviewer)
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Reflection: The Holy Trinity - source of true Christian unity - Fr John O'Neill

SEEKING THE ABSOLUTE:
The Founders of Christian Monasticism
by Mayeul de Dreuille OSB

(Gracewing, 1999, 145pp, $21.95. Available from Freedom Publishing)

Reviewed by Michael Daniel

If any institution stands in stark contrast to contemporary material culture, it would have to be that of monasticism: too many people in the modern world simply cannot conceptualise how any individuals would forego marriage, a family and a career to dedicate themselves entirely to God through the monastic vocation.

Fr de Dreuille, a French Benedictine monk who has been extensively involved in the formation of Benedictines in developing countries, provides a short, but well written overview of the development of monasticism, which in Western Europe culminated in The Rule of St Benedict and the Cistercian reforms of the twelfth century.

Interestingly, de Dreuville begins his work by examining the works of Clement of Alexandria, who pre-dated Christian monasticism, as his ideal of how living a life fully consecrated to God was to form the rationale of the monastic movement.

After considering Origen, who also pre-dated monasticism, de Dreuville examines Anthony of Egypt at length, the proto-Christian monastic. Although he had disciples and gave spiritual advice, Anthony's life was largely eremitical [that of a hermit]. It was his disciples who were to form Monastic communities and write rules for these communities.

Along with most other scholars, de Dreuville argues that the monastic movement began in the fourth century because, with the Christianisation of the Roman Empire, being a Christian was no longer synonymous with living a life totally dedicated to the service to God, with many converting out of convenience.

After examining the major Eastern developments, particularly the writings of Sts Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory Nazianzen and John Chryostom, the influence of the Latin Fathers, particularly Sts Jerome and Augustine, is examined. However, de Dreuville argues that Cassian was to play a major influence in the transmission of the ideas of Eastern monasticism to the West and this contribution laid the foundations for St Benedict's Rule and monastic ministry.

The chief strength of Seeking the Absolute is that de Dreuville presents his material succinctly and clearly. The links and developments of the tradition are carefully signposted and each chapter ends with an excellent summary of the influence of the particular monastic movement/author considered therein. Primary sources form the basis of the analysis and material is thoroughly documented.

Michael E. Daniel is a Melbourne secondary school teacher.

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Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 20 No 2 (March 2007), p. 18

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