When St. Benedict wrote his little rule for beginners in the fifth century, he could not have known it would shape the lives of religious men and women for more than fifteen hundred years. Offering instruction on prayer and community life, Benedict’s Rule espouses the values of humility, prayer, and hospitality that have marked the lives of Benedictines throughout the ages. Benedictines are those persons who commit themselves to the Rule of Benedict, and have been popes and widows, scholars and mystics and lay people from many religious traditions, including Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists, and Lutherans. They have lived in monasteries and ashrams, in busy urban centers, and in desert hermitages.
Dedicated to God and the practices of the Liturgy of the Hours and monastic life, Benedictines have made significant contributions to chant, theology, and the preservation of spiritual works of literature and scholarship. Represented here is the work of major Benedictine figures throughout the ages, beginning with Pope Gregory’s account of the life of Benedict and arriving at recent statements by the Conference of Benedictine Prioresses on conflict in the world. Along with the Rule, the writing of these Benedictines remains as relevant today as in any age.
Laura Swan, OSB, writer and spiritual director, holds graduate degrees in theology and spirituality. She is a member and former prioress of Saint Placid Priory in Lacey, Washington, and is the author of Engaging Benedict: What the Rule Can Teach Us Today (Christian Classics, 2005).
Swan and Zagano's book is a useful starting point for anyone seeking to explore the Benedictine tradition through selected primary texts with biographical introductions. It is accessible to readers of all backgrounds, and will urge them to launch out into other depths of discovery, where they will come to know more fully the author's claim that `Benedictine spirituality is enjoying a renaissance.'
S. Ephrem Hollermann, O.S.B., Associate Professor of Theology, College of Saint Benedict/Saint John's University
In her new book The Benedictine Tradition, Laura Swan has gathered together a very useful collection of readings. Since these selections are gleaned from her own practice of lectio divina, they will prove fruitful for the lectio of others. She has not contented herself with the usual well-known authors, but has ranged far and wide for her anthology. So we hear not only from Pope Gregory, but also from Raissa Maritain; not only from Venerable Bede, but also from Bede Griffiths. Finally , Sister Laura gives us more than little snippets; she gives us substantial excerpts for our spiritual nourishment.
Terrence Kardong, O.S.B., Assumption Abbey, Richardton, North Dakota
Laura Swan presents Benedictine spirituality through the lives and writings of great saints, scholars, abbots, and martyrs. Swan writes concise essays about 13 Benedictines, along with excerpts from their writings. It's an excellent way to learn about this great spiritual tradition.
People of the Book
Laura Swan's eminently useful and enjoyable anthology fills an important gap in contemporary sources for the study of Benedictine spirituality. It stimulates a taste for the multiple, rich expressions of that fifteen century tradition and could well be a handbook for further study. This small volume includes a succinct historical overview of the tradition along with short biographies of some major teachers and writers as context for what can necessarily be only a few well-chosen, brief but substantial and often inspiring, selections from original text. I recommend it for college students, those beginning or renewing their monastic life, Benedictine oblates, and anyone looking for a sure guide to the basic but varied contour of Benedictine history and spirituality.
Katherine Howard, O.S.B., Saint Benedict's Monastery, St. Joseph, Minnesota
The book would be a valuable addition to the spirituality section of any college or university library.
[P]rovides an introduction to the radiant history of the Benedictines.
American Benedictine Review
The Benedictine Tradition: Spirituality in History compiles writings of notable Benedictines throughout history; the essays reflect the power of faith and individual dedication to service, profound aspects that speak to the reader as strongly today as they did when first written. Highly recommended.
Midwest Book Review