The Rule of Saint Benedict (For Contemporary Readers)

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As a Church History teacher, Benedict of Nursia in one of those characters who you just never have enough time for. Spend one class, or even a week, talking about the Benedictine tradition, and you will still feel like there is so much left to cover. Thanks to the folks over at Paraclete Press and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, the horizon just got a little bit brighter.

Paraclete Press has released a modern paraphrase of Benedict’s “little rule” that serves as a welcome introduction to the monastic lifestyle in today’s language. I have read Benedict’s Rule in multiple translations, and this one is probably my favorite. While the previous versions all offer good instruction, Wilson-Hartgrove’s efforts create a fluid reading experience that doesn’t lose the reader in archaic phrasing or difficult language. The truth is, Benedict’s instructions are hard enough to live out, and being able to more readily interact with them bridges a gap of sorts that should be encouraging to anyone whose interested in what it means to live like a Christian, day in and day out, especially in community.

As Hartgrove points out, Benedict’s words are not just “spiritual” suggestions for the individual; this is a brass tacks explanation of what it means to live in community together. As someone who knows what it is like to life in small community, and do dishes, I found sections like “Kitchen Rotation” both humorous and poignant. And as someone actively involved in a church community today, chapters like 23 through 30 remind me that community is challenging. It is amazing how Benedict’s spiritual insight still holds so much truth and application for the Christians today.

This is a book that I cannot recommend strongly enough. New Christians, seasoned Christ followers, and everyone in between should pick up a copy of The Rule of Saint Benedict. There is no question that you can learn from this great Saint of the past, regardless of how modern his language may be.

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