John B. Wickstrom

title.none: McMillan, Regular Life: Monastic, Canonical, and Mendicant Rules (Wickstrom)

identifier.other: baj9928.9806.016 98.06.16

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: John B. Wickstrom, Kalamazoo College,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1998

identifier.citation: McMillan, Douglas J. and Kathryn Smith Fladenmuller, eds. Regular Life: Monastic, Canonical, and Mendicant Rules. TEAMS Documents of Practice Series. Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 1997. Pp. xvi, 80. $6.00. ISBN: ISBN 1-879-28895-8.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 98.06.16

McMillan, Douglas J. and Kathryn Smith Fladenmuller, eds. Regular Life: Monastic, Canonical, and Mendicant Rules. TEAMS Documents of Practice Series. Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 1997. Pp. xvi, 80. $6.00. ISBN: ISBN 1-879-28895-8.

Reviewed by:

John B. Wickstrom
Kalamazoo College

TEAMS has sponsored this volume of sources aimed at college classroom use. The book presents lengthy excerpts, ranging from four to almost twenty pages, from the Rules of the major religious orders along with some lesser-known monastic legislation.

The volume opens with a lengthy introduction to the Greek and Latin monastic experiences that contextualize the Rules. The authors are acquainted with recent scholarship on most of the issues raised: the discussion of the composition and dissemination of Saint Benedict's Rule for Monks is especially lucid and up-to-date. There are a few apparent lapses: the authors do not mention the urban orientation of later Eastern monasticism, leaving the impression that it remained primarily a desert tradition; though to be fair, the authors do remark that eastern monasteries served as orphanages, hospitals, workhouses and hospices (p. 4). The introduction limits discussion of canons to the rise of "orders" of canons in the 11th and 12th century and their adoption of the ancient Rule of Augustine, neglecting to point out that cathedral canons were gradually brought under various regulae, most notably that of Chrodegang of Metz, beginning in the 9th century.

A six-page "Suggestions for Further Reading" follows, which gives bibliographical guidance to complete versions of the Rules excerpted in the volume, along with some other documents, such as the Cistercian Carta caritatis. The complete editions suggested are those used for the selections, and so do not always offer the most useful editions. For example, the editors recommend a 1975 Image translation of Benedict's Rule for Monks rather than the very rich and accessible Liturgical Press edition of 1981, with its facing Latin and English texts, and accompanying articles and commentaries. The secondary sources, however, are well chosen with an eye towards the undergraduate reader or term-paper writer.

The selections from monastic rules that follow are each preceded by a paragraph or two of introduction. These usually describe the compositional framework of the Rule in question, an important addition that allows the student some sense of the complete document. Extensive selections from the major Rules of the regular tradition make up the remainder of the volume: the Rule of St. Basil (questions 7, 15, 25, 33, 41, 47,); of Saint Augustine (chapters 1, 4, 6,); Saint Benedict's Rule for Monks (chapters 1, 2, 4, 5, 22, 30, 37, 40, 48, 53, 57, 58, 59, 73); the Rule of 1223 of Saint Francis (chapters 1, 2, 3, 5, 11). However, lesser known Rules are also included: The Rule for Nuns of Saint Caesarius of Arles (chapters 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 18, 71, 72, 73), the First Rule of the Third Order of Saint Francis of Assisi, and the Rule of Saint Clare (chapters 1, 2, 5, 11).

The editors have given much thought to the selections, clearly intending to keep the volume brief and inexpensive for classroom use, while giving excerpts that are representative of the document as a whole. Such an approach inevitably invites complaints about omissions. While I recognize that such caviling is much easier than fashioning a workable text, I will nonetheless note that some omissions seem particularly unfortunate. One example involves the excerpts from St. Benedict's Rule for Monks. This fundamental monastic document is appropriately allotted the largest amount of space in the volume: 14 of its 73 chapters are included. Yet the Prologue is omitted, which arguably contains the core of the spiritual teaching of the Rule, making intelligible the plethora of regulations which follow. Perhaps more serious, none of the chapters which describe the cursus of the Divine Office are included. Admittedly these sections would probably not keep the attention of a beginning reader. But without them, the reader gets no sense of the central importance of the opus dei to the Benedictine life, "nihil...praeponatur" ("to which nothing is to be preferred": chapter 43).

All such reservations aside, this volume could be useful as a source book for a survey of medieval civilization. But particularly in the context of this on-line journal, I am moved to remark that the days of such texts may be numbered. A few minutes of searching the Web reveals that the complete texts of the Rules of Augustine, Benedict, and Francis are easily accessible there. If the less famous material is not yet available on-line, it probably soon will be. Medievalists can now direct their students, by means of a hyper-linked, Web- based syllabus, to complete downloadable texts, and can supplement these with bibliographies and commentaries, graphics, and even sound rather than relying on a volume of printed excerpts, however well chosen.