The Benedictine Handbook is a wonderful resource for Benedictine Oblates and those interested in Benedictine spirituality or its life. Edited by Fr. Anthony Marett-Crosby, O.S.B., of Ampleforth Abbey in England, the book covers spirituality, history, and other related topics in several short essays by various international authors, many of whom are Benedictines or Cistercians (or people very interested in them), Oblates or scholars. The general reader will find this book to be of interest, and the academic scholar can use it as an introduction to the study of Benedictinism.
Fr. Anthony’s introduction is followed by Abbot Patrick Barry’s translation of the Rule of St. Benedict (Barry was an abbot of Ampleforth Abbey). The Rule makes up the first part of six. Part two is a collection of essays on Benedictine spirituality, covering
Part three is entitled “The Benedictine Experience of God” and includes a very brief Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer in a two-week cycle created by Fr. Oswald McBride, O.S.B. of Ampleforth Abbey, who also collected some Benedictine prayers. Rev. Robert Atwell, an Anglican priest, provides a list of some of the famous Benedictines and other famous monastic fathers and mothers along with short biographies on them. The Irish monk Colman O’Clabaigh, O.S.B., of Glenstal Abbey presents a list and description of Benedictine holy places.
- ”The Work of God,” about the Divine Office or the Liturgy of the Hours, by Fr. Demetrius Dumm, O.S.B., of St. Vincent’s Archabbey in Pennsylvania
- ”Lectio Divina” by Fr. Michael Casey, O.C.S.O., from Australia
- ”Prayer” by Sr. Mary Forman, O.S.B., from Idaho
- ”Work” by Laurence McTaggart, O.S.B., of Ampleforth Abbey
- ”The Vows” by Abbot Richard Yeo, O.S.B., abbot of Downside Abbey in England, and
- ”Hospitality” by Kathleen Norris, an American Oblate and author
Part four comprises four essays on how one can live the Benedictine life. The first essay by Fr. Columba Stewart, O.S.B., of St. John’s Abbey in Minnesota discusses community. Sr. Maria Boulding, O.S.B. of Stanbrook Abbey in England, presents an essay on solitude. Anglican priest Rev. Dwight Lonenecker’s essay is on what an Oblate is. Esther de Waal, an Oblate in England who has written several books on Benedictine spirituality, contributes an essay on how to follow the Rule of St. Benedict while living in the world.
Part five, a history of the Benedictines and the Cistercians, includes three essays - by Fr. Joel Rippinger, O.S.B., a monk of Marmion Abbey in Illinois, Fr. Dominic Milroy, O.S.B., a monk of Ampleforth Abbey, and Fr. Nivard Kinsella, O.C.S.O, a monk in Ireland.
Part six, a glossary of Benedictine terms, was collected and defined by Jill Maria Murdy and Fr. Terrence Kardong, O.S.B., a monk of Assumption Abbey in North Dakota and the editor of the American Benedictine Review. Many of the essays feature endnotes or a bibliography.
This is indeed a handy book for Oblates and those interested in Benedictine spirituality. Oblate novices will enjoy this book as an introduction to their new way of life, and those who are already Oblates can utilize it as a refresher course. The two-week cycle of Morning and Evening Prayers is helpful to those very much on the go; if they are traveling and cannot take the larger breviaries with them, this is a good option.
The cover of the book is an attractive dark red with gold lettering on the front and the spine. There is also part of the Benedictine Jubilee medal depicted on the front cover; the side has the image of St. Benedict on it. Some color illustrations would really have enlivened the book, but they are not necessary.