Pope Benedict XVI chose the name “Benedict” because he admired Pope Benedict XV and St. Benedict. Dr. Carmen Acevedo Butcher presents Man of Blessing to help show why Pope Benedict chose that name. Her book is a modern-day biography of St. Benedict, the founder of Western Monasticism, based on the Second Dialogues (ca. 593) of St. Gregory the Great, itself a biography on St. Benedict.
St. Gregory collected information from monks who had lived with and known St. Benedict, mixing in Scripture and biographical information to create his biography. This manner of writing biographies about saints, called hagiographies, during the Middle Ages was not unusual. There were different standards in those days for writing a biography. If the reader reads St. Gregory’s biography of St. Benedict and knows the Bible well enough, he or she will see several similarities.
The name “Benedict” in Latin is “Benedictus,” or in Hebrew “Baruch,” which mean “blessed.” Butcher discusses the name leading into the main source for her biography, St. Gregory the Great. She provides a chronology of events involving St. Benedict., setting the historical and geographical scene for each of the various chapters in the biography – Italy and its rulers at the time. She also quotes from books which St. Benedict might have read himself studying in Rome, such as Ovid and Horace. Her biography of St. Benedict sets him in the historical context of his day.
In an appendix, Dr. Butcher presents a summary of the Rule of St. Benedict chapter by chapter, followed by brief biographies of all the popes who took the name Benedict. Two pages of endnotes and a bibliography of books on Benedictinism or books connected with the history of Benedictines round out the end-of-book extras. The author’s husband created the map of Italy for the book and a website, www.carmenbutcher.com.
Carmen Acevedo Butcher received her Ph.D. in medieval studies from the University of Georgia in 1991 and is a professor at Shorter College, Rome, Georgia. She has won two Fullbright grants – to the University College of London and Sogang University in Seoul, South Korea. She is the translator of God of Mercy: AElfric’s Sermons and Theology (2006), author of Incandescence: 365 Readings with Women Mystics (2005), co-author of Problems in the Origins and Development of the English Language (2004) and Release and Restoration (2004), and has written several articles.
This book is recommended to those interested in why Pope Benedict chose that name and to those interested in St. Benedict or the Benedictines.