Open main menu

Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/527

This page needs to be proofread.




At.hanasius visited Rome accompanied by the two Egyptian monks Ammon and Isidore, disciples of St. Anthony. The publication of the "Vita Antonii" some years later and its translation into Latin spread the knowledge of Egyptian monachism widely and many were found in Italy to imitate the example thus set forth. The first Italian monks aimed at reproduc- ing exactly what was done in Egypt and not a few — - such as St. Jerome, Rufinus, Paula, Eustochium and the two Melanias — actually went to live in Egypt or Palestine as being better suited to monastic life than Italy. As however the records of early Italian monas- tioism are very scanty, it will be more convenient to give first a short account of early monastic life in Gaul, our knowledge of which is much more complete.

(a) Gaul. — The first exponent of monasticism in Gaul seems to have been St. Martin, who founded a monastery at Ligug6 near Poitiers, c. 360 (see LiGUofi; Martin op Tours, St.). Soon after he was conse- crated Bishop of Tours ; he then formed a monastery outside that city, which he made his customary residence. Although only some two miles from the city the spot was so retired that Martin found there the solitude of a hermit. His cell was a hut of wood, and round it his disciples, who soon numbered eighty, dwelt in caves and huts. The type of life was simply the Antonian monachism of Egypt (see above. Eastern Monasticism) and so rapidly did it spread that, at St. Martin's funeral two thousand monks were present. Even more famous was the monastery of L^rins (q. v.) which gave to the Church of Gaul some of its most famous bishops and saints. In it too the famous Ab- bot John Cassian (q. v.) settled after living for seven years among the monks of Egypt, and from it he founded the great Abbey of St. Victor at Marseilles. Cassian was undoubtedly the most celebrated teacher that the monks of Gaul ever had, and his influence was all on the side of the primitive I^tiyplian ideals. Con- sequently we find that the eremiliial life was regarded as being the summit or goal of monastic ambition and the means of perfection recommended were, as in Egypt, extreme personal austerities with prolonged fasts and vigils, and the whole atmosphere of ascetical endeavour so dear to the heart of the Antonian monk (see Cassian, John; France; C.«;sarius of Arles, St.; LfiRiNS, etc).

(b) Celtic Monasticism (Ireland, Wales, Scotland). — Authorities are still divided as to the origin of Cel- tic monasticism, but the view most commonly ac- cepted is that of Mr. Willis Bund which holds it to have been a purely indigenous growth and rejects the idea of any direct connexion with Gallic or Egyptian monasticism. It seems clear that the first Celtic monasteries were merely settlements where the Chris- tians lived together— priests and laity, men, women, and children alike — as a kiml of nlininus dan. At a later period actual monast cries bcilh of niniiksand nuns were formed, and later still the crennlii'al life came into vogue. It seems highly probable that the ideas and literature of Egyptian or Gallic niDnachism iiuiy have influenced these later develoiimcnts, even if the Celtic monasticism were purely in<leiii'ndcnt in origin, for the external manifestations ure identical in all three fonns. Indeed the desire for austerities of an extreme character has always remained a special fea- ture of Irish asceticism down to our own time. \\ ant of space forbids any detailed account of Celtic monas- ticism in this place but the following articles may be referred to: (for Ireland) Armagh, Bangor, Clonard, Clonfert, Clonmacnoise, Lismore, Bobbio, Lux- EtJiL, Saints Patrick, Carthage, Columbanus, Comgall; (for Wales) Llancarvan, Bangor, Saints Asaph, David, Dotric, Gildas, Kentigern; (for Scotland) Iona, School of, Lindisfahne, Abbey of. Saints Ninian, Colitmba, Aidan. Undoubtedly, however, the chief glory of Celtic monasticism is its

missionary work, the results of which are to be found over all northwestern Europe. The observance, at first so distinctive, gradually lost its special character and fell into line with that of other countries; but, by that time, Celtic monasticism had passed its zenith and its influence had declined.

(c) Italy. — Like the other countries of western Eu- rope, Italy long retained a purely Eastern character in its monastic observance. The climate and other however combined to render its practice far harder than in the lands of its origin. In consequence the standard of observance declined, and it is clear from the Prologue to St. Benedict's Rule that by his day the lives of many monks left much to be desired. Moreover there was as yet no fixed code of laws to regulate the life cither of the monastery or of the indi- vidual monk. Each house had its own customs and practices, its own collection of rules dependent largely on the choice of the abbot of the moment. There were certainly in the West translations of vari- ous Eastern codes, e. g. the Rules of Pachomius and Basil and another attributed to Macarius. There were also St. Augustine's famous letter (Ep., ccxi) on the management of convents of nuns, and also the WTitingsof Cassian, but the only actual Rules of West- em origin were the two by St. Ca?sarius for monks and nuns respectively, and that by St. Columbanus, none of which could be called a working code for the man- agement of a monastery. In a word monachism was still waiting for the man who should adapt it to West- ern needs and circumstances and give to it a special form distinct from that of the East. This man was found in the person of St. Benedict (480-543).

(2) The Spread of St. Benedict's Rule. — Full details of St. Benedict's legislation, which had such immense effect on the monasticism of Western Europe, will be found in the articles Benedict of Nursia, St., and Benedict, Rule of St. It is sufficient here to point out that St. Benedict legislated for tlie details of the monastic life in a way that had never been done before either in East or West. It is clear that he had ac- quainted himself thoroughly with the lives of the Egyptian fathers of the desert, with the writings of St. Basil, Cassian, and Rufinus; and in the main lines he has no intention of departing from (he precedents set by these great authorities. Still the sl.'iiiilard of asceticism aimed at by him, as was inevitable in the West, is less severe than that of Egypt or Syria. Thus he gives his monks good and ample food. lie permits them to drink wine. He secures a sufficient period of unbroken sleep. His idea was evidently to set up a standard that could and .should be attained hy all the monks of a monastery, leaving it to individual inspira- tion to essay greater austerities if the need of these were felt by any one. On the other hand, iirobal)]y as a safeguard against the relaxations mciitidiieil above, he requires a greater degree of seclusion I hail St . Ba.sil had done. So far as possilile all coMiicxiDn with the world outside the iiionaslcry is to be avoideil. If any monk be coiiipcllcd by duly to go lieyond the monas- tery enclosure he is forbidilcn on his return to sjieak of wlial he has seen or heard. So too no monk may re- ceive gifts or Icl Icrs from his friends or relatives with- out iicrmissioii of I he abbot. It is true that guests from witliout are to be received and entertained, but only certain monks specially chosen for the purposje mav hold intercourse with them.

Perhaps, however, the chief point in which St. Benedict modified the pre-existing practice is his in- sistence upon the xtiihililin; Ion. By this special Vow of Stability he unites the monk for life to the particu- lar monastery in which his vows are made. This was really a new development and one of the highest im- port .ance. In the first place by this the last vestige of personal freedom was taken away from the riionk. Secondly it. secured in each mpnasterj- that continuity of theory and practice which is so essential for the