The Benedictine Handbook is a wonderful resource for anyone interested in spiritual development, particularly through the Benedictine tradition and practice. Edited by Anthony Marett-Crosby OSB, it includes authors who are both 'full-time' Benedictines (i.e., residential Benedictines in monastic communites) and part-time, oblate Benedictines. Some are names that will be well known to the readers of spiritual literature (Kathleen Norris, Esther De Waal), and others, while lesser known, are no less skilled in their appointed tasks for this text.
The book is arranged in six primary sections. The first section is The Rule. Originally in Latin, this handbook presents a new translation of The Rule by Patrick Barry OSB, which eliminates the traditional numerical coding in favour of a more wholistic approach. It begins appropriately with the word 'Listen', and ends appropriately with the section stating that this Rule is merely the beginning.
The second section looks at specific practices of Benedictine spirituality. These include Hospitality, Perseverence, Work, Prayer, Lectio Divina, and more. These are all meant to come together to shape the entire life of the Benedictine -- they are not to be separate and compartmentalised, but rather joined together in harmony for life.
The third section, entitled 'The Benedictine Experience of God', looks at the specific prayers and liturgies followed by Benedictines, as well as an interesting section on historical figures (up to the 20th century) in Benedictine tradition, as well as a listing of holy places specific to the Benedictine way. The Benedictine who uses this text will probably most frequently turn to the Daily Offices, Little Hours, and Prayers contained in this section.
The fourth section looks at the practical and spiritual aspects of living a Benedictine life. This can be done in community with others (most frequently in a formal, monastic setting), in solitary (which, nonetheless, is not to be confused as being without community), as an oblate, and as a lay person unprofessed to a monastery or community, yet still attempting to incorporate the spirituality of the Rule into daily life and work.
The fifth section contains essays on the narrative history of the Benedictine spiritual tradition, a discussion of the worldwide community of Benedictines (which extends much farther than one might expect), and the Cistercian offshoot of Benedictine tradition, the most famous modern member of which was Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk.
The sixth section consists of a glossary of terminology one will encounter. This is handy not just for Benedictine reference, but also general church history and liturgical terms.
This is a book designed to be used. It has strong binding, easy-to-read pages, sewn-in page marker strands, and good organisation. The essays are interesting, and ones likely to be referred to again and again. This book could easily be used in small groups teaching spiritual practices, as well as an aid in general spiritual direction. While there are different kinds of spiritual practices and traditions, Benedictine spirituality is an authoritative standard from which to glean and with which to live into a more productive spiritual life.
This book is a welcome addition to the collection of anyone interested in church history, liturgy, spiritual direction, spiritual practices, and all things Benedictine.
This new Benedictine handbook is a true treasure! It includes the Rule of Benedict, two weeks of morning and evening prayer and many interesting essays by people I admire...such as Kathleen Norris, Ester de Waal, Columba Stewart, and others. There is a great explanation of how we, as lay people, can include the tenets of the Rule of Benedict in our daily lives. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about the Benedictine way of life and wants to have one resource to use for daily prayer. I think it is fantastic!