Dunstan: statesman, prelate, monk, patriot – and saint

Today is the feast of St Dunstan (909-988), a figure who perhaps ought to be better known than he is. Today’s Universalis has a good essay on him, in which it describes him as: one of the three makers of England before the Norman Conquest: the others being King Alfred and King Athelstan. The image …

“The rock was Christ”: St Benedict and C.S. Lewis on Psalm 137

The Rule of St Benedict is traditionally divided into daily readings, running through the full Rule three times a year. The cycle has just restarted, and the reading for 5 May covers part of the Prologue, in which St Benedict asks the question posed in Psalm 15: But let us ask the Lord, with the Prophet, “Lord, who shall …

Spiritual direction: a cry for help

If anyone makes himself his own master in the spiritual life, he makes himself scholar to a fool. – St Bernard Having finished English Spirituality, I’ve now moved on to another book by Martin Thornton: Christian Proficiency, which aims to provide a more practical guide to living out the principles of “English spirituality”. “Proficiency” refers …

Reading the Bible “ascetically”

To return to Martin Thornton’s English Spirituality (see previous posts 1 | 2), in an early chapter Thornton discusses the role of Bible reading in personal devotion. He begins by observing the difficulties that many laypeople now have concerning how to engage with the Bible: The critical upheaval of the last century has convinced the …

The Secret of Kells: The Wall versus The Book

By a happy accident, we ended up renting The Secret of Kells from LoveFilm, and I can greatly recommend it. It’s an Irish-French-Belgian collaboration (bear with me…) giving a fictional account of the creation of the Book of Kells, and was nominated for the best animated feature at the 2010 Oscars. (It lost to Up, …

The threefold Rule of “simply Christian” spirituality

As we saw in my previous post, Martin Thornton regards Benedictine spirituality as a key influence on “English spirituality”, and he devotes a chapter to St Benedict’s influence on spirituality, especially the English school. Thornton starts by observing that many Benedictines question the whole concept of a “Benedictine spirituality”: Like many another of his Order, …

The key features of “English spirituality”

The complete consort dancing together. – T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding. I’m currently reading Martin Thornton’s English Spirituality. So far, it’s proving far less hard work than might be suggested by its rather forbidding subtitle: “An Outline of Ascetical Theology According to the English Pastoral Tradition”. Part of the problem is getting past the word “ascetical”. …

Benedictine adventures with God

One of my favourite books recently has been Simone Lia’s spiritual autobiography in graphic novel form, Please God, Find Me a Husband! The book describes Ms Lia’s “adventure with God”, which includes several encounters with Benedictine nuns in London, Wales and Australia. In Australia, Sister Hilda gives Lia five “Benedictine ingredients for an adventure with …