Pillars of Community: Four Rules of Pre-Benedictine Monastic Life


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Pillars of Community: Four Rules of Pre-Benedictine Monastic Life by Terrence Kardong, O.S.B.

Anyone who has explored a great Romanesque church has been impressed, even awed, by the mighty stone foundations supporting the great central tower. As four pillars give a firm base to these soaring structures, so four ancient Rules stand beneath the foundations of Western monasticism, giving a structure on which later spiritual architects, Benedict among them, would build. In this book Terrence Kardong explores the lives and Rules of four of the earliest monastic writers—Basil, Pachomius, Augustine, and the anonymous author of the rules of Lérins. In engaging fashion he shows how the lives and social milieu of these earliest founders shaped their monasticism. For example, readers will learn that:

  • Basil of Caesarea learned the monastic way from his sister Macrina.
  • Augustine shunned the term "monk" because of the bad reputation of local monks associated with the Donatist heresy.
  • Pachomian Rule instructs on the use of boats and how to hang out the wash in the burning Egyptian sun.
  • The Rules of Lérins begin with a call to community but then focus their attention on the superior.

Yet as varied as these Rules are, they are based on the same fundamental understanding of what a Christian monk and a Christian community should be; thus they furnish a solid foundation for the great edifice still to come.

Terrence Kardong, OSB, is a monk of Assumption Abbey in Richardton, North Dakota. He is editor of American Benedictine Review and author of Benedict’s Rule, Day by Day with Saint Benedict, and Life of St. Benedict by Gregory the Great, all published by Liturgical Press.

"This very interesting and important book is based on over twenty-five years of scholarly research spanning almost every aspect of cenobitic monasticism plus fifty years of lived monastic experience. As a scholar Terrence Kardong is famous for addressing significant topics and issues that other scholars tend to ignore. He always seeks to ask the better question and never settles for the easy answer no matter where the result leads. Pillars of Community is vintage Kardong making accessible in a creative and fresh way the very foundations of cenobitic monasticism. This book fills a gap in monastic history that has gone largely unnoticed for years."
-Eugene Hensell, OSB
Saint Meinrad Archabbey, Indiana

"In Pillars of Community, Terrence Kardong serves as a knowledgeable friend who walks with us through the lives and rules of those who were the first pillars of the cenobitic way of life. Thanks to his deft comments that don’t shy away from appreciating ancient texts in the light of modern situations, the curious customs, strong personalities, and situations of common life that we meet are recognizable, even across the centuries.
      Kardong wants us to read the sources squarely in context, sometimes of contention, e.g. Basil against the hyper-ascetic Eustathians. Especially appealing is his recounting of the life of Pachomius and the rules he formulated for his koinonia. As far-removed as Egyptians of the 4th century are from us of the 21st, one is startled at how familiar much of the legislation sounds. Both they and we have to contend with members who are tardy, surly, immature, and careless, and with situations that are tedious, unexpected, tricky, or irremediable. Kardong’s scholarship is true to the sources, and his lively style makes this book a pleasure to read."
-Br. Andrew Thornton, OSB
Saint Anselm Abbey
Manchester, New Hampshire

Dimensions.75 × 6 × 9 in
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