Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Celtic Monk: Rules and Writings of Early Irish Monks

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Celtic Monk: Rules and Writings of Early Irish Monks

Article excerpt

The Celtic Monk: Rules and Writings of Early Irish Monks. By Uinseann O Maidin, O.C.R. [Cistercian Studies Series, Number 162.] (Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Spencer, Massachusetts: Cistercian Publications. 1996. Pp. 216. $35.95 hardcover; $17.95 paperback.)

This attractive little volume gives us in translation a number of early Irish monastic rules, together with "a random collection of poems, litanies, and Latin hymns" (the latter not translated). The editor's hope is that the result will be to make the doctrinal (sic;'edifying'?) content of these documents "more widely known, understood and used:' The world thus presented to us is very much a male one (hagiography and other archival material might have been exploited to 'explain' female Irish cenobites, a Brigit or a Samthann); and the book rather perpetuates the outmoded idea that the early Irish church was (purely) monastic.

Monasticism of the Celtic (if the word be allowed) type lasted in Ireland from the sixth century to the twelfth, and religious had available a variety of worksliturgical, biblical, legal, hagiographical, and so on-to encourage devotion and scholarship. The present collection would not perhaps claim to be representative. But the writings of the culdee reform movement of the eighth and ninth centuries, which make up the bulk of the miscellany, left a profound mark on Irish spirituality, literature, and art. Included also are earlier-such as the Apgitir Crabaid, most probably (the editor is hesitant about this) by Colman Ela (d. 611)-and later compositions. The translations draw on sound scholarship (if the proper attribution is not always made) and are carefully annotated. …

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