Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Benedictine Men and Women of Courage: Roots and History

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Benedictine Men and Women of Courage: Roots and History

Article excerpt

Benedictine Men and Women of Courage: Roots and History. Rev. ed. By Ann Kessler, O.S.B., with Neville Ann Kelly. (Seattle: Lean Scholar Press. 2014. Pp. xxviii, 481. $26.95 paperback. ISBN 978-0-9904497-0-6).

There is no up-to-date and reliable one-volume history of Benedictine monasticism. Writing the history of a 1500-year-old institution, which has taken shape in thousands of monasteries on six continents, is a daunting prospect. It probably exceeds the capacity of any single scholar and the confines of a single volume. The task is not made any easier by the current diffusion of Benedictine monasteries to Southeast Asia, South America, and Africa, and the numerical decline of most European and North American monasteries. Ann Kessler, who was professed as a Benedictine in 1947, earned her doctorate in history at the University of Notre Dame, and taught for many decades at Mount Marty College, attempted this task in the first edition of this book (1992), which now appears in a new edition, which she has revised with the help of Neville Anne Kelly.

The result, not surprisingly, is mixed. Positively, the book is nicely printed, well organized, and supplied with a thorough index. It gives attention to Benedictine women and to the Benedictine presence in Australia. In the chapters Kessler says she enjoyed most (10-12), on Benedictines in the United States and Australia, she demonstrates considerable skill as a storyteller, as she draws on her archival research and interviews. She gives particular attention to the French Benedictines' vicissitudes in France during the Revolution and the antireligious governments of the early-twentieth century. …

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