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Seeking the Absolute Love
Seeking the Absolute Love
The Founders of Christian Monasticism
The author presents a loving introduction to the founders of the monastic orders and shows how St. Benedict and others made a skillful selection from the treasures of the ancients.
Adapting to a changing world poses a complex problem for Christian religious. This study of the roots common to all Christian monastics reveals the seminal ideas of the founders of monastic orders and contributes to a mutual understanding between the different approaches that seek to practice a singular devotion to the glory of God.
Reviews and endorsements
"Mayeul (Francois) de Dreuille was born in France and made his monastic profession in 1940. He has been involved in monastic foundations in Madagascar, the Congo, and India.
He wrote these profiles of the founders of monasticism for young monks. His 16 chapters treat 16 monastic founders, including Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Antony to Cassian, the Regula Magistri, Benedict, and Bernard. He treats each founder's life, teaching, and influence on monasticism."
"Mayeul de Dreuille, a monk of La Pierre-qui-Vire (France), was once stationed in India, where he published three books explaining the development of Christian monasticism. Seeking the Absolute Love is a short volume which successfully portrays the history of monasticism in fewer words. It serves as a good introduction to the subject for the neophyte as well as an excellent compendium for the seasoned monastic.
Beginning with Clement of Alexandria and his disciple, Origen, the author acknowledges them as the founders of a Christian asceticism which would take root in the desert and bloom wherever it was planted in the East and the West. From Antony to Bernard, we see how each generation has passed on what is essential and discarded what was no longer applicable. Basil, Gregory Nazianzen, Gregory of Nyssa, John Chrysostom, Evagrius, Jerome, Augustine, Cassian and Benedict also have their individual chapters in the book. Each chapter deals with the founder's life and works, and provides quotes from his teachings. Other chapters vividly describe monastic life in the Egyptian desert and in Syria and Palestine, from the first to the fifth century. There is a chapter on the various western Rules, and a separate one dedicated to the Master and his Rule.
When the time comes for the author to introduce us to Benedict, he delineates the fixed components of monasticism:
Humility, obedience, charity and patience are the primary virtues of the monk. Fasts, vigils, poverty, manual labor and silence provide a support; all is oriented towards prayer, nourished by the Office, by sacred reading and 'rumination' over texts of Scripture. Within this undisputed framework, each legislator might inscribe the detailed regulations that circumstances or his own temperament would suggest to him.
Monasticism, like Benedict's ideal abbot, has a 'treasury of knowledge' from which to draw both the old and the new. The temperaments of legislators vary, and succeeding generations of founders took from their predecessors whatever they found admirable. 'St. Benedict wrote his Rule between 530 and 560, drawing on the Master and Cassian, but remoulding in an original synthesis elements from all his predecessors . . .'
Seeking the Absolute Love covers a large span of monastic history and literature. Although the book is brief, it appears at first glance to have left out nothing between monasticism's inception and the Cistercian reform. It occurred to me, however, that scant attention is paid to women monastics, and, aside from mentioning St. Columban's Rule, nothing about Irish monasticism is included. In his introduction, Mayeul de Dreuille says,
The title of this book Seeking the Absolute Love means that I have tried to let each author explain the way he found to move towards the God of Jesus Christ, the God of Love. As the reader thus makes a living contact with the founders of the "Monastic Order," he may, perhaps, be able to capture their spirit and so contribute to the contemporary development of an authentic religious life in harmony with the past and integrated into the culture of each country.
I think the author has accomplished his purpose. The readers—especially those vowed to monastic life—will come away from the book with an appreciation for the heirlooms that are ours."
—The American Benedictine Review