Sunday, January 19, 2014

Book Review: St. Benedict and St. Therese by Dwight Longenecker

St. Benedict and St. Therese: The Little Rule and the Little Way by Dwight Longenecker

Father Dwight Longenecker draws an interesting intersection between St. Benedict, the sixth century monk who founded western monasticism, and St. Therese of Lisieux, the 20th century French nun who posthumously took the world by storm with her beloved autobiography. Benedict, by contrast, wrote a rather dry book on how to run a monastery that is the classic guide though not popular reading. How does Longenecker make these apparently diverse tracks intersect? Through the Christian faith that they share and the relationship they both write about--the relationship between a father and a child.

For Benedict, the relationship is seen clearly between the monastery's abbot and the monks who live there. The abbot provides guidance, discipline, and care for those entrusted to him. The monks, for their part, make vows of obedience, stability (they will stay in the monastery for the rest of their lives), and conversion of life (they will seek a closer relationship to God). This relationship mirrors the relationship all we humans have as children to God the Father.

For Therese, the relationship is seen in her home life with her father, M. Martin, and with her obedience in the convent. She explicitly embraces her relation to God as His daughter, performing her tasks and living her life as a gift to God in the little things she does.

Longenecker's book beautifully and fluidly weaves back and forth between the two authors, reinforcing insights through examples in their lives and in the Gospels, as well as from the lives of other saints. The book is fairly easy to read and presents many encouraging thoughts to ponder. Most of all, it shows the reader how easily accessible is the life of holiness presented by St. Benedict and St. Therese. By living the faith in small, everyday, mundane acts we move along the path God has set for us; we live the vocation He has called us to. We become the best sort of children to God our Father.

Sample Quote:
"Ah," we say, "the little way of the Lamb is indeed a beautiful idea, and doubtless it is the way some are called to." But with the Gospel, Therese insists that this is not a way, but the way. To follow the Lamb and become a child is not an option; it is a command. "Unless you turn and become like children, " says the Gospel, "you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." "No grown-ups allowed" reads the sign over the door into paradise. Pearls are tiny, and so are the pearly gates. When Jesus said the way was narrow, perhaps he meant it was too narrow for grown-ups to squeeze through. The grown-ups are camels--hairy, lumpy, over-burdened, bad-tempered brutes--who can never get through that eye of a needle that is the little door of heaven. [pp. 58-59]

1 comment:

  1. Wow.. this looks good! I went to Catholic school, St. Therese so I have always loved that Saint. She is so special to me and I love to learn more about it. Looks like I need to pick this up.

    Angela's Anxious Life