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Man of Blessing: A Life of St. Benedict

Order now at Amazon.com. Nominated for a 43rd Annual Georgia Author of the Year Award for 2006. Released March 2006 from Paraclete Press. This book went into reprint May 2006.

Phyllis Tickle, author, The Divine Hours Series
Here medievalist Butcher revives the craft of hagiography, but with a twist. Her affection for her subject is as appealing as it is unfailing; but in this gentle retelling of Benedict's life, it is Butcher's familiarity with late Roman literature and culture that roots the saint and his miracles in a well-defined time and place which readers can enter and share.

Scot McKnight, author and professor, on beliefnet.com, The Jesus Creed blog. See April 9, 2006 blog entry.
Carmen Butcher, in her elegantly written little book on the life of St. Benedict, Man of Blessing, traces the life and beliefs of St. Benedict. Last summer Kris and I visited his birth church (in Nursia) and had a memorable experience about which I write in Praying with the Church. I was happy to see Carmen Butcher’s new book on Benedict come out because I wanted a little life of Benedict. If you are looking for a readable life of Benedict, and don’t want to be asked to read miles of footnotes, this is the one for you. Many read the St. Benedict’s Rules for Monasteries as a form of exhorting themselves to a deeper spirituality, and many who do so are in need of setting that little influential book into the context of a life. The life Carmen Butcher writes is hagiographical, but not overly so. She doesn’t engage in historical judgment, even when she relates some of the miracles that many today would see as simple legend. She takes Scholastica, Benedict’s sister, as historical. Benedict’s rule is the foundation for nearly all of the monastic movement, and many of us have read monastics off and on our entire Christian life, including Thomas a Kempis, Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena, and Henri Nouwen. What is also derived largely from Benedict is the hours of prayer, the seven-hour fixed hours with their chanting of the Psalms, and many of us still practice two or three of these hours of prayer as a discipline. They derive in part from Benedict’s systematizing of the Psalms and of how to live a disciplined Christian life. I can’t even try to sum up Benedict’s life, but I will say this book is a nice way to read about it.

Leo Kriz, The Library Journal (March 1, 2006)
This book, timed to coincide with the one-year anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI's inauguration, crafts an exciting story of the life of St. Benedict of Nursia, who founded Western monasticism in the sixth century and later became the patron saint of Europe. Historian Butcher (medieval & Renaissance literature, Shorter Coll.) presents a time line of events, a biography of Benedict's life, and a summary of the Rules of St. Benedict. Given that little is known about this historical figure, Butcher relies on studies of the late Roman times and the “Dialogues” of Pope Gregory the Great, who had documented talks with those who had known Benedict. A similar work is Esther de Waal and Kathleen Norris's Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict, which serves as a source of guidance, support, and comfort for people dealing with life challenges based around the Rules. The difference with Butcher's book, however, is the exploration of Benedict's unusual life; his relationship with his twin sister, Scholastica; and the illumination of the saint's miracles. The book's readability will make it easy for patrons to escape into late Roman culture and find peace in a monastic simplicity.

Columba Press
A timely biography of the original St. Benedict, patron saint of Europe, father of Western monasticism, and inspiration to our new pope. For more of the review, see here.

Brother Benet Exton, O.S.B., Curled Up With A Good Book (2006)
Pope Benedict XVI chose the name “Benedict” because he admired Pope Benedict XV and St. Benedict. Dr. Carmen Acevedo Butcher presents Man of Blessing to help show why Pope Benedict chose that name. Her book is a modern-day biography of St. Benedict, the founder of Western Monasticism, based on the Second Dialogues (ca. 593) of St. Gregory the Great, itself a biography on St. Benedict. St. Gregory collected information from monks who had lived with and known St. Benedict, mixing in Scripture and biographical information to create his biography. This manner of writing biographies about saints, called hagiographies, during the Middle Ages was not unusual. There were different standards in those days for writing a biography. If the reader reads St. Gregory’s biography of St. Benedict and knows the Bible well enough, he or she will see several similarities.

The name “Benedict” in Latin is “Benedictus,” or in Hebrew “Baruch,” which mean “blessed.” Butcher discusses the name leading into the main source for her biography, St. Gregory the Great. She provides a chronology of events involving St. Benedict., setting the historical and geographical scene for each of the various chapters in the biography – Italy and its rulers at the time. She also quotes from books which St. Benedict might have read himself studying in Rome, such as Ovid and Horace. Her biography of St. Benedict sets him in the historical context of his day. In an appendix, Dr. Butcher presents a summary of the Rule of St. Benedict chapter by chapter, followed by brief biographies of all the popes who took the name Benedict. Two pages of endnotes and a bibliography of books on Benedictinism or books connected with the history of Benedictines round out the end-of-book extras. The author’s husband created the map of Italy for the book and a website, www.carmenbutcher.com.

Carmen Acevedo Butcher received her Ph.D. in medieval studies from the University of Georgia in 1991 and is a professor at Shorter College, Rome, Georgia. She has won two Fullbright grants – to the University College of London and Sogang University in Seoul, South Korea. She is the translator of God of Mercy: AElfric’s Sermons and Theology (2006), author of Incandescence: 365 Readings with Women Mystics (2005), co-author of Problems in the Origins and Development of the English Language (2004) and Release and Restoration (2004), and has written several articles.

This book is recommended to those interested in why Pope Benedict chose that name and to those interested in St. Benedict or the Benedictines.

Corné J. Bekker, “Leading with the Head Bowed Down: Lessons in Leadership Humility from the Rule of St. Benedict of Nursia” in Inner Resources for Leaders, School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship at Regent University, Virginia Beach, Virginia, pages 2 and 10.

John E. Crean, Jr., Ph.D., Obl.S.B.
A succinct, highly readable and comprehensive life of St. Benedict. Carmen Butcher has made this classical spiritual author accessible to a diverse and hungry readership.

Linda Kulzer, Ph.D., O.S.B. Co-editor of Benedict in the World: Portraits of Monastic Oblates
Professed Benedictines, Benedictine oblates, and all interested in Benedictine monasticism will find a rare treasure in this refreshingly new take on Benedict's life based on the sixth-century's Gregory's Dialogues.