In his classic Second Book of Dialogues, Pope Gregory the Great lionizes Saint Benedict as hero and casts him predominantly in the role of miracle worker. Yet in his Rule, Benedict comes across more as a practical community organizer and premier spiritual father. In this volume, Terrence Kardong offers a fresh take on Gregory the Great's classic. He alternates between translated sections of the Dialogues and his own commentary. Crisp and direct, and infused with his wry and ever-present sense of humor, Kardong's writing is sure to build up the spiritual life of readers and, equally important, to make them love St. Benedict.
Terrence Kardong, OSB, is a monk of Assumption Abbey in Richardton, North Dakota. He is editor of American Benedictine Review and author of Benedict's Rule and Day by Day with Saint Benedict, both published by Liturgical Press.
This is a useful tool to instruct anyone interested in Benedictine life.
The book is written with great affection for the character St. Benedict both historically and as he appears in the Life. Moreover, Kardong provides insight into how Benedict is seen through Gregory's admiring eyes. For these reasons and because of the helpful line-by-line explication, the work may be helpful to both scholars and beginning students in the Benedictine studies, history, literature, and theology. Because the commentary so fully fills in the background and contextual picture surrounding the text, Kardong's book would also be of benefit to a general audience interested in deepening knowledge of St. Benedict and the traditions surrounding his life.
In Terrence Kardong's many contributions to the explication of and commentary on St. Benedict's Rule, we have always found the sharp and well worded wisdom that opens the Rule and the human heart to the truth of each other. That same sharp wisdom and clear perception of humanity is now brought to Gregory the Great's life of St. Benedict. `Our contention throughout this commentary,' Kardong says, `is that these stories are "true" even if they never happened.' Kardong's commentary goes deeper than what the stories say to reveal Gregory's intent to bring the reader to love Benedict and Gregory's skill in shaping each narrative and the overall narrative to give the reader a sense of continuity. And there is large truth here-the truth of Christ, of Benedict, of human persons and humanity.
Sister Shawn Carruth, OSB
If you are looking for a translation of The Life of Saint Benedict (Book 2 of the Dialogues) by Saint Gregory the Great with commentary, this book is an excellent one to take in hand. Especially for those in monastic formation, oblate formation, or monastic studies courses, it is a user-friendly volume that is compact and attractive.
Cistercian Studies Quarterly
This translation and commentary will be a valuable resource for educators seeking to introduce undergraduates to the development of monasticism and hagiography.
Religious Studies Review
Fr. Terrence Kardong brings to his study of Pope Gregory's Life of Benedict the same critical eye and balanced judgment that he brings to the Rule of Benedict. His commentary and footnotes situate Gregory's work in the context of early medieval hagiography while alerting the reader to the issues of contemporary research. Kardong presents a calm perspective on the debate about Gregory's authorship of Dialogues II. His commentary fills a gap in American Benedictine scholarship.
Abbot Jerome Kodell, OSB, Subiaco Abbey, Subiaco, Arkansas
Entering into the spirit of the Dialogues, Fr. Terrence offers us a lucid translation and a sensible commentary that explores the meaning of this spiritual classic. His vast knowledge allows him to link the text both to the Scriptures and to the spiritual tradition. His typical enthusiasm underlines the importance of St. Benedict's spiritual development. Finally Fr. Terrence's clarity makes this work accessible to anyone interested in the spiritual life.
Harry Hagan, OSB, Saint Meinrad Archabbey and School of Theology, Saint Meinrad, Indiana
Terrence Kardong, OSB, has gifted us with a fresh new translation of and commentary on Gregory's Life of Benedict as depicted in the Dialogues. The commentary is interspersed throughout the book, following sections he has just translated. The net effect of this methodology is to create a much more rounded, continuous biography, rather than simply proceeding from Gregory's rather sketchy and sometimes dubious rendition. The author balances Gregory's Benedict with what we know from current scholarship. Father Terrence, master of the anecdote, displays once again his uncanny ability to express the profound with elegant simplicity. He has been able in this book to interweave the credible from Gregory with the believable of Benedict, as he reveals himself in his own Rule.
Fr. John Crean, OblSB, PhD, Coeditor of MAGISTRA: A Journal of Women's Spirituality in History