Dame Gertrude More Book Now Available!

In this very strange time in the world, I’d like to offer at least a small bit of good news: my new book, an edition of the poems and shorter prose works on prayer and contemplation of Dame Gertrude More, is now available!

Dame Gertrude was a seventeenth-century Benedictine. A great-great-granddaughter of Saint Thomas More, she left home at 17 to co-found the Abbey of Our Lady of Comfort in what is today Cambrai, France. This monastery was part of a movement to revive monastic life among English Catholics after the Reformations and was so successful that the community continues today as Stanbrook Abbey back in England.

Dame Gertrude More was a strong, talkative, and likable woman who, under the tutelage of Dom Augustine Baker, also became a great lover of contemplation. She wrote poems, several shorter prose works, and a longer work sometimes called her “Confessions,” all of which were published in 1658, years after her early death. This book made her one of the earliest women published in the English language.

Her works celebrate and describe the nature of contemplation and divine union. With a plain style that was unconcerned with technicalities and intellectual hair-splitting, Dame Gertrude’s teachings on prayer and contemplation are beautiful testaments to the value of pursuing, as she puts it, “the one thing necessary” (experiential intimacy between the soul and its Maker).

She, Dom Augustine Baker, and the community at Cambrai more generally were instrumental in passing on the ancient and medieval teachings on contemplation in the Christian west, and I am delighted that both the community at Stanbrook Abbey and Gracewing have helped me to make Dame Gertrude’s works more readily accessible to a new generation.

I hope that in this uncertain time, we might find some solace in the kind of unwavering attention Dame Gertrude gives to what is most pressing and important in this earthly life.

You can find a copy on Gracewing’s website and on Amazon. I hope you enjoy!

New Peer-reviewed Essay/Edition/Translation: a Fourteenth-Century Benedictine Novice Treatise on Contemplation

After several years and help from a number of scholars and monks, I am very happy to announce that my edition, translation, and study of an anonymous fourteenth-century Latin treatise for novice Benedictines, De modo meditandi vel contemplandi (“On the method of meditation or contemplation”), was published last month by the good folks at The Journal of Medieval Religious Cultures. The treatise comes to us from the monastery of Bury St. Edmunds, the monastery (dissolved in the sixteenth-century) that was home to the most prolific Middle English poet, Dom John Lydgate.

My thanks to the editors, Christine Cooper-Rompato and Sherri Olson; everyone who offered their help along the way; and to my anonymous reader at JMRC for all their assistance in presenting this work to the world.

Here is the article’s abstract:

This article presents the first study, edition, and modern English translation of a Latin treatise for novice Benedictine monks copied at the English monastery of Bury St. Edmunds in the fourteenth century in Oxford, Bodleian Library, Bodley 240. The treatise is comprised of two primary parts, the first describing a monastic program of meditation or contemplation to be followed throughout the day, the second discussing the benefits and nature of “the discipline” (the practice of flagellation) for curing a lack of devotion to monastic practice. The introduction and notes place the treatise within the larger context of the manuscript, of religious life and history in England and the West more generally, and of the treatise author’s sources, monastic heritage, and a variety of traditional and innovative medieval genres. The text is finally placed in the context of newer historiography on late medieval English monasticism and the relationship of monastics to their lay associates.

Arcane work, I know, but fascinating material!