Br. Benet S. Exton

Br. Benet S. Exton

Br. Benet Exton, O.S.B., St. Gregory's University, Shawnee, Oklahoma.

Articles by Br. Benet S. Exton

A Gambling Man: Charles II’s Restoration Game

Jan 15, 2010 / 00:00 am

Jenny Uglow.  New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, December 2009.  580 pages.  ISBN 978-0-374-28137-3.  $35.00.

The Templars, Knights of Christ

Jan 8, 2010 / 00:00 am

Regine Pernoud, translated from the French by Henry Taylor. San Francisco : Ignatius Press. 157 pages. Paperback. ISBN 978-1-58617-302-9. $14.95. October 2009.This book is the English translation of the French historian Regine Pernoud’s book “Les Templiers”, originally published in Paris. It was written to debunk the various fictional or unhistorical books and movies about the regarding the Templars, such as Walter Scott’s “Ivanhoe” and Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code,” among others.Pernoud's book includes a short history of the Templars. She also addresses how France's King Philip the Fair and others of temporal and spiritual realms wanted the Templars’ wealth and property for themselves. These enemies of the Knights Templar used any means necessary to bring their opponents down, which resulted in the creation of a series of lies that are currently accepted as historical truth.Some of the Templars were tortured to make bizarre confessions to please their torturers. These knights re-canted their confessions when they could. Confessions gained under duress were illegal and should not have been accepted as proof against the Templars. Nevertheless, the suppression continued. Some of the knights were executed during this time of suppression. Those who wanted them destroyed did not care.Ironically, King Philip and his allies died within a year after the Templars were suppressed. In the end one could say that God took his vengeance on the king and others who perpetrated this crime.Pernoud presents the truth that the Knights Templar were originally founded to do good. She chronicles that, over time, they became rich from the gifts given to them in recompense for their good deeds. Naturally, others grew to envy their wealth.This phenomenon is not uncommon. Many religious orders were poor at the outset. Then, people of wealth would give them gifts of property and other things. Over time, their assets grew. Nevertheless, the damage done to the image of the Knights Templar is lasting.This book is highly recommended to those who are interested in the Knights Templar, and the history of their organization, as well as the history of the Catholic Church in France.

Ancient Christian Devotional: a year of weekly readings, lectionary cycle C

Dec 11, 2009 / 00:00 am

Edited by Cindy Crosby.  Downers Grove, Ill. : InterVarsity Press.  296 pages.  Paperback.  ISBN 978-0-8308-3528-7.  $18.00.This book is a great way to prepare for the readings at Mass or church services during this Church liturgical year (currently year C) and for the 2010 calendar year.Members of Churches that use the Common lectionary (Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, etc) can use this book to prepare their personal meditations on the upcoming Sunday's readings. It can also be used to reflect, pray, or it can be used for group discussion.The book also has an ecumenical application since more than one church uses the Common Lectionary.  The editor, Cindy Crosby, provides in the front a method to use this book gives a description of how to use the book in the beginning.  The book provides the Scripture readings for the Sundays of Year C, a theme, opening prayer, short reflections from various Church Fathers for each reading, and a closing prayer.  Included is a bibliography, short biographies of the Church Fathers who are quoted or referenced in this book, an index of names and sources, and a scripture index.  This book can also be helpful to those who prepare sermons or homilies.  Cindy Crosby edited Ancient Christian Devotional for year A with Thomas Oden the general editor of the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture.  This book is highly recommended!

Thomas Cromwell: the rise and fall of Henry VIII’s most notorious minister

Dec 4, 2009 / 00:00 am

Book by: Robert Hutchinson.  New York : St. Martin’s Press.  360 pages.  Hardback.  ISBN 978-0-57794-0.  $29.99.  September 2009. Robert Hutchinson’s wonderful and entertaining book will keep the reader very interested and unwilling to put it down.  In this book, the author brings together and interesting blend of history and direct quotations from Cromwell’s time period to paint a good picture of the character of this well known historical figure. Thomas Cromwell is infamous for his role in the dissolution of the monasteries and other religious houses in England during the reign of King Henry VIII.  Hutchison argues that Cromwell got this idea from Cardinal Wolsey, while he was working as an assistant to the Cardinal who was chancellor of England and the main minister for the king.  Wolsey had dissolved some of the lesser monasteries to raise money to found some colleges.  Cromwell would later remember this dissolution idea and use it on a larger scale.After Cardinal Wolsey fell from power over his failure to obtain a divorce from the Pope for Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, Cromwell rose to power over time to become Henry’s most important minister. He also helped the king divorce his second wife and to marry his second and third wives. Cromwell also helped Henry in financial and political matters which benefited them both.  Cromwell knew that he had to stay on Henry’s good graces or he would fall like Wolsey and others had done.  Cromwell also assisted Henry in religious matters, but he was too liberal for Henry who still favored many Roman Catholic practices.  This, and Cromwell’s failure with the marriage of Anne of Cleves, led to his downfall and execution as a traitor.Thomas Cromwell was a great organizer and administrator.  Many of the ideas and methods he installed in the English government are still used by the contemporary British government . However, he was too greedy and corrupt. He desired wealth, power, and the advancement of himself and his family. Another of Cromwell’s greedy acts was the destruction of many pieces of English art and architecture in order to get at the precious metals and jewels they were made of.  He encouraged the destruction of many shrines in England like those of St. Thomas a Becket in Canterbury and St. Swithun in Winchester. He was also behind the martyrdom of many of the first English martyrs who are held today as saints or blessed.This book would appeal to those who are interested in the Reformation in England and those interested in the figure of Thomas Cromwell. Robert Hutchinson is an expert on the Reformation in England and Wales and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquities.  He is an associate tutor in Church Archaeology at the University of Sussex’s Center (England) for Continuing Education and is the author of many papers.  He is the author of The Last Days of Henry VIII (2006), Elizabeth’s Spymaster (2007), and The House of Treason:  the rise and the fall of a Tudor Dynasty (2009).

Cluny: in search of God’s lost empire

Nov 27, 2009 / 00:00 am

Edwin Mullins. New York : BlueBridge. 245 pages. Hardback. October 2006. ISBN 1-93346-00-0. $24.95Cluny is the name of the great Benedictine monastery that was founded around 910 by Duke William of Aquitaine. The Duke wanted this monastery to be free from any noble, royal, or ecclesiastical control except that of the Pope. As was the custom in regards to the founding of monasteries during the Middle Ages, the Duke founded this monastery to pray for him and his family, as well as to serve as penance for a murder he had committed.The single most unique aspect of Cluny was that the Pope was its protector. Bishops and royalty could not interfere with its administration. Because of these exemptions, over time Cluny grew in wealth, property and members. Other monasteries or their benefactors would place them under Cluny’s rule. The Abbot of Cluny eventually became head of an order which its members became known as the Cluniac. Though the Clunaics professed to follow the Rule of St Benedict, the formation of an order, composed of multiple monasteries, is contrary to the Rule.Eventually, the acquisition of poverty, power, and wealth corrupted the Cluniacs. The Abbot of Cluny became very powerful in political circles as well as in the Church. The community at Cluny also became very business-minded and laicized. Though the monks had a continuous liturgy going on in their church, they were unable to take care of providing food for themselves, maintaining their buildings, and other day-to-day activities. Thus, they had to enlist the help of servants and lay brothers for the manual labor. Thus, the over-emphasis on liturgy detracted from the ‘ora et labor’ or ‘work and pray’ mandate of the Rule of St. Benedict. The Abbey Church at Cluny was very embellished due to the gifts and wealth the community had received, and in its time, it was the larger even than the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome. However, during the French Revolution, the Abbey was seized by the people and buildings were torn apart so that the materials could be sold for construction use in the town of Cluny.Edwin Mullins gives a full account of the history of the abbey, but he also tells the story of the great things the Cluniacs did. The early abbots of Cluny were holy men and are saints of the Church. These include St. Berno, St. Odo, St. Odilo, St. Mayeul or Mailos, St. Hugh and Blessed Peter the Venerable. Mullins also points out that the many travelers and pilgrims stayed at various Cluniac monasteries. Cluny had monasteries along the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, the shrine and supposed burial site of St. James the Great. This was a great pilgrimage site in the Middle Ages and many traveled from distance places in Europe to it.Mullins has done a superb job in writing and researching this book. He points out the good and the bad of Cluny. Cluny had a glorious history and made its mark on monasticism for good or bad.This book is highly recommended to those interested in medieval history or the history of monasticism.Edwin Mullins is an Oxford educated writer, journalist, and filmmaker. He is the author of The Pilgrimage to Santiago (2001), The Devil’s Work (1996), Alfred Wallis (1989), The Master Painter (1989), The Golden Bird (1988) among others.

From Holidays to Holy Days: A Benedictine walk through Advent

Nov 20, 2009 / 00:00 am

Book written by: Fr. Albert Holtz, O.S.B.  New York : Morehouse Publishing.  September 2008.  ISBN 978-0-8192-23166-6.  $16.00.Fr. Holz’s book provides the reader with many down to earth meditations for Advent. It presents a meditation for each day of Advent up to the Octave of Christmas, New Year’s Day. These meditations are based on various walks in his neighborhood in Newark, N.J.  Fr. Holz connects his walks with various Advent and Christmas themes which include the Scriptures as well as common symbols such as the Christmas tree and the Advent wreath. After each meditation of a page or two, he provides a short reflection which is followed by a Scripture quote to ponder.  He concludes with a quote from various Monastic Fathers and Mothers, though he is partial to the Rule of St. Benedict.This book is unique in that it mixes secular scenes with religious explanations and meditations.  This is significant in that many Christmas symbols, their backgrounds, and their  meanings have been lost to many people. There are very few who actually know why we have Christmas trees, poinsettias, wrapping paper, candy canes, and such. This book will help the reader to focus more on the Advent and Christmas seasons without becoming overwhelmed by all consumerism and materialism that seems to overshadow the season of Christmas.  As the old saying goes, “Christ is the reason for the season.”  Those looking for something to help them re-focus their minds and spirits on Christ this holiday season will find this book worthwhile.Fr. Albert Holtz, a Benedictine monk of Newark Abbey in New Jersey. He teaches in the monastery’s prep school and served as a retreat master around the United States.  He is the author of Pilgrim Road:  A Benedictine Journey through Lent (2006), Street Wisdom (2003), Downtown Monks:  Sketches of God in the City (2000), and A Saint on every Corner (1998). –

Don’t Trust the Abbot: Musings from the Monastery.

Nov 13, 2009 / 00:00 am

Book by:  Abbot Jerome Kodell, O.S.B. Collegeville, Minn. : Liturgical Press.  94 pages.  Paperback.  ISBN 978-0-8146-3238-3.  $11.95.  March 2009.Abbot Jerome Kodell is the abbot of Subiaco Abbey in Arkansas.  His book is a collection of his letters published in his Abbey’s newsletter, The Abbey Messenger between 1989 and 2008.  The letters have been edited and revised for this book.  The title of this book is rather amusing since most monks trust their abbots to do their best as the spiritual father of the monastery.  Abbots are not elected because they are popular, but rather because they are capable leaders.The topics examined through Abbot Jerome's letters are divided into three parts:  trust and faith, Christian life, and prayer.  His writing is down-to-earth and appealing to his readers.  Even though Abbot Jerome is a scholar, his letters are accessible to anyone.  He discusses topics such as trust, prayer, silence, celibacy, responsibility, the dark night of the soul, saints, distractions during prayer, intercessory prayer, monasticism, private revelations, and the American dream, to name a few.  The letters are short and to the point without being dry. This book covers topics that are of interest to Benedictine monks, nuns, oblates, and those interested in Benedictine monasticism and spirituality. Abbot Jerome Kodell, O.S.B., besides being an abbot, is a founding member of the Little Rock Scripture Study Program.  He is the author of Twelve Keys to Prayer (1999), The Eucharist in the New Testament (1991), commentaries with the Collegeville Bible Commentary, and articles and other books.  

A Lily Among Thorns: The Mohawk Repatriation of Kateri Tekahkwitha

Oct 23, 2009 / 00:00 am

Book written by: Darren Bonaparte.  Akwesasne, New York : The Wampum Chronicles.  295 pages.  Paperback.  ISBN 978-1-4392-1791-7.  $18.99.This book is an interesting and alternative perspective on the life and times of Kateri Tekahkwitha, a Mohawk maiden who died in 1680 and was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1980.  Before telling Blessed Kateri's story, Bonaparte sets the stage by presenting the earlier history of the Mohawk and the other Iroquois nations. He gives the history of the Five nations of the  Iroquois Confederation:  the Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga, Seneca, and Onondaga nations. Bonaparte also describes the first encounters between the Mohawks and Europeans from France, the Netherlands, and later, from England. This contact had a major impact on the Mohawks and other Indians, some of which was good while at other times it was disastrous for them.  The Mohawks received new items like glass beads, metal weapons, and guns from the Europeans, but they also received devastating diseases like smallpox which decimated many tribes. Some tribes were wiped out by these diseases because they had no natural immunity to them. The smallpox epidemic proved to be a significant factor in the life of Blessed Kateri Tekahkwitha. The title of the book A Lily Among Thorns refers to Blessed Kateri’s hard life amongst her own people. As Bonaparte's historical research depicts, life as an Indian was not an easy one.  Kateri’s life was made worse due to the fact that she was an orphan and  that she had been scarred in many ways by smallpox.  Her face had scar marks and her eyesight was affected to the point that she many times wore a scarf or blanket over her head to protect her eyes from the sun and to hide the scars.  Her health was also in a weakened condition due to the smallpox.  She experienced many immaterial thorns as her aunt and other family members repeatedly tried to get her to marry, though she refused.By means of a treaty with the French; Jesuit missionaries were allowed to work amongst the Mohawks to gain converts to Catholicism.  Blessed Kateri met one of the missionaries and eventually it was arranged for her to leave her village and join other Christian Indians in their own village in Canada. Bonaparte describes how Blessed Kateri, and the others who later joined her,  did penance and ascetic works in expiation of their sins and those of their fellow tribal members.  Many of these mortifications would be considered extreme, possibly even crazy, today but as Bonaparte explains, these penances fit in well with Iroquois culture.  Such mortifications probably did not help Blessed Kateri’s fragile health.  The Jesuits did intervene when she tried to do a penance that was too extreme, but when the modern reader becomes acquainted with her habits, they can only wonder what was considered 'too extreme.' Blessed Kateri died during Holy Week in April of 1680. In her life and death,she inspired many Indians to convert or live a more Christian life.  Several apparitions of her have been reported and many more miracles have occurred since her death, occurring even to the present day. It is hoped that she will be canonized in the near future, which would make her the first Native American to be declared a saint. Bonaparte book includes many black and white photographs, as well as a massive bibliography of books, articles and websites. It is an interesting blend of the story of a saint with a great amount of research into her time-period and social milieu. A Lily Among Thorns is highly recommended to those interested in Blessed Kateri, the Mohawks, and early American and Canadian history. Darren Bonaparte is a Mohawk Indian. He is also the author of Creation & Confederation:  The Living History of the Iroquois (2008). He lives in a Mohawk community on the St. Lawrence River and spends much of his time giving presentations on the traditional Iroquois Wampum belts when he is not writing.  

Discovering Mary: Answers to Questions about the Mother of God

Oct 9, 2009 / 00:00 am

Book written by: David Mills

Secular Sabotage: How Liberals are Destroying Religion and Culture in America

Sep 28, 2009 / 00:00 am

Book written by: Bill Donohue. New York : Faith Words. 258 pages. Hardback. ISBN 978-0-446-54721-5. $26.99. September 2009.

Seeking Life: the baptismal invitation of the Rule of St. Benedict

Aug 14, 2009 / 00:00 am

Book written by: Esther de Waal.  Collegeville, Minn. : Liturgical Press.  148 pages.  Hardback.  May 2009.  ISBN 978-0-8146-1880-6.  $19.95.

Called Out of Darkness: a spiritual confession

Jul 31, 2009 / 00:00 am

Book written by: Anne Rice.  New York : Knopf.  245 pages.  Hardback.  October 2008.  ISBN 978-0-307-26827-3.  $24.00.

The Deacon Reader

Jul 24, 2009 / 00:00 am

Book edited by James Keating.  New York: Paulist Press.  Paperback.  280 pages.   May 2006.  ISBN 0-8091-4389-5.  $22.95.

Hildegard of Bingen: A Spiritual Reader

Jul 3, 2009 / 00:00 am

Book written by: Carmen Acevedo Butcher.  Paraclete Press.  244 pages.  March 2007.

Real Women, Real Saints: friends for your spiritual journey

Jun 19, 2009 / 00:00 am

Book written by: Gina Loeher.

Lincoln and Chief Justice Taney: Slavery, Secession and the President’s War Powers

May 15, 2009 / 00:00 am

Book written by: James F. Simon. New York : Simon & Schuster. 324 pages. Hardback. November 2006. ISBN 0-7432-5032-X

American Catholics Today: New Realities of Their Faith and Their Church

May 1, 2009 / 00:00 am

Written by: William V. D’Antonio, James D. Davidson, Dean R. Hogue, and Mary L. Gautier.  Rowman & Littlefield.  204 pages.  Paperback.  March 2007.

Man of Blessing: a Life of St. Benedict

Apr 24, 2009 / 00:00 am

Book written by: Carmen Acevedo Butcher.  Paraclete Press.  180 pages.  Hardback.  March 2006.

Parish Priest: Father Michael McGivney and American Catholicism

Apr 10, 2009 / 00:00 am

Book written by: Douglas Brinkley and Julie M. Fenster.  New York : William Morrow, 2006.  240 pages.  ISBN 0-06-077684-8.  $24.95.

Keepers of the Keys of Heaven : a history of the papacy

Apr 8, 2009 / 00:00 am

Book written by: Roger Collins. New York : Basic Books. 576 pages. Hardback. March 2009. ISBN 978-0-465-01195-7.