Friday, December 04, 2020

Benedictine Martyrology Back in Print after a Century

La Gloria di S.Benedetto by Pietro Annigoni (1979), showing the Patriarch surrounded by his multitudinous offspring.
I am excited to share with readers the latest reprint offered by my modest publishing enterprise Os Justi Press. (It has been awhile since we’ve added titles, as I’ve been busy with other projects, but don’t forget to have a look at the online catalogue—including the anthology John Henry Newman on Worship, Reverence, and Ritual, Parsch’s The Breviary Explained, Guardini’s Sacred Signs, Fr. Willie Doyle’s incomparable pamphlet Vocations, the illustrated Missal for Young Catholics, the best editions of Robert Hugh Benson’s The King’s Achivement and By What Authority?, the pocket edition Roman Martyrology, and many others!)

Speaking of martyrologies, many NLM readers will know that the great religious orders preserve records not only of all their members who have gone over to the eternal country, but also and in a more particular way of those who have died in the odor of sanctity and are venerated either universally or locally as models and intercessors.

For obvious reasons—it has been around for much longer, and its contemplative and liturgical way of life is entirely structured for prioritizing the pursuit of sanctity—the Benedictine Order numbers more saints, blesseds, venerables, and reputed holy men and women than any other in the Church, especially if we include the many later branches and reform movements that, called by various names, take Benedict’s Holy Rule as their own.

This is why it gives me extraordinary joy to announce the republication, for the first time in nearly a hundred years, of A Benedictine Martyrology. Published in 1922 and basically impossible to find on the used book market, this book is Alexius Hoffman’s English translation and adaptation of the Rev. Peter Lechner’s Ausführliches Martyrologium des Benedictiner-Ordens und Seiner Verzweigungen [Detailed Martyrology of the Benedictine Order and its Branches], published in Munich in 1855. The original was published in cloth; this reprint is paperback, but with a simple and formal cover design:

The volume is catholic in its criteria, containing not only the “classic” black monks but members of reforms and branches such as the Order of Citeaux, of Camaldoli, of Vallombrosa, of Monte Oliveto, of Monte Vergine, of Fiore, of Pulsano, and of La Trappe, the Celestines, the Humiliati, and the Congregations of Cava and Cluny, as well as military Orders and eminent benefactors. Weighing in at a substantial 350 pages, with over 1,500 entries, it is a worthy supplement to the Roman Martyrology, a moving testament to the greatness of the spiritual family inaugurated by the holy twins Benedict and Scholastica.

The book gathers succinct biographies of men and women who lived according to or in the ambit of the Rule of St. Benedict and who died with a reputation for heroic virtue and sanctity, including both those officially beatified or canonized and those who received local veneration. Note that, unlike the Roman Martyrology, which is little more than a list of names, places, and a salient fact or two, the Benedictine Martyrology devotes anywhere from one paragraph to a whole page to the life of each man or woman recorded. In that sense, it is a sort of “mean” between the Roman Martyrology’s pithiness and the multi-page treatments in The Golden Legend or Butler’s Lives. Each day has usually four or five entries, covering three quarters of a page to a little over a page. In this way, it would serve admirably for daily reading after the Office of Prime or at some other convenient moment.

Benedictine Martyrology is available from (link) and its affiliates.

Here are the first three pages from the month of December:

One stumbles upon delightful entries like this one, from February 19th:

Further information about the authors:

Rev. Peter Lechner, O.S.B. was born on March 7, 1805 at Pfaffenhofen in Bavaria and was ordained in 1827 at Augsburg. In 1838 he entered the Benedictine monastery of Scheyern, made profession in 1839, was prior from 1842–1847, and came across the Atlantic to St. Vincent’s near Latrobe, Pennsylvania, where he lived from 1847–1851. After this he returned to Scheyern, where he died on July 26, 1873. He was the author of forty-one works.

Very Rev. Alexius Hoffmann, O.S.B. was born on January 31, 1863, in St. Paul, Minnesota and entered the Benedictine Order in 1880, wherein he made solemn vows in 1884 and was ordained a priest in 1885. He served in various administrative and academic positions at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota and authored a number of historical works. Pope Pius XI named him a Doctor of Sacred Theology in 1923. He died on July 6, 1940.

May this book find its way to Benedictine monks, nuns, oblates, and admirers everywhere!

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