Book Review: The Rule of Saint Benedict (A Contemporary Paraphrase)
Author: Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
Publisher: Paraclete Press ISBN: 9781557259738
By St. Benedict of Nursia / Paraphrase and Introduction by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
I am enjoying this latest translation of Benedict’s Rule from Paraclete Press and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove very, very much. As I have been working through it, I have made repeated comparisons with my dog-eared copy of The Rule of Saint Benedict edited by Timothy Fry, O.S.B. I am finding that I enjoy this fresh perspective of the Rule interpreted through the eyes and experience of Wilson-Hartgrove immensely; so much, that I have taken to reading the Rule aloud to my family as a part of our morning devotional time. There are a couple of reasons for this, not the least of which is the contemporary vernacular and application that Jonathan applies (which still remains relatively faithful to the Rule as edited by Timothy Fry—in my opinion).
One of the reasons I like reading it aloud to my family is that I feel this interpretation is more applicable to the context of their present lives. I respect and practice a form of Benedict’s Rule in my life and have now for a few years. My family has not always understood this, but respect my practices. The Rule, in its original language and even subsequent interpretation by Timothy Fry is still more amenable to a true monastic lifestyle—hard to make the jump to “everyday” societal living. The experience of Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and his intentional community of Rutba House, bring monastic living and everyday society a little closer together. I sense this connection as I read through this paraphrase and I think my family, who has little connection to or affinity for the monastic life, will realize it as well.
I also appreciate the side bar commentaries interspersed throughout the book. Jonathan shares personal experience from the Rutba Community and practical interpretation of the Rule, which help to bridge some elements of the monastic life to the everyday life of community outside of the monastery.
Personally, I think this is an excellent addition to my library of resources concerning The Rule of St. Benedict. I believe it would serve well the person who is just introduced to the Rule and I believe it might help to give fresh insight to others who are in need of a perspective that extends beyond the walls of the monastery. As I have mentioned, I feel like this paraphrase is faithful to the spirit of Benedict’s Rule, at least the modern translations, and it will be an asset to most anyone who decides to listen to the ancient and timeless wisdom it shares from the Way of Jesus. Thank you Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and thank you Paraclete Press.