monasticism (1) pop culture says monasticism was bad! (2) pop culture’s specific accusations (3)...
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Post on 25-Dec-2015
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- Monasticism (1) Pop culture says monasticism was BAD! (2) Pop cultures specific accusations (3) Barbarians destroyed culture, monks saved it (4) Literacy and Education (5) Agriculture (6) Industrial skills and technology (7) Monastic beauty
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- Monasticism Misrepresented Catholic monasticism is presented in our pop culture as a prison-like existence. Monks, we are told, did not want to be monks nor do the work of monks. Monasteries were places of ugly, barren stone. No one was happy. No one smiled. No one was creative or innovative. I came across this picture on the web. Someone had posted it with the caption You are sad and have no life.
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- Monasticism Misrepresented This re-writing of the history of monasticism began with Voltaire. Voltaire called Catholic cathedrals gothic meaning uncivilized, like the Goth barbarians who plundered the crumbling Roman Empire. Real Goths Fake Goth
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- Monasticism Misrepresented Voltaire despised art itself, and believed that beautiful art brings cultures down. Gosh, I hate the Church. I hate her so much that I hate all art too. How can I keep Catholic art from inspiring people? I know! Ill say its GOTHIC.
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- (2) Pop cultures specific accusations Catholic Monasticism is accused of keeping Europe in a Dark Age from 500 to 1500 A.D. by: --fleeing from society into seclusion. --obstructing the advance of the physical sciences. --suppressing pagan cultural treasures (pre-Christian literature). --suppressing art --keeping people ignorant (uneducated) and powerless. --sponging off of real working people, like parasites.
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- (2) Pop cultures specific accusations --Monks are often portrayed as self-serving, fat slobs who just want to eat, drink and let everyone else do the work.
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- (3) Barbarians destroyed culture, monks saved it --There was indeed little original writing in the years 500 to 700 A.D. The barbarian invasions destroyed cities, monasteries, libraries, schools, and institutions of law and government. --During this time, the monasteries were BUSY trying to save and collect as much culture as they could. They did not have the safety and leisure necessary for original writing.
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- (3) Barbarians destroyed culture, monks saved it --As a result of the barbarian invasions, the classics were generally scattered. Very little was gathered in one place. --Most pre-Christian classical literature would not exist today if it had not been painstakingly preserved by Catholic monks. --The monasteries copied and collected the classics again until Western culture regathered. This made the Renaissance possible.
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- (3) Barbarians destroyed culture, monks saved it --The cathedrals Voltaire called gothic are in fact incredibly complex, beautiful and enlightened.
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- This is not the work of barbarians!
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- (4) Literacy and Education --If one limits the idea of education to mean literacy, reading and writing, then YES, the monks did not focus on teaching literature. --But the education the peasants wanted and most urgently needed was practical. The barbarian invasions disrupted the passing on of basic professional skills. --The monasteries functioned as community technical colleges. Daily, they taught people how to grow and make things.
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- (4) Literacy and Education --Literacy and book-based education in monasteries was generally for religious. Other people did not have the time nor the compelling need for it. As odd as that may sound, there is a present-day parallel. Schools today are discouraged from teaching theory and encouraged to teach only productive skills! Any knowledge that doesnt make money is often regarded as worthless. --The religious served an important function in this way, too. At least someone was reading! --Nobles would also come to monasteries for scholarly learning.
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- (4) Literacy and Education --The monumental contribution of Monasticism to education and to cultural survival was the copying ancient manuscripts. --It began in the 6 th Century, when a retired Roman senator, Cassiodorus, established a monastery in southern Italy and gave it a fine library. From then on, monasteries had scriptoria, places in their libraries dedicated to the mental and manual labor of copying texts.
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- (4) Literacy and Education --Copying was also done at the schools which sprang up in association with cathedrals. --The cathedral schools gave rise to the invention of the university. The first university was founded in the 11 th Century at Bologna in Italy.
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- (4) Literacy and Education --Monks founded MANY schools! Many abbots always started a school along with a new monastery. --Though at first the education monks provided to the public emphasized productive skills, literacy and scholarship grew out of the Monastic schools too.
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- (5) Agriculture --The monks literally saved agriculture in Europe. --The monks pioneered the skill of draining swamps. This eliminated a source of disease and providing new arable land. --As much as one fifth of the arable land in Europe was cleared and made useful by monks.
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- (5) Agriculture --The monks pioneered the skill of irrigation. --They transformed the whole landscape of Germany and Lombardy by teaching people how to irrigate and cultivate land.
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- (5) Agriculture --People learned from monks how to: rear and breed cattle and horses brew beer grow fruit raise bees grow corn (especially in Sweden) farm salmon (especially in Ireland) make cheese (especially in Parma)
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- (6) Industrial skills and technology Monks also taught people industrial technologies: metallurgy quarrying marble making glass forging plate metal mining salt and other minerals clock making (both for time and for astronomy) painting and engraving
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- (6) Industrial skills and technology --The monasteries far exceeded the Romans in applying mechanical engineering to production. --For example, monks used water-power to crush wheat, sift flour, make cloth and tan leather.
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- (6) Industrial skills and technology --From the mid-13 th Century to the 17 th Century, the Cistercian monks were the leading producers of iron. --They also used the phosphate-rich byproduct of their foundries to fertilize crops. Monks pioneered the use of chemical fertilizers.
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- (6) Industrial skills and technology --Monks also built up the infrastructure of Europe. --For example, they redirected fresh water to Paris. --And they built and repaired roads and bridges. --Some monks lived near shores where they could warn sailors of hidden hazardous rocks, and care for sailors surviving shipwrecks.
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- (6) Industrial skills and technology --During and after the barbarian invasions, Europe was the Third World of those times. --The monks were the skillful and unpaid technical advisers who nursed Europe back to life.
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- (7) Monastic beauty --Monasticism started long before musical theory was developed. And they are connected. --In the monasteries, the communal life of prayer provided the conditions in which musical theory began to develop. In the monasteries, music could become complex and structured like never before. --One has only to listen to an early chant in a mode of Fifths, then to any example of polyphony, to see how music matured in the monasteries.
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- (7) Monastic beauty --Monasteries produced or commissioned art when no one else could. Without the Church, ordinary people had no access to art. --Wherever a monastery was founded, a village would spring up. People clung to the monasteries for survival. But they also clung to the monasteries for BEAUTY, in the art and architecture of the place of worship and the music of the liturgy.
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- (7) Monastic beauty --When they could, people gathered at the monastery daily for beautiful prayer (Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours). --When people were at home and work, they did not have books with the Psalms. So they took their basic prayers (Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be) and prayed them in the pattern of the monastic prayers (the Hours). This is how the rosary was invented!
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- (7) Monastic beauty --Imagine the challenge of evangelizing after the barbarians wrecked civilization. Christopher Dawson: The Church had to undertake the task of introducing the law of the Gospel and the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount among peoples who regarded homicide as the most honorable occupation and vengeance as synonymous with justice. --The artwork in the monasteries taught the people theology despite the unavailability books.
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- What ideas define Monasticism? Live the Gospel through poverty, chastity and obedience. Evangelize. Pray and work together. Love others and serve their needs. Enjoy the goodness and beauty of all Creation. Praise God and comfort others by making beauty.
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- Thank you, Monks past, present and future !!!
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