Terrence G. KARDONG, The Life of St. Benedict by Gregory the Great. Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 2009. pp. 160. $16.95 pb. ISBN 978-0-8146-3262-8.
Reviewed by Susanna L. CANTU GREGORY, University of Dayton, Dayton, OH 45469

Terrence G. Kardong, O.S.B., of Assumption Abbey in North Dakota and author of Benedict's Rule: A Translation and Commentary (Liturgical Press, 1996), has written a translation of The Life of St. Benedict by Gregory the Great. Each of the sixteen sections of clearly translated text is followed by a commentary that contextualizes Benedict's life, Gregory the Great's perspective on Benedict, and the Life itself among parallel works such as The Life of Martin. The commentary especially identifies places in the text that may surprise or offend contemporary western sensibilities and then brings forth historical interpretation to help readers make sense of the stories. For example, Kardong takes care to explain instances when Benedict seems to treat both his faithful housekeeper and his sister Scholastica poorly. He shows how Gregory may have biblical and literary reasons for telling these two stories the way he does. This sensitivity to reader responses gives the commentary the feel of a guided tour through the text.

The book is written with great affection for the character St. Benedict both historically and as he appears in the Life. Moreover, Kardong provides insight into how Benedict is seen through Gregory's admiring eyes. For these reasons and because of the helpful line by line explication, the work may be helpful to both scholars and beginning students in Benedictine studies, history, literature, and theology. Because the commentary so fully fills in the background and contextual picture surrounding the text, Kardong's book would also be of benefit to a general audience interested in deepening knowledge of St. Benedict and the traditions surrounding his life.


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