The Cluniac Reform and St. Odo
ST. ODO OF CLUNY : being the Life of St. Odo of Cluny by John of Salerno and the Life of St. Gerald of Aurillae by St Odu, translated and edited by Dona Gerard Sitwell, O.S.B. (Sheed & Ward, 16s.).
CLUNY is one of the really tremendous names in history; and the inclusion of its illustrious abbot Odo in the "Makers of Christendom" series (edited by Christopher Dawson) is therefore most appropriate. This great branch of the Benedictines, founded in 912 by Berno, Abbot of Gigny aided by the very substantial gift of a vast estate by William Duke of Aquitaine rose to world-wide renown and influence, the parent house of many hundred monasteries.
At the time of the suppression in England there were .31 English Cluniac houses, stretching from Devon to York and from Hereford to Norfolk; one of them was an abbey (Bermondsey). while the others were priories or cells.
The destruction of the church at Cluny by the townspeople in the French Revolution was a tragedy indeed-an art for which Napoleon called the people vandals.
Two books in one
IN the present book Dorn Gerard Sitwell, of St. Bend's Hall. Oxford, gives us two books in one: the life of St. Odo by John of Salerno (another glowing name), and the life of St. Gerald of Aurillac by St. Odo. Gerald was a saintly and social-minded layman-hence a character with a special appeal today.
St. Odo's " Life" is our wily source of our knowledge of Gerald. He was a man who, as Dom Sitwell says, " obviously impressed his contemporaries greatly, and his life is a good example of the civilizing effects of Christianity on a rough age".
He was a man who (as St. Odo tells us) " studied moderation and despised the trappings of his position. Odo gives us a wealth of vivid detail: for example:
He easily found a means of hiding his tonsure. He shaved olT his heard as though it were troublesome to him, since the hair
Crossword No. 538
Prizewinners: First prize. a guinea, D. P. Quinn, Bedfont, Middlesex. Second prize, a book, Mrs.' Bridget Tucker. lford. Bournemouth.
trom the back of his head hung down, arid he concealed the tonsure Cl, the top of his head by wearing a cap. He wore clothes cir skin above his linen ones, because both clerics and laymen are accustomed to clothes of this sort. Hat he never had two skin garments at once . . . When he rode his sword was curried in front of him, but he himself never laid a hand on it.
As to the garments of skin, Dom Sitwell has an interesting note: "They must have done a good deal to ward off the rigors of cold in the unheated churches and the open cloisters"
IN reading such lives one needs
to hear in mind the rough temper of the time (in this case the dark age of the 10th century), its violence, brutality, and frequent anarchy, when the Church was ever striving, as the one great light in the darkness, to counteract barbarism, through her abbeys, schools, and individual saints, under the distant but definite guidance of the Roman See.
" laving in the Welfare State". writes Dom Sitwell, " it is difficult for us to bring home to ourselves the plight of those who for one reason or another fell outside the ranks of those who had a recognized means of livelihood . . . it is difficult for us to realise the civilizing influence which such men as Odo and Gerald must have had on a barbarous society, and the important thing to notice is that the effect they produced was the immediate result of their Christianity".
There are various other writings of St. Odo-enumerated with some comment. There is a bibliography of works referred to in the notes (which are numerous); and the introduction gives a note on the texts of both "Lives." There is a general index. This is a scholar's book: but it may also be read with interest and benefit by all the studious.
FRONTIERS OF HEALING. by Geoffrey Murray (Max Parrish, London, 16s.).
THIS book makes interesting general reading, with an added appeal for those interested in therapeutics. it tells the story of " medical unorthodoxy " or the chief outsiders" of medicinethough very different outsiders: Sir Herbert Barker and the osteopaths are at considerable variance with Mrs. Eddy and the Christian Scientists For a Catholic the main interest -naturally and inevitably-is the
chapter on The Miracles of
Lourdes". Mr. Murray gives an account which is excellent in many points but needs revision in others.
For example: " In the end the most plausible explanation of the Lourdes cures is the one held out by the Roman Catholic Church -that they are due to Divine intervention. It is the only one which seems to fit all the known facts.
'God of caprice' "THE difficulty about accepting it is that it seems to make the Deity a God of caprice. He chooses, according to this explanation, to make a few better and to condemn the majority to go on suffering. The God we know is a God to love".
The alert Catholic will reply: The first part of the statement is admirable; but in the second part the term "tree-will" should replace the term " caprice". God chooses as He wills, and He has the supreme and absolute right to do so. He does not " condemn" to suffering those who are not cured; that comes under the general question of permitted evil.
But God chooses to grant rare favours beyond the natural order to those who have no actual right to them; and His choice is necessarily good. He is a God of love because He is infinitely good. This general principle applies to all healing miracles.
GETTING TO KNOW THE BIBLE, by Rev. Joseph F. X. Cevetello. (Society of St. Paul, U.S.A.3 The Holborn Publishing Co., London, 16s.).
ANY work of factual informa tion and positive instruction about the Bible should always be welcomed. This book is certainly of that class; it embodies all the essential facts in admirably clear and straightforward style.
It is in quite a different style from, for instance. Darn Charlier's "Christian Approach to the Bible". It concentrates on essential principles and facts without discursive commentare; its great merit is that it is closely packed with the right sort of information just the things which the apologist needs to know.
There are ten appendices: geography of the Holy Land; Old Testament miracles; Hebrew chronology (from Abraham, c. 2000); some Messianic prophecies; Biblical calendar, money, measures; harmony of the four gospels; chronology of our Lord's life; chronology of St. Paul's life; Epistles and Gospels for Sundays and Holidays and some notable feasts: doctrinal index of Scripture texts,