A unique introduction to St. Benedict’s Rule for monks via RenÃ© Girard’s views on human nature.
Benedictine monk Marr adds a fresh volume to the existing commentary on the St. Benedict’s book of precepts written for monks living in a monastery. Here, the Rule is examined in relation to philosopher Girard’s concept of mimesis. Marr (Born in the Darkest Time of Year: Stories for the Season of the Christ Child, 2004) first provides background on the concept, which puts forth the notion that a fundamental human characteristic is to imitate others. According to Girard, mimesis becomes problematic when violence is the characteristic imitated, and throughout history society has overcome the mimetic impulse and restored order through the sacrifice of individuality. The connection between mimesis and the Rule is not immediately evident, but becomes so as Marr progresses. He presents a compelling argument for the Rule as a response to mimetic discord and violence, while also using mimesis as a tool to spread peace. For example, the Rule hinders the mimetic impulse to covet by disallowing direct property ownership. Yet, while demanding piety from a monastery’s leadership, the Rule harnesses the mimetic impulse to make piety a desirable trait. The connection is not as evident in some chapters, but Marr ultimately makes a strong case for viewing the Rule through mimetic eyes. But the impact of the author’s arguments on those who live outside the Rule is not entirely clear. It may be a tool used for peace in a monastery, but what about the rest of us? Though the author fails to fully develop this notion, the book remains a meaningful addition to the study of Benedict and would serve as an appropriate text for classes studying the Rule or Girard.
A welcome resource for better understanding Benedict.