What St. Benedict Taught the Dark Ages: His and Ours

Oct 9, 2019
Classics 110
1010 E 59th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
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Russell HittingerLumen Christi Institute


Free and open to the public. Cosponsored by the John U. Nef Commitee on Social Thought.

Cardinal Newman, who will be canonized on October 13, is well known for his philosophy of education, especially for his masterwork The Idea of University (1853).  But his most profound reflections on education are in his minor work “The Mission of St. Benedict” (1858), in which Newman treats the question of how to teach a beginner, even a beginner under the most unfavorable circumstances.  Not a novice in dialectic and rhetoric, or in the theoretical or practical sciences, but a beginner in the quotidian flow of life.
In the declining shadows of Roman order in the West, the fifth-century monk St. Benedict authored a “simple Rule for beginners.”  How to divide a day, how to honor one’s fellows of different social classes, how to bury the dead, how to distinguish tools and persons, and many other things that bewilder us today.  Newman claimed that St. Benedict was the genius of “poetical” education, which directs the first and maybe even final steps of living ordinary life as an integrated whole.    

Russell Hittinger is Senior Fellow at the Lumen Christi Institute, visiting professor at the University of Chicago Law School, and Professor Emeritus of Catholic Studies and Law at the University of Tulsa. He is also Ordinarius of the Pontifical Academy of the Social Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas. Hittinger is the author of many books, including A Critique of the New Natural Law Theory, The First Grace: Rediscovering Natural Law in a Post-Christian Age, Thomas Aquinas and the Rule of Law, and most recently Paper Wars: Catholic Social Doctrine and the Modern State (forthcoming).