This book is concerned with the concepts of Christian holiness and spirituality, notably as expressed in hagiographical literature, from Late Antiquity through to the Middle Ages. The first group of articles focuses on the Desert Fathers, the following ones examine key figures in the monastic history of the medieval West, dealing above all with England and with Bede and Anselm of Canterbury. Throughout, Benedicta Ward's aim has been to find an approach that makes full sense of Christian hagiography, miracles and all. It should not be seen, she argues, simply as biography, not as a quarry for information on social history, valuable though it may be for those purposes. The primary object of these Lives - as of the people about whom they were written - was religious: in the accounts of saints in any age there is a pattern integral to their subject, and this is to highlight the Christ-likeness of the saint; to neglect this meaning is to risk fundamentally misunderstanding these texts.
Part 1 Early monasticism: Apophthegmata Matrum - sayings of the desert mothers; signs and wonders - miracles in the desert tradition; the desert of the heart - the desert fathers for today; the image of the prostitute, from the 4th- to the 12th centuries; spiritual direction in the desert fathers; discernment and the desert fathers; a tractarian inheritance - religious life in a patristic perspective. Part 2 Middle ages - 7th and 8th centuries: the miracles of St. Benedict; miracles and history - a reconsideration of the miracles stories used by Bede; the spirituality of St Cuthbert; Theodore of Tarsus - a Greek archbishop of Canterbury; Bede and the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons; Bede and the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons; a converting ordinance - Bede and the hymns of Charles Wesley. Part 3 Middle Ages - 11th- to 14th centuries: Anselm of Canterbury - a monastic scholar; inward feeling and deep thinking - the prayers and meditations of St Anselm revisited; the desert myth - reflections on the desert ideal in early Cistercian monasticism; St. Bernard and the Anglican divines; the relationship between hermits and communities in the 12th century; the wounds of Christ - a medieval devotion and the Methodist revival; the death of the saints in some 12th-century sources; saints and sybils - from Hildegard to Theresa; faith seeking understanding - Anselm and Julian of Norwich; Julian and the solitary.