St. Dunstan, monastic reformer and Archbishop of Canterbury

In the ninth century, under King Alfred the Great, England had achieved considerable military, political, cultural, and even some ecclesiastical recovery from the Viking invasions. However, monasticism seems to have been virtually extinct in the middle of the 10th century. The leading figure in the revival of monasticism was Dunstan.

Dunstan (909-988) was born into a family with royal connections. He became a monk at Glastonbury and in 943 was made Abbot. He was a strict ascetic who completely reformed the monastery, insisting on the full observance of the Benedictine rule, and under him the monastery became famous for its learning.

He became a royal counsellor under King Eadred, but during the next reign had to migrate to Flanders. He was recalled by King Edgar, who appointed him Bishop of Worcester, then of London, and in 960 Archbishop of Canterbury.

Together with his former pupils, Bishops Aethelwold of Winchester and Oswald of Worcester, Dunstan was leader of the English Church. All three have been described as “contemplatives in action”–bringing the fruits of their monastic prayer life to the immediate concerns of Church and State. The reform of the monasteries was set forth in the “Monastic Agreement,” a common code for English monasteries. It called for continual intercession for the royal house, and emphasized the close tie between the monasteries and the crown. This close alliance was sacramentalized in the anointing of the king.

The long-term effects of this tenth-century reform resulted in the development of two peculiarly English institutions: the “monastic cathedral” and “monk-bishops.” Dunstan achieved fame as a metalworker and is the patron saint of metalworking and the casting of bells

Our Father in heaven,
We thank You for the lives of Dunstan, Aethelwold, and Oswald. We humbly petition You for a monastic revival in the Church of England. May all church leaders be “contemplatives in action,” undergirding the church and the nation with prayer. Amen.

Hat tip: SF


One Response to St. Dunstan, monastic reformer and Archbishop of Canterbury

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