Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Abbot Dunstan and Archbishop Oda

Dunstan in his boyhood had been attached to Eadmund's court, but he had been driven off by the rivalry of other youths. He was in no way fitted to be a warrior. He loved art and song, and preferred a book to a sword. For such youths there was no place amongst the fighting laymen, and Dunstan early found the peace which he sought as a monk at Glastonbury. Eadmund made him abbot, but Dunstan had almost to create his monastery before he could rule it. Monasteries had nearly vanished from England in the time of the Danish plunderings, and the few monks who remained had very little that was monastic about them.

Dunstan brought the old monks into order, and attracted new ones, but to the end of his days he was conspicuous rather as a scholar than as an ascetic. From Glastonbury he carried on the work of teaching an ignorant generation, just as Ælfred had done in an earlier time. Ælfred, however, was a warrior and a ruler first, and then a teacher. Dunstan was a teacher first, and then a ruler. Eadred took counsel with him, and Dunstan became thus the first example of a class of men which afterwards rose to power—that, namely, of ecclesiastical statesmen. Up to that time all who had governed had been warriors.

Another side of the Church's work, the maintenance of a high standard of morality, was, in the time of Eadred, represented by Oda, Archbishop of Canterbury. The accepted standard of morality differs in different ages, and, for many reasons, it was held by the purer minds in the tenth century that celibacy was nobler than marriage. If our opinion is changed now, it is because many things have changed.

No one then thought of teaching a girl anything, except to sew and to look after the house, and an ignorant and untrained wife could only be a burden to a man who was intent upon the growth of the spiritual or intellectual life in himself and in others. At all times the monks, who were often called the regular clergy, because they lived according to a certain rule, had been unmarried, and attempts had frequently been made by councils of the Church to compel the parish priests, or secular clergy, to follow their example.

In England, however, and on the Continent as well, these orders were seldom heeded, and a married clergy was everywhere to be found. Of late, however, there had sprung up in the monastery of Cluny, in Burgundy, a zeal for the establishment of universal clerical celibacy, and this zeal was shared by Archbishop Oda, though he found it impossible to overcome the stubborn resistance of the secular clergy.

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