How the Monks Saved Civilization

[Continuing prepping for next school year by doing a chapter by chapter summary of Thomas E. Woods’s How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization.]

Summary of Chapter 3 “How Monks Saved Civilization”

Woods writes that the “history of monks” can be summarized
in “Christ’s words: ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven, and all these things
shall be added unto you’” (25).  In
seeking Christ first and laboring out of love, the monks reinvigorated Europe
by means of a simple life style — “comparable to that of a contemporary
Italian peasant” – devoted to work and prayer (27).
The most notable of monks were the Benedictines founded by
St. Benedict of Nursia in the 5th century (26).  In the West, St. Benedict’s writings, known
as “The Rule of Saint Benedict,” became the foundation for western monasticism
where according to The Rule all were equal in the eyes of Christ; therefore, St
Benedict never took into consideration the worldly status of a perspective monk
(27).
Though the main purpose of the monks was to find a way of
salvation by retiring from the world, they also had a habit of bringing with
them knowledge of the arts, learning technology, and more.   The monks were not stupid and their
contributions are many:



·        
The monks were agricultural specialists and an
agricultural college.  They tamed the
wild and make that which is unlivable into a home.
·        
Monks embraced difficult tasks and inspired
others to labor and that in work there is dignity.
·        
Selective breeding of horses and cattle (genetic
engineering)
·        
Brewing of Beer
·        
Raising of bees
·        
Orchards
·        
Vineyards
·        
Corntrade in Sweden
·        
Irrigation in Lombardy
·        
Routed springs to Paris so the city could have
water
·        
Used water, rivers and streams, to Mill flower
·        
Champagne (Dom Perignon)
·        
Pioneers in the making of Wine
·        
Cistercians were specialists in metallurgy
·        
Monk – Eilmer flew 600 feet with a glider
·        
Skillful clockmakers



The monks of then, as well as those of today, were known for
their charitable works.  Every person
whjo darkened the doors of the monastery was “received as though they were
Christ” (38).  Two such actions,
hospitals that had the “bell of the wanders” 
and the “Bell Rock”, a bell to warn ships of dangerous rocks (33).  Copenhagen is said to own its origin to an
Abbot who built a monastery with the specific intention of aiding those who
were shipwrecked.
One of the most important contributions the monks made to
Western Civilization as well as history is the sharing, copying and keeping of
books.  By sharing books, technology,
science, and learning could e easily spread to other monasteries and be put to
use.  Most copies of classical texts come
to us almost exclusively from the monks. 
“The fact is, the Church cherished, preserved, studies, and taught the
works of the ancients which would otherwise have been lost” (41).  The monks ensued that literacy and culture
“would survive political and social catastrophe.
Learning was a central theme to the monastic life.  Where the monk went so too education followed.  They set up schools that would eventually
become the foundations for the university (45).
“The monastic contribution to Western civilization, as we have seen, is immense. . . Who else in the history of the Western civilization can boast such a record?  The Church that gave the West its monks also created the university” (45).