Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Stylite on Every Smokestack

If you’re like me, you skipped to the last page of Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue to see how it ended. (Come on, it’s a philosophical treatise, not a whodunit.) (Well, in a sense maybe.)  I remember being underwhelmed by the idea that we moderns are waiting “for another — and doubtless very different — St. Benedict,” but that was probably because I was an undergraduate and a religious studies major, and therefore inclined to take any reference to monasticism very literally.

So I was fascinated to learn that Alasdair MacIntyre’s misplaced faith in Benedictine monasticism predates him. Early in his career, Benjamin Disraeli palled around with an odd little movement called Young England — they favored reviving the tradition of being touched by the monarch to cure scrofula (the “King’s Evil”), that sort of thing. One of them, Lord John Manners, “toured Lancashire and decided that monasticism was the cure for Manchester.” This would have been in the 1840s.

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