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A Benedictine Legacy of Peace
The Life of Abbot Leo A. Rudloff
By Brother John Hammond

Book Review: The Catholic Exponent

Uprooted from a tranquil and satisfying monastic life in the classical Benedictine Abbey of Gerleve in Westphalia, Germany, Leo von Rudloff was dispatched by his abbot to the United States on a hasty mission. This lecturer and professor was entrusted with establishing a haven for German monks who would be forced to seek refuge from the German Gestapo under Adolf Hitler.

For young Leo, who pronounced his vow of stability to the community in Gerleve in 1922, this was the first of several life-wrenching displacements. Each movement away from what he knew best also propelled him into ecclesial, monastic, and social issues that would touch the lives of Christians, Jews, and monastics on three continents, Europe, North America and the Middle East.

A Benedictine Legacy of Peace

After a first failed attempt at establishing a monastic foothold in North America, and returning to Germany as an American citizen, Leo was sent to Israel where he became Abbot of the faltering German Dormition Abbey on Mt. Zion. His diplomatic skills, Benedictine spirituality, and open ecumenical spirit brought him recognition from Pope John XXIII and assignment to a preparatory commission of the Second Vatican Council.

The reconciliation of Christians and Jews, the renewal of Benedictine monastic life, and the founding of a new North American Benedictine monastery became the hallmarks of his life a life fascinating, inspiring, and suggestive of spiritual values for our times.

"His friendship with my father, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, and his engagement with the State of Israel reveal the hope of a new kind of relationship between Catholics and Jews." -- Professor Susannah Heschel, Chair, Jewish Studies Program, Dartmouth College.

"In what time more than ours do women and men need to hear of someone passionate for non-violent, contemplative life, and alive to interreligious reverence . . . whose motto was 'Gentleness is power,' and who spoke of himself as a mother?" -- Padraic O'Hare, Director of the Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian Relations and Professor of Religious Studies at Merrimack College.

"Millions all over the world know Weston Priory for its music, which gives them a taste of Benedictine peace. . . They will welcome this book, for it reveals the roots from which that sweet taste springs." -- Brother David Steindl-Rast, Ph.D., Monk of Mount Saviour Monastery, Founder of A Network for Grateful Living.

JOHN ROBERT HAMMOND is a monk in the Benedictine monastery of Weston Priory in Weston, Vermont. He served as prior of the Weston community from 1964 to 1998 and knew Abbot Leo for almost 30 years. Before joining the Weston community, Brother John was a parish priest in the Burlington, Vermont diocese. As a young monk and later as prior of Weston Priory, he was closely associated with Abbot Leo until the time of his death in 1982.


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