Surer hope? Encouregments for taking up a monastic life in the Latin Christian letters of the 4th and 5th century


The turn of the 4th and 5th centuries is a period of exuberant development of a monastic life in the West. This fact was also reflected in the correspondence of the authors of this period (Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome and Paulinus Nolensis of Nola), who are considered to be the fathers of the Western monasticism. Many people entered the path of life devoted to Christ voluntarily and without dilem­mas, but there were also those who were encouraged to make this decision and yet they felt some resistance. Of this we can also find testimonies in the letters of the authors mentioned above. Among their nearly 500 letters, we find only seven that relate to the theme of calling and encouragement to the monastic life. They are directed to only three people (two soldiers and wealthy married couple), which, however, are an example of serious dilemmas and problems with entering the path of monastic life. The authors show in their letters arguments for taking up monastic life and ways of its implementation. The letters show a better and more perfect life. In letters there is no call for leaving the world in a literal way, but only a peculiar “abandonment” of the world, and above all a profound eschatological dimension of such a decision. There is a deep hope that for abandoning what is earthly, a reward that transcends earthly goods awaits for a man who undertakes a monastic life. In the face of the vanity of the world, its worries and problems, certainly a better hope is shown in the encouragements of the letters.


Augustine; Jerome; Paulinus of Nola; letters; hope; monastic life; world; richness; military service

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Published : 2018-12-12

Wysocki, M. (2018). Surer hope? Encouregments for taking up a monastic life in the Latin Christian letters of the 4th and 5th century. Vox Patrum, 70, 193-204.

Marcin Wysocki 
Katolicki Uniwersytet Lubelski Jana Pawła II  Poland

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