Jeremy Driscoll, OSB, is a most unusual monk. He’s a poet, patristics scholar, and professor who teaches both in Rome and at Mount Angel Abbey in Oregon, his monastery. He’s also the author of A Monk’s Alphabet, one of the most unusual books of this publishing season. The book consists of 196 short essays, reflections, and ruminations, arranged alphabetically from Airplane to Zerr. (Bonaventure Zerr was the seventh abbott of Mount Angel. Father Driscoll’s moving account of his death concludes the book.) He is a writer of exceptional talent and insight.
Great writers such as Pascal and Marcus Aurelius employed the genre of short, provisional essays, loosely organized, and Father Driscoll makes good use of the freedom the form offers. Here, for example, is his opinon of “Smugness:”
“God so hates religious smugness and self-satisfaction and the certainty that the other is a sinner and will go to hell that he would empty hell completely of the sinners who deservedly belong there and place the smug one there all alone to pass an eternity of painful astonishment, learning that God has mercy on whom he will. Should some faint sense of desiring to adore the One who is so merciful crack even slightly the bitterness of this terribly misused virtuous one, maybe then even hell would be emptied of him.
“In short, it is not for me to judge, not for me to presume to pronounce on others. ‘The last shall be first, and the first last.’”