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Sunday, April 17, 2022

Easter Sunday

I hope everyone has a blessed and happy Easter Sunday.

An Easter Blessing from the Patriarch of my Church:

Companions of the Sacred Flame,

This night we gather in vigil, to commemorate the death and resurrection of Christ, recalling with it, the history of our spiritual path, seeing in it, our own journeys from life to death, and experiencing through it, the initiation from death to life.

Divine Beloved, out of the tomb of separation you have called us, to rise into the Kingdom of God. The ancient mysteries of sacrifice speak to our journey.

Incarnate in each one of us, the Sacred Flame is transfixed upon the cross of space and time, May we never fear to descend into our lowest reaches, like the Logos and the harrowing of hell, to reconcile the lower with the higher- that we may rise transformed in this very life, and in the fullness of time ascend into perfect union.

– Easter Vigil of the Apostolic Johannite Church

These are the opening words of the Easter Vigil which the Apostolic Johannite Church celebrates at this most solemn time in journey of the liturgical year.

There is a reason why the Liturgical journey of the year is an annual one, and why we measure out our spiritual time in seasons and themes that repeat. The seasons and the themes do not change, we change, and in that change we acquire new perspectives and a lived meaning of the story of our own journeys – not merely in its journaling of hardship, but also in its foreshadowing of transformation. We may not know the details of our path, but the story foretells its arc provided we stay on it. 

The liturgy and words are a reflection that can give perspective on the many moments of difficulty we have seen in the past year – loss, uncertainty, exhaustion, and fear of the unknown, all of which we have experienced in abundance, but also whose substance, like a spiritual alchemy, can become for us the reagents of transformation under the heat of the Sacred Flame. A transformation whose movements we can now begin to perceive by the illumination of the Easter light. 

In our Johannite community, these transformations have taken the shape of new members, new ministers, new opportunities for service, new communities forming and established communities exploring their spiritual life as a community in greater depth, to name a few. There is much here to celebrate and look forward to as we kneel in vigil for the return of the Light. It is not just the Christ which comes forth from the tomb, nor is the weight of the stone in front of it, the only one that will in time be rolled away.

My prayer for you is that you may rise from difficulty, pain and sorrow and that any stone that remains within your heart, roll back like banished darkness before the light of the Easter sun.

My blessings, good wishes and prayers for all the Johannite Parishes, Narthexes, Missions, Oratories and Chapels, our solitary sisters and brothers who keep the flame burning in distant places, and all those who call the Apostolic Johannite Church home, deepening and sharing their journey here.

My thanks and gratitude on behalf of the Apostolic Johannite Church to the Johannite Bishops, Priests, Deacons, Subdeacons, Seminarians and Narthex Leaders, the Grand Master and Initiates of the Friary, the Prior, Oblates and Knights of the Order of the Temple and Saint John, and the Gnostic Wisdom Network team, for all their hard work and dedication- not only to the people we work on behalf of, but also in their own spiritual paths and in their service to each other. 

Blessings and good wishes also from the Apostolic Johannite Church to the many Churches and spiritual communities of good will, especially the for Ecclesia Gnostica Mysteriorum in their time of mourning and memory, the Ecclesia Gnostica, Ekklesia Neoplatonismos Theourgia, l’Eglise Gnostique Apostolique (New York), and the Ancient Apostolic Church of Alexandria as well as the many Martinist Orders and Lodges, Ordre Martiniste, Ordre Martiniste Souverains, Ordre Martiniste of North America, and our Masonic sisters and brothers, and also the many individual friends, family, laity and clergy of good will.

May the coming year find your work and paths rich and rewarding with fruitful challenge and blessing, and balanced with rest and reflection. May your work be noble, your spirits be humble, and your hearts always full. Most of all, may you each continue to come through this time with happiness and health.

Sovereign Pontiff and Patriarch
The Apostolic Johannite Church

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

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Sometimes when I can't sleep at night, I read through the archives of the Knights Templar magazine and the other night I found a poem from the May 1979 edition that I'd like to share:


Dr. Howard W. Towne, Grand Prelate, 

Grand Commandery of Michigan

ETERNAL GOD, our Father, who dost cover the dark arms of the trees with living green leaves each year, we thank Thee for Thy lifegiving power. Every springtime Though dost fill the air with the scent of flowers and bring back the songbirds with their carols. We praise Thee for Thy gift of springtime. Somehow on these beautiful spring days, when everywhere there is the evidence of new life springing from the dead of winter, it is easy for us to believe in the resurrection of Christ. May the seeds of immortality planted in our souls in this season burst forth into blood, in lives more devoted to things of the spirit, in a warfare more dedicated to service in Thy name.

Come into our hearts by Thy Holy Spirit and give our souls their spring house cleaning. The basements of our lives are often cluttered with petty and evil thoughts; clean them with Thy gospel and let the pure wind of Thy truth come in to air them out.

At this season we would also remember all that great cloud of witnesses who have been the soldiers of Thy kingdom since the days when our Great Captain walked the earth. Many there are who have "climbed the steep ascent of heaven through peril, toil, and pain." Raise up in this difficult and challenging day, we pray, stalwart soldiers of the Cross whose stature is equal to its need.

Grant us spiritual resources equal to our task, and let us never cease to grow spiritually until we have attained the fullness of the measure of Him, in who name we pray, Thy Son, our Risen Lord. AMEN.

I encourage all Sir Knights to dig through the archives

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Grand York Rite of Oregon

Well, I spent the last 3-days attending the Grand York Rite of Oregon in Coos Bay (SW Oregon) along with the Northwest Department Commander (who is also the Grand High Priest of the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of Idaho).

On Thursday, the 159th Annual Convocation of the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons was held. I attended along with Most Excellent Companion Chadwick Burks, General Grand Scribe of the General Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons International. The Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of Oregon had not met since 2019 due to the COVID19 pandemic. The Most Excellent Grand High Priest of Oregon, D. Homer Hickson died in February 2020 and due to the restrictions that were in place, the Grand King served as acting Grand High Priest until this weekend when he was officially elected and installed as Most Excellent Grand High Priest of Oregon; when he leaves office next year he will have served for 3-years. Thursday evening I had dinner at a German restaurant with several distinguished Companions and Sir Knights.

On Friday, the 134th Annual Assembly of the Grand Council of Cryptic Masons of Oregon was held. The Deputy General Grand Master for the Northwest couldn't make it in due to limited flights into Coos Bay; it took me over 11-hours to drive here and he lives another 10-hours East of me so driving was out of the question for him. Friday evening was the Grand Banquet of the sessions and I had the honor of awarding two Ephraim A. Kirby Awards to two deserving Companions.

On Saturday, the 135th Annual Conclave of the Grand Commandery of Knights Templar of Oregon was held. Aside from the legislation passed, the Northwest Department Commander and a Past Grand Master of the Grand Encampment addressed the Sir Knights, the latter who gave a moving eulogy of Sir Knight Willimon Jackson Jones, GCT, who served as Most Eminent Grand Master from 2000 to 2003. After the installation of officers, Jeremy and I attended the dinner for the newly installed officers of the Grand Chapter, Grand Council, and Grand Commandery.

Now it's time to get some sleep and get ready for the 532.5-mile trip back to my house.

Friday, March 25, 2022

Officers of a Chapter of Knights Preceptor

The basic organizational unit of the Sovereign Order of Knights Preceptor is the Chapter. The officers of the Chapter are the Preceptor, Deputy Preceptor, Master of Templars, Seneschal, Prelate, Treasurer, Recorder, Marshal, Warden of Regalia, Registrar, and Sentinel. The Preceptor, Deputy Preceptor, Master of Templars, Seneschal, Treasurer, and Recorder are elected annually while the others are appointed by the Preceptor. The Registrar and the Warden of Regalia are optional officers, but in my Chapter are used.

The presiding officer of the Chapter is the Eminent Preceptor equivalent to an Eminent Commander of a Commandery of Knights Templar. The word 'preceptor' originates from the Latin word "praeceptor" meaning "teacher or instructor." Whether in its historical use or in the modern sense of the word, a Preceptor is an expert or specialist. Today, it is used to denote a medical or legal specialist. Historically, a Preceptor was in charge or in the chain of command of Christian military orders such as the Knights Templar, Knights Hospitaller, and Teutonic Knights. 

The second-in-command of the Chapter is the Deputy Preceptor who corresponds to the Generalissimo of a Commandery of Knights Templar although, in the Chapter, the Deputy is stationed in the East with the Preceptor rather than in the West. In the absence of the Eminent Preceptor, the Deputy presides. The title of Deputy comes from the Latin "deputare" meaning to "allot or to destine" which has come to indicate a subordinate officer or one given the full power of an officer without holding the office.

Next in line is the Master of Templars who, in the absence or disability of the Preceptor and Deputy Preceptor, presides over the Chapter. A Master is someone who is a master or authority in a skill or profession as well as someone who is seen as a ruler or governor. In this case, it is someone with authority or skill over Knights Templars as this order is for those who have presided over a Commandery of Knights Templar. The word "master" originates in the Latin word "magister" translating as "chief, head, director, or teacher."

The fourth elected officer of the Chapter is the Seneschal. Historically in France, the seneschal would be sometimes the personal representative of the King charged with dispensing justice and administrative duties. In other kingdoms, seneschals oversaw feasts and domestic ceremonies. They would seem to be close to stewards in this regard. Other duties would include managing the property and finances of the Lord under who they served. In medieval Templary, the Seneschal was the "right-hand man" of the Grand Master, oversaw the administrative operations of the order, and acted as head of the Templars in his absence. The etymology of "Seneschal" comes from the Proto-Germanic words 'sini' meaning senior, and 'skalk' meaning servant. Seneschal literally means 'senior servant'. 

The Treasurer and Recorder (Secretary) have duties similar to those found in other Masonic and non-Masonic organizations as the financial and administrative officers respectively.

Just as in the Commandery, the chaplain of the Chapter is the Prelate. The Prelate has the duty of offering prayers to God in the Chapter. A Prelate is traditionally a high-ranking member of the clergy and the word is derived from the Latin word 'prelatus' referring to a clergyman of "high rank or of preference over others." In the medieval order, one of the most important positions within a Templar Commandery was that of the Chaplain. This man had many important jobs, not just ecclesiastical, but also secular ones. He was an internal priest for the Order. He had the power to hear confessions and to give absolution for sins; Templars were forbidden to give confession to anyone other than a cleric in the Templar Order without Papal approval. These clerics were not answerable to local clerics or bishops, but only to the Pope. The Prelate being the senior-most appointed officer of the Chapter demonstrates our commitment as a religious order.

The next appointed officer is the Marshal who has duties similar to the Wardens of the Commandery and Senior Deacon of the Blue Lodge in that he is the conductor of candidates for the Chapter. The title Marshal has been used by the military, courts, and other parts of society as someone who is charged arranging and directs "ceremonial aspects of a gathering." Marshall comes from the Old French word "mareschal" meaning "commanding officer of an army; officer in charge of a household" which is derived from the Frankish-Germanic word "marhskalk" meaning "horse-servant." The medieval Knights Templar denominated their third-in-command as Marshal was in charge of the troops and advised the Grand Master on all things relative to the war effort.

One of the optional officers a Chapter may use is the Warden of Regalia. Within my Chapter, this officer is in charge of all properties and regalia of the Chapter and ensuring they are in good working order for each meeting; luckily it all fits into a suitcase and is easily stored. The word "Warden" comes from the Proto-Germanic word "wardon" meaning to "to watch or guard." 

Another optional officer for the Chapter is the Registrar and their duties may vary from Chapter to Chapter, if used at all. The term 'registrar' is etymologically rooted in the Latin word "registrarius" meaning "one who keeps a record." Traditionally, a registrar is an officer who keeps records for educational institutions, banks, trust companies, or hospitals. 

Like the Commandery, the last appointed officer of the Chapter is called the Sentinel and whose duties correspond with that of the Tyler in the Blue Lodge. The word Sentinel stems from the Latin word "sentire" meaning "to watch or perceive by the senses." The Sentinel is one who stands guard over some kind of structure, whether it be an installation, a gate, or a passage. It is their job to prevent intrusion by enemies or those unauthorized.


1. (n.d.). Retrieved from Online Etymological Dictionary: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php 

2. Dictionary. (n.d.). Retrieved from Merriam-Webster: http://www.merriam-webster.com/ 

3. Dictionary. (n.d.). Retrieved from Reference.com: http://dictionary.reference.com/

4. Constitution & Bylaws. (n.d.). Retrieved from Grand Chapter of the Sovereign Order of Knights Preceptor: https://www.knightstemplar.org/OKP/C&L.html

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Special Conclave of the Grand Encampment

DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed here are my own and do not reflect the opinions of any organization that I am a member, committeeman (or chairman), officer, presiding officer, or past presiding officer of.

I wrote this part in 2021. I find the actions of Sir Knight Mike Johnson to be dishonorable and unethical. It hurts to say this as I have known him for nearly 12-years and I learned to respect him until now. He's a deeply loyal friend and I believe that loyalty has blinded him and allowed him to be manipulated by others. I hated seeing this fight between the CBCS and Sir Knight Billy Koon back during his tenure as Most Eminent Grand Master. It caused a great amount of division and all because of pride and bruised egos. The division has caused backstabbing and an incredible amount of un-Masonic conduct. This issue would never have arisen had Sir Knights just remembered their Masonic obligations. No matter how this turns out in March, the Grand Encampment will be haunted by this episode and it will be some time to rebuild the once prestigious reputation of the Grand Encampment and its relationships with its jurisdictions.

I tried to talk with Sir Knight Mike Johnson at the Northwest York Rite Conference, but I don't think my word carried much with him, particularly since I was disagreeing with him. After seeing or hearing about the arguments that arose at the Southwest York Rite Conference, arguments that arose at the SRICF High Council, the non-attendance of Sir Knights Mike Johnson and Billy Koon at the 2022 Masonic Week, arguments at the meeting of the Grand College of America of the Holy Royal Arch Knights Templar Priests, I am worried about what this Special Conclave will turn into.

Turning to the present, I flew in Friday night and Saturday afternoon the Special Conclave was convened. Sir Knight Mike Johnson took the podium, had a prayer given not by his Grand Prelate, made a few comments, opened the Special Conclave, and then had the audacity to declare, through his Jurisprudence Committee, that all the items of business requested by the Grand Commanderies are unconstitutional and therefore cannot be brought before the Special Conclave. Sir Knight Jeff Nelson, Past Grand Master of the Grand Encampment, objected and appealed to the voting members of the Grand Encampment. Sir Knight Jeff noted that the Grand Master cannot objectively preside over a meeting that was called to question his very actions. Sir Knight Mike Johnson tried to adjourn the meeting and ordered his officers to his hotel room, but the Sir Knights stayed strong and overruled him.

Sir Knight Jeff Bolstad, Deputy Grand Master, was asked to take the chair. Sir Knight David D. Goodwin, Past Grand Master, was asked to preside. It was approved by the vast majority of the voting members. Sir Knight Mike fought the decision and even made a threatening gesture when Sir Knight Goodwin took the stage. He then asked Sir Knight Terry Plemmons, Grand Prelate, to give a prayer.

After the prayer, Sir Knight Goodwin had the final report of the credentials committee given; there were 298 registered voters (nearly as many that were at Triennial last August).

Sir Knight David W. Studley, KGC, Grand Commander of California addressed the body as the dissenting opinion of Sir Knight Johnson's Templar Jurisprudence Committee.

Several Sir Knights approached the microphone: 

  • Sir Knight Jeff Bolstad addressed the body on behalf of the other elected officers who supported the Sir Knight's rights and were appalled by Sir Knight Mike Johnson.
  • Sir Knight Ben Williams addressed the decisions of Mike Johnson and their legality. Sir Knight Williams then moved to reinstate Sir Knight David Kussman as Deputy Grand Master. It passed. Sir Knight Jeff Bolstad and Sir Knight Jack Harper moved back to their positions that they took in August 2021. Sir Knight Jim McGee left the line.

Sir Knight Goodwin then followed the agenda as created by the Call to Conclave. Johnson Decisions No.1, 2, 3, and 4 were rescinded while Decisions No.5 and 6 were approved. Johnson Notice No.1 was rescinded. 

Sir Knight Jeff Nelson addressed the Grand Encampment and then moved to remove Sir Knight Mike Johnson as Grand Master. Sir Knight William H. Koon II, Past Grand Master, asked that the ballot be a secret paper ballot. I took no joy in casting my vote, but I along with 3/4 of the voters approved of his removal. Sir Knight Johnson and several others left the room at that time.

The Grand Encampment voted down the "Ohio Amendment" which would have required those Grand Commanderies who called for the Special Conclave to pay for all of the costs associated with the special conclave.

Sir Knight Goodwin then moved onto the next item of business which was to announce that as Sir Knight David Kussman had been restored as Deputy Grand Master and because we had removed Sir Knight Mike Johnson, Sir Knight Kussman would ascend to the office of Most Eminent Grand Master with junior officers ascending and he appointing the Grand Captain General.

Sir Knight Kussman addressed the body vowing to restore trust and then appointed Sir Knight David W. Studley, KGC, as interim Grand Captain General who will not seek election further up the line at next triennial. Sir Knight Jim McGee will return in 2024 as a candidate for Grand Captain General.

Past Grand Master Goodwin with assistance from Past Grand Master Nelson and Honorary Past Grand Pruitt installed the new Grand Master and advanced elected officers. Sir Knight Kussman spoke to the Sir Knights and then adjourned the meeting, dismissing the Sir Knights. It was a bittersweet day. Now, I need some sleep before my flight home early in the morning.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

The Tyranny of Autocracy

by SK David W. Studley, KGC
REGC of California

The strength and power of despotism consists wholly in the fear of resistance.
-Thomas Paine 

We Sir Knights of the Grand Encampment are confronted with a unique and invidious challenge to our well-regulated system of governance. The actions taken by the Grand Master following his election have aroused consternation among our members and resulted in a Call to Conclave joined by more than nine Grand Commanderies, including the Grand Commandery of California. The issues raised in the Call are to be determined at the East Central Department Conference in Ft. Wayne, IN this coming March. Our elected Commandery officers will attend to represent California at their own expense. 

You should be aware of a plan to thwart consideration of the issues joined by the Call. I am a member of the Templar Jurisprudence Committee. The Committee is charged to consider and report on all legislative, judicial and executive actions of the Grand Master when requested. (Const., §97.) 

The Committee members have decided preliminarily to issue an opinion that the proposed legislation cannot be considered at a Special Conclave, that the Decisions of the Grand Master may not be reviewed during a special session and that the Grand Master had the constitutional authority to remove an elected Grand Encampment officer. This would defeat the purpose of the Special Conclave. I have dissented from my colleagues’ view. I want to explain the reasons for my objection and, if you are persuaded, urge you to communicate your feelings to those who might listen before the matter is determined at the Special Conclave. 

The Grand Encampment is a democratic representative republic, meaning that its powers and responsibilities are vested in its members who are governed by its constitution. The Constitution bestows ultimate authority on its members. Section 3 confers “supreme legislative, judicial and executive power over the Orders …” to the members of the Grand Encampment, which include, without limitation, the power “to adopt such Statutes, Rules, and Regulations, not contrary or inconsistent with this Constitution…”. (Const., §3(a).) 

Section 2 identifies the members of the Grand Encampment. Generally, they include dais officers of the Grand Commanderies and Past Grand Commanders of those jurisdictions. 

Members’ rights and powers are exercised at conclaves, which can be of two types. Stated Conclaves, termed the Triennial, which must be convened at least once every three years, and Special Conclaves, which may be called by the Grand Master or at the request of at least nine Grand Commanderies.(Const., §4.) The only distinction between these meetings is that “[n]o business shall be transacted at such [special] conclave save that specified by the Grand Master in his summons or set out in the request.”(Const. §4)(b).) 

Why, one might rhetorically ask, would the Constitution permit Members to act Special Conclave properly noticed and then limit the matters to be considered beyond the requirement that the issues must be identified in the Call? There is no such limitation expressed anywhere in the Constitution or Statutes. My colleagues imply such a limitation by a restrictive reading of Section 25 that requires the Grand Master to report his actions “at the next Triennial Conclave.” The fact that the Grand Master is not required to report his actions doesn’t mean that the actions cannot be reviewed if properly included in the Call. And it doesn’t restrict the Grand Master from making such a report at an earlier meeting if he so chooses. One cannot reasonably infer a limitation on the supreme legislative power of the members based solely on fixing a date established for making a report. 

Having read the Constitution in a restrictive manner when considering the rights of members, my colleagues do an about-face by expansively reading the powers of the Grand Master. They infer that the Grand Master has the power, by implication only, to remove a fellow elected officer. They reason that Section 23 confers “all powers” on the Grand Master to do what he considers “in the best interests of Templary” and that a reading of the Decisions interpreting that Section implies that a Grand Master can discharge an elected Grand Encampment officer under the “vertical axis of power.” (Crofts Dec. No. 4 (1970).) Neither argument is persuasive. 

While Section 23 accords broad authority to the Grand Master, his powers are not without limitation. The very sentence relied on by my colleagues to buttress their argument continues: “…as he may deem in the best interests of Templary and which are not contrary to the Constitution, Statutes, Rules, Regulations and Rituals of the Grand Encampment.”(Const., §23.) But such a contrary limitation does exist. Section 20 states that elected officers shall serve “for the Triennial Period and until their successors are duly elected and installed.” (Const., §20.) There is no provision in the Constitution for the removal of a Grand Encampment officer, although such legislation is proposed in the Call. My opinion, to which my fellow committee members disagree, is that the Constitution restricts the Grand Master’s authority to remove an elected officer of the Grand Encampment. 

Section 23(d) does allow the Grand Master to remove an officer of a Grand or Subordinate Commandery but that cannot be read to include an officer of the Grand Encampment or the language would have so stated. By its terms, subsection (d) is confined to Grand Commandery officers of those of subordinate commanderies, not Grand Encampment officers. 

The Crofts Decision is not inconsistent with this conclusion and cannot be read by implication to confer such power in the Grand Master. GM Crofts was confronted by a dispute involving a Grand Commander of a State and one of the State’s subordinate Commanderies. GM Crofts reasoned that a subordinate commandery and the Grand Commandery of the State have similar authority to regulate their constituents under the “vertical axis of power” of Templar law. That power derives its precedent from the authority expressly given a Grand Commander “to suspend from his office and Officer of the Grand or of a Constituent Commandery … .”(Const., §48(d).) A similar provision is not included among the identified powers of the Grand Master. The Crofts Decision is plainly distinguishable

Sir Knights, we are now confronted with a dire situation, one that threatens the very structure of Templary. I urge you to become involved, to express your opinions and to stand up for your beliefs. As Winston Churchill told his Countrymen during their greatest struggle:

“To each there comes in their lifetime a special 
moment when they are figuratively tapped on 
the shoulder and offered the chance to do a 
very special thing, unique to them and fitted to 
their talents. What a tragedy if that moment 
finds them unprepared or unqualified for that 
which could have been their finest hour.”

Also see: https://www.call2conclave.org/

This is a reprint from the California Knights Templar with permission from the Grand Commander

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Alaska Grand York Rite

Another weekend on the road, but this time was for my job as Deputy General Grand High Priest. The Northwest Department Commander and I flew into Anchorage, AK, on Thursday. We attended the AMD Dinner before retiring to our room where we invited some Alaska Masons up to talk about forming an SRICF College in Alaska.

Friday was a busy day. The morning was occupied by the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons where I was received and gave some remarks on behalf of the General Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons. I also had the pleasure of installing the 2022-2023 officers of the Grand Chapter. The afternoon was dedicated to the Grand Council of Cryptic Masons and Grand Commandery of Knights Templar.

At the Banquet, I was honored to present several awards including an Ephraim A. Kirby Award to the newly installed Most Excellent Grand High Priest (who later was awarded the Knight Templar Cross of Honor).

This morning I attended the conferral of the Knight of York by Anchorage College No.120 of the York Rite Sovereign College of North America. Following the York Rite College, Alaska Priory No.63 of the Knights of the York Cross of Honor conferred the order upon one candidate. Now, it's time to get packed and head to the airport for home.

Saturday, February 26, 2022

HRAKTP and the Order of Holy Wisdom

Well, this weekend marked the annual meeting of the Grand College of America for the Holy Royal Arch Knights Templar Priests (HRAKTP). In the past, this body met at Masonic Week, but at last year's virtual meeting it was announced that the 2022 meeting would be held at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, KY. While I love visiting Louisville, I wish the HRAKTP was still at Masonic Week because I am missing out on the fellowship and lovely ritual of this august order.

I wanted to attend as the now Junior Past Grand Preceptor was from Idaho and is a very beloved Mason, but work required me to be on the West Coast. I would also have liked to have been there to see Terry Plemons installed as the new Grand Preceptor for the ensuing year. Congratulations to him and all of the new Grand officers.

This year was also special as the British Brothers came over to confer the Order of Holy Wisdom onto us Americans so we could then establish our own degree team and confer it in the future here in the States. The Order of Holy Wisdom had long been a part of the Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priests, but due to the extremely complex regalia and paraphernalia, it fell into disuse. It was brought back in England in 2014 and has finally come across the pond to the States. While in England, the Order of Holy Wisdom is a prerequisite to preside over a Tabernacle, I haven't heard of any such policy being adopted here.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

What is Monasticism?


The medieval Knights Templar are routinely referred to as ‘warrior monks’ because they blended the asceticism and piety of medieval monks with the intensity and zealotry of the crusading knight. Their monastic lifestyle was heavily influenced by the Cistercian order, which was, at that time, led by St. Bernard who wrote the original Latin Rule of the Templar order. As a Knight Templar in the York Rite of Freemasonry and a Frater of the Rose and Cross, I had done only a minimal amount of research on monasticism, but with getting more involved with the Apostolic Johannite Church and the Oblates of the Temple and St. John, I've started looking more and more into the practice and I can't say, that amid the chaos of the world, that it hasn't crossed my mind that living in an isolated monastery wouldn't be the worst thing for me.

Monasticism isn’t a cooky-cutter tradition and is found not just in Christianity, but also in Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Manichaeism, and Jainism, and as such it is hard to have a definition that truly covers all facets of monasticism in all of these religions. A definition would need to be very broad and leave the particulars to a specific religion. One that I found is:

“Religiously mandated behaviour (orthopraxy), together with its institutions, ritual, and belief systems, whose agents, members, or participants undertake voluntarily (often through a vow) religious works that go beyond those required by the religious teachings of the society at large.”

Some practices are universal practices such as asceticism which is “a lifestyle characterized by abstinence from sensual pleasures, often for the purpose of pursuing spiritual goals.” It is important to note that while monasticism incorporated asceticism, it does not mean that all forms of asceticism are monastic. Seclusion is also universal, but may take different forms. Some types of monasticism are completely isolated (as seen in early monasticism) while some may be located near towns/villages, but are secluded within a walled sanctuary. Celibacy is not universal to all monastic orders, but a clear majority of monastic traditions do practice celibacy. Celibacy shouldn’t be practiced to spite the rite of marriage or conception (as some have seen it), but rather a practice is to rid oneself of material distractions and as a show of one’s love to God. One last characteristic that seems universal across monastic traditions is that it doesn’t exist in societies that lack written religious text. Christian monasticism developed early in the history of Christianity, but it is not mentioned in the Scriptures.

The word “monasticism” is derived from the Greek word “monachos” meaning “living alone”. Men who practice monasticism are monks and women are referred to as nuns. While monasticism is found in various world religions, the focus of this article is that found in Christianity and then primarily Western Christianity. To its practitioners, Christian monasticism is a way of life, a vocation from God where one sought a state of freedom from the material world and to reunite with God. Although monks and nuns are or were often viewed as extreme in their practices, they were instrumental in preserving and transmitting knowledge, skills, cultural goods, arts and sciences, and artifacts through the generations.

As Christian monasticism developed and evolved, regulations were created. These regulations would become known as “Rules,” the most famous of which is the Rule of St. Benedict, the Rule of St. Augustine, and the “Masters Rule”. Monastic life, as regulated by the Rules, usually consisted of prayer (lots of praying), reading, studying, and manual labor.

Within Christian monasticism, monks were considered equal in status, and although some were called to serve in various offices of the monastery, authority rested solely in the title, not the man himself. Depending on the time and the rule they followed, in addition to the Abbot, you could also find the following positions:

Almoner: Manages the alms to the poor 

Cantor: Supervises the choir 

Cellarer: The logistician of the monastery 

Chamberlain: In charge of clothing 

Circuitor: In charge of discipline 

Hegumen: In charge of several monasteries in a given jurisdiction in some forms of monasticism; sometimes called an “Archimandrite.” 

Infirmerer: In charge of the sick and elderly 

Kitchener: In charge of food preparation 

Librarian: Keeper and manager of the books 

Mother Superior: in charge of an abbey or convent of nuns. 

Prior: A high officer in a monastery, under the abbot; often used with military orders and mendicant orders 

Sacrist: In charge of everything holy; second only to the prior and sub-prior 

Treasurer: In charge of the monies and manages the properties of the monastery

It should be noted that monks can be both laymen and clergymen. Often monks who were priests were known as “hieromonks.” I would also like to note that Oblates are laypersons who are affiliated with a monastery but are not monks. Oblates helped extend the Rule of their respective monastery to other regions, churches, parishes, and other organizations. If one is seeking admission to be a monk, they are first referred to as a postulant before being a novice for a predetermined period of time.

“Monastic life is the Christian life in its fullness.”

Rome becomes Christian

To understand how Christian monasticism came about and evolved, I will briefly discuss the earliest years of Christianity following the Crucifixion and Ascension of Jesus Christ. With the Apostolic Age (years between the ascension of Christ to the death of the last of the 12 Apostles) came a great amount of missionary work and the spread of Christianity throughout and beyond the Greco-Roman Empire. By the end of the First Century, 40 known churches were established. Originally considered a sect of Judaism, a decade after Jesus, the term "Christianity" was used to describe this movement and Christian converts included not just Jews but gentiles.

Originally, persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire was sporadic, but the first recorded act of persecution by an Emperor was in 64 AD by Nero who blamed the Great Fire of Rome on Christians. It was during the first year of the reign of Emperor Trajan Decius that the most fierce persecution occurred, but his reign was short-lived. However, with the outbreak of a plague, Christians in several areas of the Roman Empire were blamed and persecuted. Persecutions of Christians also occurred under Emperor Valerian and Emperor Diocletian, the latter had Christians arrested, tortured, burned, starved, and used as a sport in gladiatorial games. With the rise of Constantine to the imperial Tetrarchy in 306 AD and then becoming sole Emperor in 324 AD, policies and edicts much more tolerant to Christians were issued such as the Edict of Milan (313 AD) which occurred after Constantine's vision before the Battle of Milvian Bridge. A year after Constantine became sole Roman Emperor, the Council of Nicaea convened to determine the formal beliefs of and to unify Christianity. While Constantine was tolerant of Christians, he did not convert until his deathbed in 327 AD. It wasn't until the Edit of Thessalonica (380 AD) was issued during the reign of Theodosius I that all pagan worship was outlawed, and Christianity took over as the religion of the empire.

The end of persecution and the legalization of Christianity meant that martyrdom was no longer a primary option for one to prove their piety and faith in Christ. Rather than being persecuted and tortured as the Savior and the Apostles were, some Christians took to the ascetic life as a "long-term martyrdom." Once Christianity became mainstream or an accepted religion within the Roman Empire, some saw laxity among the common worshipper and so sought to seclude themselves therefore to dedicate themselves solely to God and maintain a rigid orthodoxy.

Desert Fathers and Christian Eremitism

While there are examples of what could be called "proto-monasticism" and secluded monks, monasticism as we know it today didn't exist until the end of the 3rd Century. Some early Christians chose to imitate the Savior and his 40 Days in the Desert by secluding or isolating themselves from society and living in the desert, but Jewish Prophets and Patriarchs like Enoch, Melchizedek, and Elijah were important role models for Christian monasticism.

At first, these "Desert Fathers" (as they are known now as) lived ascetic lives as hermits which is the first form of monasticism "eremitism". The etymological root of "Hermit" is the Greek word "eremites" which means "person of the desert." Some of the earliest practitioners of eremitic monasticism were Paul the Hermit, Pachomius of the Thebaid, and St. Anthony the Great, the latter of which is called the "Father of Christian Monasticism." These Desert Fathers lived a solitary life, though sometimes they had visitors who adored them and wished to emulate them.

This eremitic monasticism focused more on a rigorous, but contemplative life. It was a tough life to live as you had to protect and provide for yourself. Depending on the location, nearby villages would furnish the hermit with food and provisions, but that wasn't always the case.

St. Anthony the Great (251 AD to 356 AD) was a native of Alexandria (Egypt). At the age of 15, he chose the life of the hermit and remained in the desert for the next 90-years of his life. Purely hermit-like in the beginning, he eventually established a colony that allowed for their protection and to better organize them. These early communities though were loosely organized and had no hierarchies nor administrative links to a mother institution. It is interesting to note that the Monastery of St. Anthony in Egypt (334 km southeast of Cairo) is the oldest Christian monastery in the world.

Development into Communal Life

With this development of communities, cenobitic monasticism was born. Cenobitic is rooted in the Greek words "koinos" meaning "common" and "bios" meaning "life." The development of this form of monasticism is given to Pachomius of the Thebaid (290 AD to 346 AD), a follower of St. Anthony. Aside from the greater protection, it gave the monks, this form was considered superior to eremitic monasticism as there was more obedience practiced and as a group, a hermit was less likely to stray from doctrine and practice anything considered heretical by the church.

Cenobitic monks lived in individual huts or rooms, but worked, ate, and worshipped in a shared place.  These communities were often a collection of buildings surrounded by a wall. Some of these monasteries would contain up to 30 houses that could each hold up to 40 monks. These houses were often divided according to the work the monks would perform for the monastery (carpentry, farming, etc.).  This form made monasticism very industrious and thereby reduced the reliance monks had on the charity of the public.

Basic guidelines or "Rules" began to emerge that dictated a monk’s daily life and even established communities for women. It was during this time that the term Abba was first used to describe the head of the monastery. Abba comes from the Syriac meaning "Father" and where we get the English "Abbot."

Pachomius's model became so successful that he began establishing them all over Egypt and by the time of his death in 346 AD, there were said to be around 3,000 communities in Egypt. From Egypt, cenobitic monasticism spread to the Levant, North Africa, Mesopotamia, Persia, the Roman Empire, and even as far East as India and China. Within a generation of Pachomius's death, the number of communities had grown to 7,000. St. Jerome, known for the Latin translation of the Bible, later translated the rule of Pachomius into Latin.

East vs West

Before going into the spread of monasticism to Western Europe, I want to briefly touch upon monasticism as practiced in Greek and Russian Orthodox churches. Both Eastern and Western monasticism traces their origins back to St. Anthony the Great and Pachomius of the Thebaid, but just as there are differences between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox churches, so too are their difference between their forms of monasticism.

While most Western Christian monasticism utilized the cenobitic monasticism, a third form was created called skete which combined the best aspects of both eremtic and cenobitic monasticism. Within skete monasticism, the practitioners would pray privately for the week, and then on Sunday (as well as on Feast Days), they would assemble together. St. Theodore of Egypt, a follower of Pachomius, is considered the father of skete monasticism, but St. Basil of Caesarea is considered the founder of monasticism within the Eastern Orthodox churches.

St. Basil traveled throughout the Holy Land and Egypt where he visited several monasteries. He was impressed by the rules laid down by Pachomius. St. Basil wrote his own regulations which emphasized a unified community and strong central leadership. St. Basil’s Rule was strict but not severe (in comparison to the Desert Fathers).

While in the West, monks were not always clergy, in the East monasticism became inextricably linked to the clergy and in most Orthodox churches it became law that all bishops must be monks.

Eastern Christian monasticism still exists today and since the fall of the Soviet Union, there has been a resurgence has occurred in the former Soviet states allowing many empty or defunct monasteries have been reopened.

Spread to Europe

Monasticism grew out of the Middle East and to the rest of the Roman Empire through its existent infrastructure. The most well-known figures of monasticism in Western Europe were Martin of Tours, John Cassian, and Honoratus of Marseilles. Some date the introduction of monasticism to the West to a visit to Rome by St. Athanasius in 340 AD who was accompanied by two monks who were followers of St. Anthony the Great. Others believe that monasticism came to the West through John Cassian. Martin of Tours was a pagan convert to Christianity and established monasteries in Milan, Liguge, Poitiers, and Marmoutiers near Tours. Honoratus would establish monasteries in Lérins (an island near the city of Cannes). John Cassian started as a monk in the Middle East, but moved to Gaul (now France) and established monasteries in Marseilles. John published his “Institute and Conferences” which had influenced the Rule of St. Benedict.

Irish Monasticism

The first non-Roman country to adopt monasticism was Ireland. Monasticism in Ireland was unique as it developed a form closely related to its rural clan system. Irish monasticism more closely resembled the monasticism found in Egypt rather than in mainland Europe. As Ireland was not conquered by the ancient Roman Empire, it was unaffected by its fall and so did not develop in the same way the rest of Western Europe did.

Irish monasteries became the spiritual focus or center of the clan or tribes. These monasteries were often on lands granted by the local nobility and many of the abbots and abbesses were members of the noble family; this was done due to legal traditions to keep land within the family. In many ways, abbots were considered superior to church bishops and were the supreme authority of the monastery. Bishops were usually located in urban centers and Ireland was primarily rural. Some monasteries were just for men, some just for women, and a few were mixed.

Irish monasticism spread to Scotland and northern England before spreading to places like France and Italy. Monasticism spread rapidly through Ireland and then to the British Isles. When Benedictine monks traveled to the British Isles in 597 AD, they had found Irish monasteries well established.

Rule of St. Benedict

After the rules of Pachomius and St. Basil, the Regula Magistri or Master’s Rule was considered one of the most important rules of monasticism in Western Europe. It was believed to have been written somewhere south of Rome around 500 AD (though the precise date is problematic). It was composed of 95 chapters, 20 of which were dedicated to the Divine Office (also called Canonical Hours or Office of the Hours). This rule added legalistic elements that were not found in earlier rules, defining the activities of the monastery, its officers, and their responsibilities in great detail. Historically, this rule was never used in any specific monastery, but was an influence on the Rule of St. Benedict.

St. Benedict of Nursia is considered one of the most important monks of Western monasticism and is considered the Patron Saint of Europe. Benedict was from a noble family, but after meeting a monk chose to be a hermit for a few years before becoming an abbot of a monastery in Vicovaro. Apparently, his governance was severe as the monks tried to poison him and, according to legend, each attempt was defeated by some miraculous intervention. He established several monasteries throughout Italy, but his most important achievement was the publication of what would be known as the “Rule of St. Benedict” in 516 AD (although some date it to 530 AD).

His rule is composed of 73 chapters which are similar to the Master’s Rule in what they define. It was considered a middle ground between individual zeal and formulaic institutionalism (functional, yet practical) which caused it to be very popular and become one of the most used rules in monastic life. In the final chapter, St. Benedict acknowledges and applauds the Rule of St. Basil, but St. Benedict’s Rule was clearly influenced by the Master’s Rule, St. Augustine, John Cassian, and Pachomius.

Its popular adoption was not just due to its content, but also because it was sponsored by Pope Gregory I (who was a Benedictine monk) and Charlemagne the Great (who was educated by a monk), the latter had it copied and distributed throughout the Holy Roman Empire. His Rule has been utilized for 15 centuries by several monastic orders and knighthoods including the Knights Templar.

Even though it came to Western Europe long before him, but because of his Rule, St. Benedict is considered the “Father of Western Monasticism” and his Feast Day is celebrated on March 21 (the anniversary of his death).

Evolution of Monasticism

Monasticism continued to evolve, adapting to the environment it existed in. The stability and exemplary conduct of the monasteries attracted many bright minds and it was during this time that monasteries became storehouses and producers of knowledge. Lords and nobles started giving land and monasteries became wealthy.

In some instances, monks didn’t have to work the land, but had a non-monastic workforce that left more time for the monks to study and pray. Subjects that were studied included Latin, Greek, Hebrew, grammar, rhetoric, poetry, arithmetic, chronology, the Holy Places, hymns, sermons, natural science, history, and especially the interpretation of Sacred Scripture. Monasteries became centers of education. In many locations, monastic schools led to the establishment of a university in the region during the 12th and 13th centuries.

Monasteries even started taking charge or began social services such as medical, healthcare, and education. Having such farming operations, monasteries led the development of agricultural techniques to include fermentation (wine), brewing (beer), and distillation (alcohol).

Monks even contributed to the arts as a way of praising God and one example of this is the Gregorian chant (a favorite of mine).

Royal and noble families also utilized the monasteries for housing their children. For daughters, it was a place to educate them in an environment where they could remain chaste. For the second sons, it was a bit less pleasant as monasteries were used to keep the second sons from any inheritance. Political prisoners were also kept at monasteries, depending on their crime and social status. Monasteries also provided refuge for those who were tired of the troubles of life (as seen with Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor who retired to Yuste monastery in Spain in his late years). Several monasteries are comparable to modern retirement homes for nobility.

Mendicant Orders

As the religious and geopolitical landscape continued to change so too did monasticism. In the 11th century, you see the Great Schism between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern/Greek Orthodox Church. Many monasteries had accumulated a great amount of wealth and relaxed the ideals/principles of monasticism which earned them the criticism of many across Christendom and new orders emerged such as the Cistercians that focused more on the manual labor of the monks and more austere life. The term “Cistercian” comes from the word “Cistercium” which is Latin for Citeaux (near Dijon) where the order was founded.

Around this time, you also saw the rise of mendicant orders such as the Franciscans or Dominicans. Mendicants (practitioners were called friars) were ascetics like monks, but instead of isolating themselves, mendicant orders were dedicated to traveling and living in urban areas as their primary mission was preaching, evangelizing, and ministering to the poor. Where monasticism was about finding a personal, private way to devote themselves to God, mendicants were all about the public service to others.

Some mendicant orders would also provide other services to the church thought they may have called it a public service. The Dominicans were an order established to preach the Gospel and oppose heresy. This order would become known for running the Inquisition (today called the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and is still a part of the Roman Curia of the Vatican). The Dominicans were instrumental in the attack on the Cathars and the Albigensian Crusades.

For good or bad, mendicant orders were contributed to the colonization of the new world, eastern Asia, and the South Pacific. In these places where only diplomatic relations existed or even where Western powers had conquered the land, governance was often truly centered on the Friars and not the civil government. If you are interested in this subject area, I’d recommend “Noli Me Tángere” by José Rizal.

The Crusades and Warrior Monks

Like most of Europe, monasteries faced attacks by Vikings in the 9th through the 11th centuries, and you saw the emergence of professional fighting forces and the mounted knight during this time. After the abatement of the Viking invasions, many soldiers were unwilling to put down the sword. The Viking invasions had militarized Europe and there were many Lords who were willing to buy their swords to form their own army to force their will upon the peasants and to attack other nobility. This resultant savagery led the Church to establish rules that these knights must live by or face ex-communication. Pax Dei (Peace of God) was established in the 10th century and proclaimed that certain individuals, particularly the defenseless (peasants and clergy), should not be attacked by knights. Treuga Dei (Truce of God) was established in the 11th century and proclaimed that certain times should be void of fighting by knights (such as the Sabbath Day). The Truce of God seemed particular to focus on preventing Christian knights from fighting each other. These helped the Church redirect the knight’s fighting energy and stem the violence of private wars in a Feudal society. This redirection would soon be pointed towards the Middle East when a call for help came from the Byzantine Emperor and that led to the Crusades. The Crusades would see the emergence of a new monk: the warrior-monk.

Once the call from the Byzantine Emperor, Alexios I Komnenos, the Pope convened the Council of Clermont in southern France in November 1095 where he urged the masses commoner and nobility alike to defend and retake the Holy Land. This call was taken up by many, the most well-known cheerleader of the First Crusade was Peter the Hermit, an Augustinian monk.

After the capture of Jerusalem in 1099, many knighthoods were established such as the Teutonic Knights, Clutch Claire's purse blue and black sequin, and the Knights Templar who were called warrior-monks. Like traditional monasteries, Templars took oaths of poverty and lived ascetic lives. Their commanderies/preceptories were also their monastery. The Templars, in their early formative years, were championed by St. Bernard of Clairvaux, a Cistercian monk, who was the nephew of Andre de Montbard. St. Bernard would go on to write the Rule of the Knights Templar which was heavily influenced by the Rule of St. Benedict. This military monasticism became very popular and the membership of these orders swelled in the 12th and 13th centuries.

These military monks have changed from protection through isolation to protection through warfare.

The Decline of Monasticism, the Renaissance, and the Reformation

Up to the 14th century, Europe was starting to climb out of the darkness left in the wake of the collapse of the ancient Roman Empire, but then economic downturn, political instability, and disease started occurring. Between the 11th and 14th centuries, the population had grown around 250%, and finding good land to farm is hard and only the elite, the nobility and church, own the land. The climate started to cool off as well and it got wetter which shortened the harvesting season and decreased food production. Starvation became an issue, particularly for the peasants who became malnourished, and which stunted their growth. People begin moving to cities and urban centers looking for work and food. The cities become overcrowded with malnourished and weakened people, and Europe is about to be ravaged by the Black Death.

Officially known as Yersinia pestis, the Black Death was a bubonic and pneumonic plague. It was carried by fleas who infected rats who, in turn, infected humans. It spread so rapidly due to the established trade infrastructure of Europe as well as by refugees. Ships carried the plague into a port where the sailors and merchants would disembark to go see their families or go to bars (or brothels) where they spread the infection.

It hit Italy around 1347 before it hit France the following year and England after that. Once infected, life expectancy was 1.8-days. The Italian writer Boccaccio said that its victims "ate lunch with their friends and dinner with their ancestors in paradise.” Hygiene was poor and with poor health, it is not surprising that it killed so quickly. The response was also poorly handled as the church dictated that bodies couldn’t be burned, and the mass casualties just exasperated the spread of the plague. The church also said that the Black Death was God’s Wrath on mankind. One-third to half of the population died and this had a massive impact on religion, society, education, technology, and the economy.

Economically, the Black Death destroyed serfdom. Before the plague, serfs were tied to the land of a lord and were in a contract (which could last generations). After the plague, there were fewer people to work, and workers now had more choices. Aristocrats had to start paying and treating the workers better than before. Former peasants could now find better jobs and could even amass wealth. With fewer people, this also prompted people to find or invent mechanisms to do work with fewer people (necessity is the mother of invention).

Within society, the survivors now had more choices as so many had died, more jobs were now available. You also see that a fear of an early death leads to early marriages and consummation. Some even adopt the Carpe Diem (Seize the Day) mentality where debauchery and partying become commonplace; what we would call YOLO today. A negative impact on society is that they looked for a scapegoat for the disease and it usually fell upon a minority or outcast group such as the Jews or Romani.

Many have a crisis of faith and begin to criticize the religious institutions: if they were doing the right thing then this should not have happened. Zealotry in religion and society occur and this is seen with the emergence of the flagellant movement. These zealots would travel city-to-city whipping themselves to atone for everyone’s sins. The irony was that they were likely to further spread the plague than stop it.

If the plague wasn’t bad enough, you saw a great amount of political violence occurring during the same time. You see the arrest and dissolution of the Knights Templar and its properties. The Hundred Years War surrounded the elites fighting over the crown of France. With this war, you see the decline of the mounted knight and the rise of the use of archers and canons on the battlefield. The common people were getting sick of war as they often suffered no matter who won, and uprisings started happening in England, France, the Holy Roman Empire, and the Italian city-states.

The Roman Papacy is both a religious and global power, but is facing criticism from within and without because of some glaring corruption and big bureaucracy that ran the church throughout all of Christendom. Bribery was commonplace and nobility could impact even papal elections. In 1305, the Avignon Papacies began with Clement V who was, in my opinion, a puppet of King Philip of France. Clement didn’t want to move to Rome and his successor John XXII decided to stay in France as well. This leads to other nations denouncing the French Papacy. This leads to the Great Schism where Cardinals in Rome elect a new Pope and now there are two Popes then a third Pope is elected. They excommunicate each other and cause a great deal of confusion within the church. No one truly knows which Pope is valid and Bishops don’t know who to follow.

Some may not see this as a positive, but wealth became concentrated in fewer hands. This allowed the wealthy to patronize the arts. Trade was also improved and opened to new areas which then exposed the West to new advancements such as in math (the use of Arabic numerals instead of Roman). Both the increase in art and trade helped launch the Renaissance.

As seen with the Templars, nations, and monarchies were being threatened by the changing environment and by the wealth and power of religious orders. The depopulation caused by the Black Death couldn’t support the monasticism that existed before the plague. Less population to pull from, competition with mendicant orders, relaxation of monastic rules, and poor leader, it was inevitable that monasticism declined in both membership and appeal.

In 1517, Martin Luther, a former Augustinian monk, published his 95 Theses on October 31st in Wittenberg, Saxony, which sparked the Protestant Reformation. Protestantism emphasized active engagement in the world rather than seclusion. In most Protestant nations, monasteries were closed, their members mistreated, and their lands and assets seized by the state. The closure of so many monasteries disrupted parish activity. In response, the Council of Trent was convened in 1545 which reformed, centralized, and attempted to revitalize monasticism and save Catholicism against the rise of Protestantism. Monasticism continued to play a role in Catholic-controlled nations, but in Protestant and Anglican states, they were only a memory.

Monasticism would face possible extinction again with the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars ravaged France and Europe, but monasticism would also see a revival in the 19th century among Protestants and Anglicans. Surprisingly, the first Anglican monastic movement was started by women.

The Legacy of Monasticism

Monasticism has impacted our modern world in a variety of ways and much of Western civilization owes its life to the monks of medieval Europe. The biggest example that I want to highlight is our education system. Many modern universities are built in the gothic style of 12th-century monasteries, but this isn’t the only way. Anyone who has attended a college graduation ceremony should be aware of the cap and gown used by faculty and graduates alike and how they can become more and more elaborate as one advance in degrees. Most may be unaware of the history of such regalia though. Looking back at the establishment of medieval universities, monks played an important part in the continuation of education and knowledge, but medieval universities offered an alternative pathway to knowledge rather than adopting the strict monastic lifestyles, one could simply attend the university and then return to their life once one graduated. However, in the early years of medieval universities before monastic schools were displaced, most professors/teachers were priests and/or monks. As seen with the history of monasticism, monks wore robes (of various colors) that dictated their order and priests wore robes as well that signified their religious status. So today, as we graduate, we wear robes/gowns of differing colors and cuts to differentiate the school we studied under, the degree we are receiving, and the university we attended.

While many see Christianity as oppressive and antithetical to the progress of knowledge, monks were critical to keeping the flame alive during the dark ages. The fact that so many ancient documents were written or preserved through monasteries is another way that our education system today was influenced by monasticism.

Monasticism has also left a legacy of agricultural and culinary development, pharmaceutical and medicinal development, and the precursor to social services.

Monasticism Today

In the post-Protestant Reformation world, monasticism declined and, in many areas, died out, but interest in monasticism has increased since the second half of the 20th century though that is primarily through the laity and oblates; for the former Soviet States, not only has an interest has grown since the fall of the Iron Curtain, but membership has increased.

Whether in decline or revival, monasteries still rely heavily upon the support of the laity, but this isn’t anything new. Medieval monks still needed a non-monastic workforce to work the lands, to trade with, and in some area areas for sustenance (as seen with the Desert Fathers). As an Oblate of the Temple and St. John, I find it my duty to serve my church and the congregation. The biggest monastic value is hospitality and making everyone feel welcome.

In today's world where governments provide a whole host of social services, I'm not surprised that mendicant orders had to change and completely rely on their respective church for their continued existence. With the revival and rise of Gnostic Christian churches such as the Apostolic Johannite Church, I can see the need for a monastic order that assists in spiritual mentoring and publishing contemplative books.

Monasticism is a living thing and must adapt to its environment. In this modern world of advancing technology and instant gratification, monasticism must still adapt, but the motivation of monasticism remains the same: the love of God and the desire to be a devoted servant of the Logos as best we can in this imperfect life.


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Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Back Up

Since mid-January, my site has been seemingly down. My DNS host did updates on their side and it caused my site to go down. It caused some issues with my custom domain and in trying to troubleshoot, my custom domain stopped working. The "travelingtemplar.blogspot.com" address worked.

I kept at it and attempted to contact Google and Blogger, but both have been appalling difficult to work with and even though I have the site back up, I am going to be looking at changing who I run my site through. It got so aggravating that I thought about completely shutting down the Traveling Templar and calling it quits.

I do want to thank all of the encouragement I have received in asking me to keep going and keep publishing my articles.