Date of Award

Spring 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Carey, Patrick W.

Second Advisor

Lehner, Ulrich L.

Third Advisor

Avella, Steven M.


Historians and theologians commonly overlook how the Benedictine revival of the nineteenth century arose not only in Europe but also in the United States. Monks from Bavaria and Switzerland looked to America as a providential setting for restoring the Benedictine Order to its original glory through missionary activity. As missionaries, their vision manifested a reinterpretation of the Benedictine tradition and its principle of stability. Embodying this vision was the life and thought of Martin Marty (1834-1896), a Swiss-Benedictine monk who became the first abbot of St. Meinrad Abbey in Indiana and later a missionary and bishop in Dakota Territory. Despite his famous interaction with Sitting Bull (ca. 1831-1890), few historians have explored how Marty influenced the development of Benedictine missionary activity in the United States.

The present dissertation reconstructs and analyzes Marty's life and thought through a distinctly theological lens. This study poses a theological question with ecclesiological and missiological consequences: how does Marty the Benedictine monk become Marty the itinerant missionary? It argues that Marty's vision for Benedictine evangelization in America transforms the Rule's principle of stabilitas in congregatione, "stability in community," into an original missionary paradigm of ora et labora, "prayer and work." The study demonstrates the development of this vision through three stages of Marty's monastic vocation. During his monastic formation (1834-1860), Marty combines old and new elements of Einsiedeln's Swiss-Benedictine tradition to create a vision of the monastery as a spiritual family educating and unifying Catholics. As the administrator and prior of St. Meinrad in Indiana (1860-1870), Marty applies this "familial imagination" to the community's monastic life, school, and missionary work. He further advances the Benedictine principle of stability (stabilitas) as an agent of lasting evangelization through the education and unity of the local ecclesial community (congregatio). Finally, through his reform agenda as abbot (1870-1880), Marty transforms his vision of stability in the community into a missionary model of prayer and work designed to educate the indigenous faithful and to unify monastic and ecclesial families.