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In this book by Gold Coast author, Peter Rudge traces the beginnings of contemplation in the early life of the church. It begins by recounting the lives and achievements of three main saints, St Antony, St Hilarion and St Pachomius, and continues with a discussion about the establishment of women’s contemplative communities through the centuries. Peter provides an insightful, learned, in-depth historical narration that will appeal to the devout and the secular reader alike.

The author recounts his personal experiences of visiting six women’s contemplative communities as leader of a team of consultants, and in corresponding for 35 years with one of the sisters he met during the visitation.

Chapters 6 through 10 disclose ‘the formula’ itself, with the author providing insights into marriage and the situation of those ‘who marry not’, along with suggestions to those who wish to pray in the contemplative way.

Rare visionary experiences are also covered in The Formula, with the author suggesting that such visions are available to all who respond to the words of Jesus: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”.

Peter Rudge is an accomplished author with several books and various other publications to his name.  

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ISBN: 978-1-922229-46-5       Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 184

Cover: Clive Dalkins


The Reverend Peter Rudge
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published:  2016
Language: English




The Reverend Peter Rudge was born in Tasmania in 1927. He was ordained to the ministry of the Anglican Church in Australia in 1953 after studying at the University of Tasmania and St Michael’s House in Adelaide.

He served for 10 years in normal parish life before a new opportunity opened to him at Leeds University in England. Using his knowledge of administration from the University of Tasmania and of theology gained at his training College, he completed his PhD degree in church administration. HIs thesis was published in 1968 as Ministry and Management, a book that is still regarded as the pioneer work in this field and awaiting its 50th anniversary in 2018.

It gave him the basis for a new career as a management consultant in churches and Christian bodies of various kinds and in many parts of the world. The most unusual was a request to lead a team of consultants to visit six Roman Catholic contemplative communities with a view of assessing their well-being given questions about their numbers and resources. Extracts from the reports on these visits are included in this book.

There was an added bonus for him personally in that he met one of the sisters with whom he carried on a correspondence for the next 35 years. It was rich on contemplation but also on many other themes given the wide range of the scholarly mind of this sister.

In all, he led about 80 consultancy assignments, the reports of which -- together with his books, theses  CD’s, and papers -- are now lodged at the Library of the Sarum College in Salisbury in England. They are now under the supervision of his colleagues who are continuing his work in the field of church management.

Late in life he resumed his literary career after the several earlier books on church management and various other fields. In 2006 he produced a book entitled Reviewing the Times for The Canberra Times, being based on some 80 books which he reviewed for that newspaper. Then he had the good fortune to link up with his present publisher, a Christian body on the Gold Coast, who have published his Preaching the Gospel and From Plato to the Present: a Brief History of Western Knowledge.

PREFACE - read a sample of the book


Contemplation is a somewhat rare experience in Christian life and experience; and the knowledge of it may not be widely dispersed. 

The reason is that there are not all that many people versed in that form of prayer and most who are not in the position to write about it or communicate with others. 

The place where such people can be readily found is in religious communities of a special kind, not those actively engaged in works of mercy out in the world. Contemplatives tend to be in apparent isolation, living in communities that are subject to strict rules, even under the strictures of papal enclosure. They are the unseen heroes of the church and provide the foundation on which all else rests. But they don’t tell the world. 

There have been a couple of notable exceptions who have lifted the lid on this hidden world. One was St Teresa of Avila in the past; in modern times there is Thomas Merton. Both are activists and advocates of their cause, so much so that they almost appear to be well removed from the normal realm of contemplation. But they have opened up the world of contemplation to a listening public. 

Such people are rare; it may be added “just as well”, for the world of contemplation is not for public exhibition. It is an intensely private commitment towards God in all his holiness and majesty. 

How is it that a book like this could be written and have some genuine integrity in it?

The author has been in a unique position, not only being an ordained priest in the Anglican Church and also qualified to be a management consultant – and one who has learnt to pray in the contemplative way.  He had the opportunity to lead a team of consultants which was charged with assessing the health and well-being of contemplative communities in a time of difficulty and uncertainty. With them, he visited six houses which volunteered to being examined and spent several days in each, with his task especially being to interview every sister to feel the pulse, as it were, of the community. He sets out here the relevant sections of the final reports and opens the way to understanding the sisters’ commitment to the contemplative tradition. 

He had one additional bonus arising from the visitation. He met one of the sisters in such a way that their minds clicked together and they carried on a correspondence off and on over a period of 35 years until the death of that sister. Some of the talk was about the contemplative life, but such was the brilliance of mind of the correspondent – in poetry, linguistics, liturgy, history, ancient church fathers – that many serious topics were pursued. One side of the correspondence is presented here which shows the richness of what can accompany a soul so strongly committed to the practice of contemplative prayer.  

The hope is that readers may share that experience, even at a distance.




Then there are those who marry not

But choose a more precious lot;

Cease to relate,

Just contemplate.


They may be found in Eastern parts

And many others on the charts;

But I speak about the West

For that is what I know the best.


There’s Benedictines, Carmelites, Visitation –

Sorry! Big words again but that’s their connotation.

I know them well: not what they say

Nor what they do each day by day;

For them it’s simply just to be

And so they are entirely free.


For he whom they fix their sight

Is only one, just one pure light.

When asked what name to call him by,

He said to Moses: “I am I” –

I am he who is, just me,

So use one letter I, you see.


The first two chapters are essays in church history about the beginnings of contemplation with the Desert Fathers and then the establishment of women’s contemplative communities through the centuries. 

The first two of the next three chapters are derived from the author’s personal experiences in visiting six women’s contemplative communities as leader of a team of consultants, and in corresponding for 35 years with one of the sisters he met during the visitation. The author is the only person in the world who holds this original source material. The third chapter is a review of a book on contemplation given to him at that time.  

The formula is introduced in the next two chapters, providing an insight into marriage and also the situation of those “who marry not”. 

The formula is used in the next two chapters to assist those who wish to pray in the contemplative way and also to compare it with other forms of prayer and meditation.


The final chapter extends contemplative prayer to rare visionary experiences; but such vision is available to all who respond to the words of Jesus: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”. 



The beginnings of contemplation in the early life of the church can be told by recounting the lives and achievements of three main saints, the most famous of whom was St Antony. 

He was born in about the year 251 AD at Koma near al-Minya in Middle Egypt. He began to practise an ascetic life at the age of about 20 under the guidance of Paul of Thebes who was regarded in tradition as the first Christian hermit. The only knowledge of Paul is from St Jerome’s book Vita Pauli. It is said that during the Decian persecution from 249 to 251, he fled to the desert where he lived to a great age pursuing a life of prayer and penitence. St Antony apparently had visited him in his later years and later buried him in a mantle received from St Athanasius. 

After 15 years, St Antony withdrew into absolute solitude on a mountain by the Nile called Pispir, where he lived from about 286 to 305. 

It was in this period that he began his spiritual combat with the devil in which he withstood a series of temptations. At times, the devil appeared to him as a monk bringing bread to him during his fasts; but he also appeared in the likeness of wild beasts, women, and soldiers – sometimes attacking him and leaving him near death. He endured many such assaults, and those who saw what happened were convinced that they were real. He resisted by fervent prayer and his acts of penitence. So real and so strong were the attacks that the subject of his temptations has been set out in literature and art, including the paintings of Paul Cézanne and Salvador Dali, and also in the 1874 novel The Temptation of St Anthony by Gustav Flaubert. 

In about 305, he emerged from his solitude to begin to instruct and organise a monastic life for the hermits who had been attracted to him and had lived nearby. Then in 313, when the Christian persecution ended after the Edict of Milan, he went to a mountain in the eastern desert between the Nile and the Red Sea where the monastery Dayr Mari Antonios still stands. It was there that he continued receiving visitors and on occasions crossing the desert to Pispir. He sought to establish a rule of life for those who wished to follow him; what constituted that rule has been derived from writings and statements attributed to him by St Athanasius in his book Life of St Antony. The rule is still observed in the 21st century by monks who are associated with the Coptic and Armenian churches.  

He went to Alexandria on two occasions, Alexandria being the continuing sphere of Greek civilisation. On one of those visits he took up the cause against Arianism, the contrary case to that which St Athanasius pursued in his setting out the doctrines now expressed in the Nicene Creed. 

He died in 356 AD, but his further place in Christian history is marked by the indirect way in which he influenced St Augustine when, in the summer of 386, the latter was on the threshold of being converted to Christianity. Augustine was impressed by the way in which two civil servants had become monks, arising from their reading the Life of St Antony, the book by St Athanasius.  

A second leading figure was St Hilarion 291-371. He was born in Palestine near the modern Gaza. He came from non-Christian parents, and then when studying at Alexandria, he became a Christian - again emphasising the importance of Alexandria at that point in the world’s cultural history. He was also influenced by St Antony and he followed St Antony’s discipline for a time.  

When he returned to Palestine in 306 at the age of 15, he set up as a hermit, living in a rough structure in the wilderness, still close to his original home near Gaza. It was on the road to Egypt and so his life was noticed by passers-by. He kept a very strict ascetic practice of fasting, together with chanting the Old Testament psalms and prayers. He earned his living, as did the hermits in Egypt, by weaving baskets of rushes and selling them to visitors. He gained fame by converting the Saracens and doing good amongst the sick and those possessed by devils.  

After establishing the first Palestinian monastery in 329, he again sought solitude and moved to the monastic centre at Thebes in Egypt. He went on through North Africa and Sicily and eventually settled in Cyprus where he died. After his death, his body was recovered by the monks from his original monastery in Gaza. 

Much of the information about his life is derived from the Latin biblical scholar St Jerome, who used material provided by Bishop Epiphanius of Salamis in Cyprus, an important fourth-century historian. Apparently, St Jerome tended to exaggerate the scene so that it gave extra credit to the way monasticism developed in Palestine, something to which St Jerome himself belonged. Some of these details are difficult to verify, but it is clear that he was one of the leading figures in the early Christian monastic movement, all the more significant because of his base in Palestine.



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