Scripture scholar and humanist; b. Burlington Junction, Mo., April 19, 1880; d. Conception, Feb. 14, 1968. In 1899 he joined the Benedictine community of Conception Abbey, changing his name from John Thomas Benedict to Patrick; he was professed in 1900. From 1902 to 1906 he studied in Europe, first at Sant'Anselmo in Rome (where he received the S.T.D. in 1905), then at Maximilian University in Munich.
He returned to Conception, where he filled the office of novice master and taught languages and philosophy in the seminary. In 1921 he was called back to Sant'Anselmo to be rector and professor of dogmatic theology, posts he held until 1925. In that year he presented proposals for revising the program of studies to the Congress of Abbots; although his proposals brought him into disfavor and forced his return to Conception, they became, 40 years later, the basis of a new Ratio Studiorum for Sant'Anselmo. Most of the rest of his life was passed at Conception in study, teaching, and faithful observance of the monastic life.
His interest in liturgical life was intense and he advocated many elements of liturgical reform long before their time had come; his translation of the hymns for the Breviary anticipated the vernacular movement, and he contributed a column and many articles to the liturgical publication Caecilia. Four areas of his special interest were the psalms, dante, thomas aquinas, and G. K. chesterton. His Dante Theologian was a translation of and commentary on the Divine Comedy. He was president of the Catholic Biblical Association in 1947–48 and contributed many articles and reviews of high quality to the Catholic Biblical Quarterly between 1940 and 1950.
In 1941 he proposed that the Catholic Biblical Association, which was then engaged in revising the Douay Old Testament on the basis of the Vulgate, ought rather to undertake a translation from the original languages. When, after the appearance of Divine Afflante Spiritu (1943), the Association began a new translation (which reached completion in 1970 as the New American Bible ), Cummins produced the first draft of Jeremiah. His principle in this work (and in a translation of the Psalms unrelated to the NAB) was to reproduce in English the same number of syllables and the same rhythm as the Hebrew. Although the starkness of his Jeremiah translation was somewhat mitigated in the final version, his pioneer work in rhythm remains significant.
Bibliography: p. cummins, Dante Theologian: The Divine Comedy (New York 1948); "A Test Case in Transmission: Jeremias 33:14–26," The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 2 (1940) 15–27; "Rhythm, Hebrew and English," 3 (1941) 27–42; "Jerome against Jerome: A Study of Jeremias 3:1," 6 (1944) 85—90; "Semantic Terminilogy: Presidential Address," 11 (1949) 9–13; "Jeremias Orator," 11 (1949) 191–201.
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