As we advance in the way of life and faith, we shall run the path of God’s commandments with expanded hearts and the inexpressible delight of love. (Prologue 49)
I have spent a good deal of time over the last two years thinking about Benedictine spirituality. It was not something I was seeking, rather it was thrust into my lap by our archbishop. At first, I was phlegmatic about it. My thought was, “Okay, I’ll organize the Fellowship of Saint Benedict, but I will then turn it over to someone else to run.” Having become a sexagenarian I had hopes of “slowing down”, of spending more time in the parish and with my family. Having laid down my duties with St. Michael’s Seminary, I found that I had freed up a considerable amount of time, and that pleased me. Then, the bishop asked me to organize the Fellowship and to run it out of our parish.
Nevertheless, now that we are a couple of years into the work of the Fellowship, I have begun to see real value in the Rule, in the Fellowship, and in a conscientious practice of Benedictine disciplines. However, I didn’t expect the amount of work that would be expected of me, or, on the positive side, the sense that, “My God, this is the way that God can transform His Church and the society.” Yes, that is a monumental claim, however, I believe that it is true, and I am apparently not alone.
It certainly seems as if the world is going to hell in a hand basket. There is an incredible void in sound leadership. The ability to have rational discussion on controversial topics is nonexistent because we have become incapable of listening to alternate opinions with any sense of humility. Morality is in the pits. We have all become situational ethicists: “Letting them live in sin is the loving thing to do;” and “If I want it, it must be good.” The culture has become overtly pagan.
Benedict was raised up by God at a comparable time in history. The pagans had overrun Rome, and the Church was impotent in dealing with the threat. Benedict then, called by God, rallied young men and called them into community. He created his Rule as a means of organizing this community based on the Gospel. His work became instrumental in preserving the Church for future generations, and the Rule of St. Benedict became the central core of healthy Church teaching and organization. Now, 1500 years later, the Rule of St. Benedict is still being used by Christians seeking to preserve a holy life in Christ. Historically, when monasticism is strong, the Church flourishes. Living the Rule can be for the Church today a preservative of holy life and an evangelical outreach tool. There is hunger for true spirituality, and the world wants to see Christ truly manifested in His people. For the Church to be truly the Church she needs discipline. The Rule of St. Benedict offers that discipline. It is not another Gospel, it is a practical guide for living the Gospel.
So, I may have wanted to slow the hectic pace of my life, and lay down responsibilities … I guess God had other ideas … but how can I take a Rule that was written 1500 years ago for young men in enclosed communities and make it applicable to my own experience in the world, and help others apply it to their lives lived in secular society? The meditations which follow are some of my scattered thoughts which have come to me over these past two years. I hope that they will be of interest and of use to you.
May God’s “inexpressible delight of love” be yours as you “prefer nothing whatever to Christ.” (RB 73:11)