Daily Meditations on the Rule of Saint Benedict: Chapter 67

To be read: April 24, August 25, December 25

Brothers who are sent on a journey should ask the prayers of all, the community and the Abbot. 2And after the last prayer at the Work of God, the community should always pray for the absent brothers.  3On the day that the brothers return from the journey, let them lie prostrate on the floor of the oratory at all the Canonical Hours, when the Work of God is finished, 4and ask the prayers of all on account of their failings, in case they may have seen some evil or heard frivolous speech. 5And let no one presume to relate to another what he has seen or heard outside of the monastery, because it is most hurtful. 6But if anyone should presume to do so, let him undergo the penalty of the Rule. 7In the same way anyone who presumes to go beyond the enclosure of the monastery, or anywhere else, or to do anything, however little, without the order of the Abbot must be punished. 

From time to time, it is necessary for monks to travel.  And the same is true for those of us in the secular arena.  Our business and family obligations can often compel us to leave home in order to fulfill our responsibilities.  Of course, there are also those times we travel simply for pleasure.  Though on the surface this chapter is about monastic travel, like the previous one, at its heart it is about stability.  It is a warning against wandering: for the monk, a warning not to wander physically away from the enclosure, and for those of us on the outside, not to wander away from the Lord with our eyes and our ears, our memory or our imagination.  

Our lives are constantly bombarded with noise, images, news, gossip, and a whole host of unwanted, and unfiltered sensations.  The internet, for example, can present a tremendous source of temptation for the Christian.  Curiosity about images and reports we see on news sites and social media can draw us away from centering in God.  And as we stray into that wilderness it is easy to lose sight of the path and wander afar.  There is a necessary interaction between the whole created world and the committed Christian, and for those of us who are living in the world, we need to address that relationship.  But there is an important distinction we need to make between what is necessary and what is voluntary—between the quality of what is available and our response to a vast array of opportunities presented in the secular world.  We must hold fast to our commitment that the Christian’s primary goal is to seek God and to live in relationship with Him.  “Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ…” (RB 72:11). 

But as was noted in the first paragraph, we are sometimes called away from home for business or family, and there are the times that we choose to travel for leisure.  It is a policy in my parish, that when a parishioner is traveling, they are to bring a bulletin back with them from the church where they worshipped while away.  The reason for that policy is that I want to encourage them, that though away from home, they are NOT away from God and their relationship with Christ.  It is far too easy, when out of one’s routine, to forget our obligation to worship.  And when someone is going to be away from the parish for an extended period of time for work, or school, or military service, etc., we have them come before the Altar, and all lay hands on them and pray for them, in much the same way as Benedict describes in verse 1 above.  Benedict reminds us that while in the world we are constantly exposed to various “evils and frivolous speech”, and we need the Lord’s protection while living in and traveling about in this temptation-rich world.  The community’s prayers are a trustworthy shield about us.  Never leave home without them.

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