July 11, 2011

A Blessed Feast Day

Today is the feast of St. Benedict, the 6th century monk who wrote a simple Rule for beginners in the spiritual life that has become the foundation of a rule of life for for religious and lay men and women for over fourteen centuries.  As a Benedictine Oblate I follow the Rule as best I can in everyday life.  The great thing about the Rule is that it really is very simple. It is the way we should be living our lives as Christians and indeed as the human persons God created us to be.

The Holy Rule begins with the word "Listen."  Benedict teaches us to listen to the voice of the Lord in humble obedience. To obey is to hear, to listen, and to act upon what we have heard.  Obedience for Benedict is about Love, that is our loving response to our Loving God.  Obedience is a word that we don't like to hear these days, but the obedience to the Word of God leads to genuine freedom and true happiness.

Benedict also asks us to practice humility and he lists twelve steps to achieve humility. Again this may be a word that many don't like to hear, especially in this day of rampant individualism and the push to get ahead and to achieve the most we can out of life. For some, these twelve steps may seem too hard or too degrading.  But as we read in Scripture "whoever humble themselves shall be exalted" (Lk 14:11).  Practicing the steps of humility leads to recognizing our right relationship with God and with all God's creation.  

One thing that attracted me to the Rule and the Benedictine way of life is that it is very practical, and I am a very practical person.  But it is also very spiritual. Benedictine spirituality focuses on two things "ora et labora;" prayer and work.  Benedictines find God not only in their prayer but in their everyday work, always aware that they are in the presence of the Almighty. Prayer for Benedictines is the Liturgy of the Hours, what we call "Opus Dei," the Work of God, and "Lectio Divina" or Holy Reading.  Along with the celebration of the Eucharist this makes up the prayer life of Benedictines. But work is also a prayer when we dedicate our work to the glory of God. 

Most of all, Benedict calls us "to prefer nothing to the Love of Christ." I have this quote posted on my computer screen at work so that I am reminded everyday to practice the rules of a simple 6th century monk so that I can "set out for the loftier summits...and under God's protection (I) will reach them.


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