Thursday, March 21, 2013

Blessed in grace and in name

Today, Benedictines throughout the world commemorate the death of Saint Benedict, Patriarch of Western Monks, on March 21, 547.  Many thousands of men and women from every state and condition of life have followed his Rule and have called him their Holy Father.

In Chapter 72 of his Rule, Saint Benedict wrote: 
Just as there is a wicked zeal of bitterness which separates from God and leads to hell, so there is a good zeal which separates from evil and leads to God and everlasting life. This, then, is the good zeal which monks must foster with fervent love: They should each try to be the first to show respect to the other (cf. Romans 12:10), supporting with the greatest patience one another's weaknesses of body or behavior, and earnestly competing in obedience to one another. No one is to pursue what he judges better for himself, but instead, what he judges better for someone else. To their fellow monks they show the pure love of brothers; to God, loving fear; to their abbot, unfeigned and humble love. Let them prefer nothing to Christ, and may he bring us all together to everlasting life. 

Although Saint Benedict's vision for the lives of his followers is firmly rooted in the Christian monastic tradition, Benedict was also a layman writing for lay disciples. The spirituality of his Rule rests on elements that are accessible to every person of faith: prayer, lectio divina (prayerful reading), life in a community, balance, humility, a listening spirit, and good stewardship of the things and people entrusted to our care (including the earth itself).  Benedictine spirituality is, then, a practical way to live the Gospel today and, in a complex world filled with brokenness, isolation, and indifference, Saint Benedict calls us all back to basics, whether we are a consecrated religious or not. 

There is a story recounted by Sr. Joan Chittister:
Once upon a time, the story goes, a preacher ran through the streets of the city shouting, "We must put God into our lives. We must put God into our lives." And hearing him, an old monastic rose up in the city plaza to say, "No, sir, you are wrong. You see, God is already in our lives. Our task is simply to recognize that."
It is to recognition of God in our own time that the Rule of Benedict calls us.
Saint Benedict, pray for us.
+ A hymn for the Saint Benedict +

"Blessed are the pure of heart" - The "Transitus" of St. Benedict
from the Church of Our Lady of Einsiedeln
Saint Meinrad Archabbey

Our blessed Father, Benedict,
sure guide in dark and troubled days,
has shown his countless children here
the paths of peace, the Lord's own ways.

He dwelt in heaven while on earth,
true man of God and man of prayer;
For him, the love of Christ was all
and God was present everywhere.

He left all things that bind the heart,
in poverty to find release;
Unmoved among the things that change,
He sought and found a lasting peace.

He died among his many sons
while lifting up his hands to pray;
In glory clothed, he lives again
Whose monks rejoice in him today.

Now Benedict, with all his sons
around him like a crown of gold.
Gives praise to you, blest Trinity,
In splendid light and time untold. Amen.
(Text: Stanbrook Abbey, 1971)

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