Thursday, March 23, 2017

Chapter 43: Late-comers for the work of God or in the refectory (paragraphs 1-3)

When the time comes for one of the Divine offices to begin, as soon as the signal is heard, everyone must set aside whatever they may have in hand and hurry as fast as possible to the oratory, but of course they should do so in a dignified way which avoids giving rise to any boisterous behaviour. The essential point is that nothing should be accounted more important that the work of God. (From para. 1 of Ch. 43 of Saint Benedict's Rule, trans. by Patrick Barry, OSB, 1997.)

I love how, in a long and practical sentence, St. Benedict describes exactly how to deal with what my ego might consider to be interruption. Then, in a short sentence, he makes his point. Meditation teaches me how to deal with distraction, so that I learn to pay attention to what is essential.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Chapter 42: The great silence after Compline

Silence should be sought at all times by monks and nuns and this is especially important for them at night time. (From para. 1 of Ch. 42 of Saint Benedict's Rule, trans. by Patrick Barry, OSB, 1997.)

Silence is an interior knowing that I rest in God at all times.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Chapter 41: The times for community meals

The principle is that the superior should manage everything so prudently that the saving work of grace may be accomplished in the community and whatever duties the community undertakes they may be carried out without any excuse for murmuring. (From para. 1 of Ch. 41 of Saint Benedict's Rule, trans. by Patrick Barry, OSB, 1997.)

St Benedict uses ordinary examples such as diet and schedule to offer an ordinary principle: managing prudently. But, he encourages this ordinary-seeming principle in order that the saving work of grace might accomplish its work in the community, and also that the community might be dutiful without complaining. This insight about management seems to me to be both practical and prophetic. In other words, prudent management of ordinary life can actually be for the purpose of inviting grace to work on human nature. So I would do well to consider what "managing prudently" means in my own life.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Chapter 40: The proper amount of drink to be provided

St Paul says that each of us has a special gift from God, one kind for one of us and quite a different one for another. That reflection makes me reluctant to decide on the measure of food and drink for others. (From para. 1 of Ch. 40 of Saint Benedict's Rule, trans. by Patrick Barry OSB, 1997.)

St. Benedict's vision of how the gifts of the Spirit can penetrate my life at seemingly simple and mundane levels (e.g., how much I drink or food I need), helps me to realize in what embodied and ordinary ways grace builds on nature.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Chapter 39: The amount of food to be made available

We must always be careful, however, to avoid excessive eating which might also cause indigestion. Nothing is so opposed to Christian values as overeating, as we can see from the words of our Lord: take care that your hearts are not weighed down by overeating. (From para. 2 of Ch. 39 of Saint Benedict's Rule, trans. by Patrick Barry OSB, 1997.)

I'm always startled by the strength of these words: Nothing is so opposed to Christian values as overeating. I can think of a lot of worse behaviors than overeating, and yet Benedict challenges me to grasp his point. Perhaps he's telling me that any kind of addiction weighs down my consciousness and limits my freedom of spirit. Perhaps he's telling me that the physical heart and the spiritual heart are mysteriously bonded, and that I should extend the utmost care to them both.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Chapter 38: The weekly reader 

During meals there should be complete silence disturbed by no whispering nor should anyone's voice be heard except the reader's. Everyone in the community should be attentive to the needs of their neighbours as they eat and drink so that there should be no need for anyone to ask for what they require
(From para. 2 of Ch. 38 of Saint Benedict's Rule, trans. by Patrick Barry, OSB, 1997.)

This instruction on total attention that takes in both the reader and the community seems almost contradictory, and yet I think it can all somehow work together through love. It reminds me of Jesus' teaching that the kingdom of God is both within and among us.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Chapter 37: Care for the elderly and the young

Human nature itself is drawn to tender concern for those in the two extremes of age and youth, but the authority of the Rule should reinforce this natural instinct. Their frailty should always be given consideration so that they should not be strictly bound to the provisions of the Rule in matters of diet. (From Ch. 37 of Saint Benedict's Rule, trans. by Patrick Barry OSB, 1997.)

Jean Vanier, the founder of L'Arche, built his communities for mentally handicapped persons around the Gospel message of putting the weakest members at the center of society. I find this beautifully lived out as I have the privilege of being an "assistant" to the "core members" of a L'Arche community. Over time, in practicing the mantra I've become ever more alert to the call of frailty.