The new year needs a proper orientation: may I propose that we need to listen, that is, to be silent (once in a while) and to attend to what the Lord, the Church, friends and family are saying. Here I think we would do well to hear what a master has to say about our work. A few years ago Pope Benedict spoke about an ancient form of the spiritual life, Benedictinism, that is often misunderstood, and yet it corresponds to the heart. Known as the Patriarch of Western monasticism, Benedict of Nursia, is the father of compassion, a man of blessing, a forthright teacher. The Pope said that,

St. Benedict’s spirituality was not an interiority removed from reality. In the anxiety and confusion of his day, he lived under God’s gaze and in this very way never lost sight of the duties of daily life and of man with his practical needs. Seeing God, he understood the reality of man and his  mission” (April 9, 2008).
A tender word from Saint Benedict’s Holy Rule is important for all of us to reflect upon as we begin 2013. The saint is clear that the Rule is not for the holy people or for people who are well-versed in the spiritual life. On the contrary what we see here  in the Prologue we read that our following (listening), our friendship with Christ is a work of which we ought to be diligent in doing if we are to reach our goal: heaven. Only in doing the hard work, some will say rightly so, doing battle, the distance between ourselves and God be lessened. Benedict is truly a father with an emphasis on mercy and honesty. His approach cultivates in all of us, I hope, a humane and reasonable way of living.
What distances the self from God? The truthful assessment of our life is our personal sin, the “slothful disobedience” we engage in. Overcoming sin, by Grace, is the work of each one of us, pope to peasant, PhD-holder to high school student. All we need to do is begin. Notice the emphasis I’ve placed for your concentration.

St. Benedict of Nursia writing the Benedictine...

Saint Benedict of Nursia writing his Rule ~a 1929 portrait at Heiligenkreuz Abbey, Austria by Herman Nieg.

L I S T E N carefully, my child, to your master’s
precepts, and incline the ear of your heart (Prov. 4:20). Receive willingly and
carry out effectively your loving father’s advice, that by the labor of
you may return to Him from whom you had departed by the sloth of

To you, therefore, my words are now addressed, whoever you may
be, who are renouncing your own will to do battle under the Lord Christ, the
true King
, and are taking up the strong, bright weapons of obedience.

And first
of all, whatever good work you begin to do, beg of Him with most earnest prayer
to perfect it
, that He who has now deigned to count us among His children may
not at any time be grieved by our evil deeds. For we must always so serve Him with
the good things He has given us, that He will never as an angry Father
disinherit His children
, nor ever as a dread Lord, provoked by our evil actions,
deliver us to everlasting punishment as wicked servants who would not follow
Him to glory.
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