Tag Archives: Rule of St Benedict

Quilting ladies of St Benedict’s Abbey, Benet Lake

ladies quilting at Benet Lake.jpgBenedictine abbeys are places where the culture of prayer, study, charitable work and arts and crafts can breathe with ease. That’s the genius of Saint Benedict and the leadership of monasticism through 1500 years. Few religious orders have such an expansive sense of culture as the Benedictines (or share in across the world). Art aids one in his or seeking God and a better sense of self.

The monks of Saint Benedict’s Abbey, a monastery of monks in the Swiss-American tradition just outside Milwaukee and an hour’s drive from O’Hare Airport, have a retreat house where individuals and groups come to pray, study and rest in the Lord.

The arts have had a significant, yet humble place in Benedictine life. Making art is one way to bring together a deeper level of fraternity, balance and healing in the distracted world. Some Benedictines are musicians, others are scholars, weavers, quilters, calligraphers gardeners, beer makers, vestment makers, organists and horn players, others are apiarists and the so on. In his Rule for Monasteries, Saint Benedict’s 57th chapter “On the Artisans of the Monastery” fosters a spirit of human expression that has limits based on virtue as yet another but crucial way to glorify God. Benedict says,

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Being in God’s…according to Saint Benedict

In the days leading up to the feast of Saint Benedict (Jul 11) I thought I’d look at some reflections on his influence on us today. The Saint has set the stage for so much in the Church today, especially for the spiritual life, that we need to pay clear attention to what he has to say.

Living in the presence of God, according to Benedict, shapes
all realms of human life: prayer, work, interaction with creation, and
relationships with other people. “Fellowship,” that great slogan of
our time, was for Benedict no contradiction to a devout love of God. The social
dimension is always already religious, for in the brother as in the sister we
encounter Christ himself.

Faith in God is made concrete for Benedict in a
belief in the good core of the fellow human being. There faith is expressed in
a new way of being with one another. That, for Benedict, is the basis of true
humanity. It is not an uplifting ideal, but reality that confronts us again and
again in daily situations.

Thus Benedict says in the chapter on the monastic
counsel that the abbot is to call all the brothers to counsel because “the
Lord often reveals what is better to the younger.” For Benedict, then, it
is clear that the Lord speaks to us through people, that he can speak to us
through anyone, even a younger person who may have less experience and
knowledge.

Anselm Grun, OSB, Benedict of Nursia: His Message For Today

Happy Pentecost

Pentecost arab icon.jpg

On May 9, 1897, Pope Leo XIII issued the first Encyclical Letter on the Holy Spirit. Of course from the days of the Acts of the Apostles the role of the Holy Spirit has been clearly taught.

Pope Leo XIII actually reminded the modern world of the question Saint Paul brought up in Acts 19:2 when he asked some disciples at Ephesus, “did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” They replied “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” Pope Leo XIII went on to remind pastors and those with care of souls that they “should remember that it is their duty to instruct their people more diligently and more fully about the Holy Spirit.”

Saint Benedict also clearly saw the importance of the Holy Spirit in his Rule for Monasteries. At the end of Chapter 7 on Humility, Saint Benedict wrote:

Having, therefore, ascended all these degrees of humility, the monk will presently arrive at that love of God, which being perfect, casts out fear (1 Jn 4:18). In virtue of this love all things which at first he observed not without fear, he will now begin to keep without any effort, and as it were, naturally by force of habit, no longer from the fear of hell, but from the love of Christ, from the very habit of good and the pleasure in virtue. May the Lord be pleased to manifest all this by His Holy Spirit in His laborer now cleansed from vice and sin.

In his Chapter 49 on Lent, Saint Benedict bids us: “During these days, therefore, let us add something to the usual amount of our service, special prayers, abstinence from food and drink, that each one offer to God “with the joy of the Holy Spirit” (1 Thes 1:6).

In his Encyclical on the Holy Spirit, Pope John Paul II referred to Saint Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica when he said:

Man’s intimate relationship with God in the Holy Spirit also enables him to understand himself, his own humanity, in a new way. Thus that image and likeness of God which man is from his very beginning is fully realized.

Rule of Saint Benedict

St Benedict giving the Rule.jpgThe monks of Saint Benedict’s Abbey have put on their
website Father Boniface Verheyen’s translation of the Rule of Saint Benedict. The monks at this Abbey have a terrific college and get a steady stream of vocations. This year they have 7 novices: three for Kansas and four for Brazil.


I would recommend reading a chapter a day or a portion of it since some chapters are longer than others. My recommendation echoes to significant voices:


Christ present!
The Christian announcement is that God became one of us and is present here,
and gathers us together into one body, and through this unity, His presence is
made perceivable. This is the heart of the Benedictine message of the
earliest times. Well, this also defines the entire message of our Movement,
and this is why we feel Benedictine history to be the history to which we
are closest
.
~Monsignor Luigi Giussani, Founder of  Communion and
Liberation


Familiarity with the Word, which the Benedictine Rule guarantees by
reserving much time for it in the daily schedule, will not fail to instill
serene trust, to cast aside false security and to root in the soul a vivid
sense of the total lordship of God. The monk is thus protected from convenient
or utilitarian interpretations of Scripture and brought to an ever deeper
awareness of human weakness, in which God’s power shines brightly.
~Pope John
Paul II

Saint Benedict (and his 12 degrees of humility)


God our Father, You made Saint Benedict an outstanding guide
to teach men how to live in your service. Grant that be preferring your love to
everything else we may walk in the way of your commandments.

St Benedict a Bohemian artist.jpg

Famous for his work on the 12 degrees of humility, Saint Benedict proposes the following for those who want to advance in the spiritual life. The degrees of humility are given below.

The first degree of humility, then, is that a man always
have the fear of God before his eyes (cf Ps 35[36]:2), shunning all
forgetfulness and that he be ever mindful of all that God hath commanded, that
he always consider in his mind how those who despise God will burn in hell for
their sins, and that life everlasting is prepared for those who fear God. And
whilst he guard himself evermore against sin and vices of thought, word, deed,
and self-will, let him also hasten to cut off the desires of the flesh.

The second degree of humility is, when a man love not his
own will, nor is pleased to fulfill his own desires but by his deeds carried
out that word of the Lord which said: “I came not to do My own will but
the will of Him that sent Me” (Jn 6:38). It is likewise said:
“Self-will hath its punishment, but necessity win the crown.”

The third degree of humility is, that for the love of God a
man subject himself to a Superior in all obedience, imitating the Lord, of whom
the Apostle said: “He became obedient unto death” (Phil 2:8).

The fourth degree of humility is, that, if hard and
distasteful things are commanded, nay, even though injuries are inflicted, he
accept them with patience and even temper, and not grow weary or give up, but
hold out, as the Scripture said: “He that shall persevere unto the end
shall be saved” (Mt 10:22). And again: “Let thy heart take courage,
and wait thou for the Lord” (Ps 26[27]:14).

The fifth degree of humility is, when one hides from his
Abbot none of the evil thoughts which rise in his heart or the evils committed
by him in secret, but humbly confesses them. Concerning this the Scripture
exhorts us, saying: “Reveal thy way to the Lord and trust in Him” (Ps
36[37]:5). And it said further: “Confess to the Lord, for He is good, for
His mercy endures forever” (Ps 105[106]:1; Ps 117[118]:1). And the Prophet
likewise said: “I have acknowledged my sin to Thee and my injustice I have
not concealed. I said I will confess against myself my injustice to the Lord;
and Thou hast forgiven the wickedness of my sins” (Ps 31[32]:5).

The sixth degree of humility is, when a monk is content with
the meanest and worst of everything, and in all that is enjoined him holds
himself as a bad and worthless workman, saying with the Prophet: “I am
brought to nothing and I knew it not; I am become as a beast before Thee, and I
am always with Thee” (Ps 72[73]:22-23).

The seventh degree of humility is, when, not only with his
tongue he declares, but also in his inmost soul believeth, that he is the
lowest and vilest of men, humbling himself and saying with the Prophet:
“But I am a worm and no man, the reproach of men and the outcast of the
people” (Ps 21[22]:7).

The eighth degree of humility is, when a monk doeth nothing
but what is sanctioned by the common rule of the monastery and the example of
his elders.

The ninth degree of humility is, when a monk withholds his
tongue from speaking, and keeping silence doth not speak until he is asked; for
the Scripture shows that “in a multitude of words there shall not want
sin” (Prov 10:19); and that “a man full of tongue is not established
in the earth” (Ps 139[140]:12).

The tenth degree of humility is, when a monk is not easily
moved and quick for laughter, for it is written: “The fool exalts his
voice in laughter” (Sir 21:23).

The eleventh degree of humility is, that, when a monk speaks,
he speak gently and without laughter, humbly and with gravity, with few and
sensible words, and that he be not loud of voice, as it is written: “The
wise man is known by the fewness of his words.”

The twelfth degree of humility is, when a monk is not only
humble of heart, but always lets it appear also in his whole exterior to all
that see him; namely, at the Work of God, in the garden, on a journey, in the
field, or wherever he may be, sitting, walking, or standing, let him always have
his head bowed down, his eyes fixed on the ground, ever holding himself guilty
of his sins, thinking that he is already standing before the dread judgment
seat of God, and always saying to himself in his heart what the publican in the
Gospel said, with his eyes fixed on the ground: “Lord, I am a sinner and
not worthy to lift up mine eyes to heaven” (Lk 18:13); and again with the
Prophet: “I am bowed down and humbled exceedingly” (Ps 37[38]:7-9; Ps
118[119]:107)

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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