Tag Archives: Rule of St Benedict

The good zeal is not just for monks but for all Christians…

Service of monks.jpg

The daily grind makes us weary of the task at hand and sometimes we’re also weary of the “nonsense” of other people. There are times in which we are just ugly. Our own fragile and sinful lives can get in the way of things. Sadly, sometimes we get hurt, and we hurt others.

I was re-reading parts of Luigi Giussani’s Religious Sense this morning and then I saw that a friend made note of the Good zeal of monks (noted below) and I wondered… Why is it that we allow “wicked zeal of bitterness” to infiltrate our spirit and our relationships? Saint Benedict perceived a lack of coherence of what human beings say they believe and the lives lead. No doubt this same question/thought ought to concern every reasonable Christian if we are serious about faith in Jesus Christ and ultimate salvation. The tough thing about the Christian way of life is making sure that our faith informs our works and that we don’t replace faith with good works thinking that what we do will absolve our poor behavior. The good zeal Benedict exhorts his monks to have is really applicable to all baptized Christians and not merely the “professional Christians.”

Do we pay enough attention to reality? Am I too alienated from my own desires when I uncritically accept the ideas of others without doing the hard of work of verifying the truth of these ideas? Have I allowed wonder to take a back seat when looking at the reality I’ve been given by God? Have I sufficiently observed and understood what is in front of me? Have I love the Infinite, that is, the Triune God, to the best of my ability and without reservation? Where is my heart right now?

The Rule of Saint Benedict is insightful with regard to human nature: laziness, mediocrity, will not lead to ultimate happiness. That we have to put aside bitterness and that which does not build a deeper communion with God and neighbor. As Holy Father Saint Benedict and Father Luigi Giussani both said but in different ways: do we love?

Here is what the Rule of Saint Benedict says,

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…. (72.1-3)

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

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT, follows the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, and is an Oblate of Saint Benedict, works as a monastery farmer and a keeper of honey bees. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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