Saturday, March 8, 2008


“Listen carefully, my son, to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart. This is advice from a father who loves you; welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice.” [RB Prologue 1]

Advice. There seems to be no shortage of it floating around in our post-modern world. Advice is available everywhere we turn. The Ophra’s, Dr. Phil’s, Suze’s, and Benny’s are on every television channel, bookshelf, and magazine rack. Advice is big business. Many are paying a lot of money for advice and others are making a lot of money doling out advice to customer-clients lining up like children at the ice cream parlor hoping to taste the next best flavor. We are after all, as human beings, seemingly on a quest for happiness, peace, and security in a world filled with sadness, fear, and instability.

It was a climate of sadness, fear, and instability that characterized the age in which Benedict lived and worked. His credentials were meager – a hunger for God and enough nerve to dare to seek and trust him in solitude. He was eclectic. He was a student of the models that had gone before him. He looked at what worked and what didn’t. He pared, distilled, and synthesized the best offerings of his day into practical life applications that became a guide for life that is as practical and meaningful today in our modern dysfunctional world as it was those many centuries ago in the dysfunctional world following the collapse of the Roman Empire.

In the preface to the RB 1980, Timothy Fry, O.S.B. writes, “St. Benedict’s times were as turbulent as our own, though for very different reasons. He wrote his Rule primarily for monks, but its sound principles for working together and living together have proved relevant to people of all classes of society through fifteen hundred years.” St. Benedict’s advice is not good because it is old. It is old because it is good.

Being attentive, listening to and following the advice of St. Benedict, opens windows that allow us to see and doors that allow us to enter into a fruitful and meaningful relational dialogue with God. “Listen.” In commenting on the first word of the Prologue, Esther de Waal writes, “I could take that as a summary of the whole of Benedict’s teaching. I could spend the rest of my life pondering on the implications of that one word. It plunges me at once into a personal relationship. It takes me away from the danger of talking about God and not communing with him.”[1]

Listening to St. Benedict, attending carefully with the ear of the heart, leads toward viewing life as a harmonious whole. Benedict understood life in a holistic fashion. He didn’t try to separate it in a way that that said “this is my work life, this is my family life, and this is my spiritual life.” In Benedict’s view these are all one and the same life melded together into one being pursuing God as that life is being even more pursued by God.

Although he was acutely aware of the problems, ills, and sins of the society that surrounded him, he didn’t spend his energy decrying them. He simply and affirmatively set the course of his life in a way that ran contrary to them, a course that began as a hermit in a cave, one that laid the groundwork for and then became what is historically known as Western monasticism.

St. Benedict’s love for and devotion to Christ brought forth a tremendous birthing of monasteries and spiritual renewal. This stability also had a tremendous effect on the social and economic conditions of the European continent. It is rather apparent that people were listening. His invitation still stands, still beckons to us in these early years of the 21st century.



[1] A LIFE GIVING WAY, Esther de Waal, Liturgical Press, p. 6