Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Stewardship of Speech

To say that a major life re-orientation ensues embracing and attempting to follow St. Benedict’s guide for life as a Christian is, without a doubt, a great understatement. Monks living lives of prayer and work in monasteries is contrary to the world’s self-gratifying view of life. Endeavoring to faithfully live a life of prayer and work in the world as a lay member of a monastic community is no less contrary.

It seems rather obvious that we’ve embraced something that most minds and hearts in this modern world aren’t disposed to understand or accept. This lack of disposal, at least in my opinion, is largely due to a lack of education on the matter of monastic spirituality even though the effects of centuries of monastic life permeate the Church and the world. Education is one matter. Re-educating the educated is quite another. Change is difficult. Concrete, particularly the concrete that forms the sidewalks and highways of the mind, is extremely difficult to do anything with once it has set.

Change, as it concerns continual conversion in an atmosphere of stability and poverty, is something that resides at the heart of the Rule of St. Benedict. This sort of change continually hammers and grinds away our thick layers of concrete. Those fearful of change, those comfortable with their own formed and hardened concrete, will find little of interest in St. Benedict’s “little rule for beginners” since it demands attention, discipline, devotion, and letting go.[1]

We do have something important to say, something important to communicate, as Oblates of St. Benedict living in the world. Most of Earth’s modern residents, however, aren’t prepared to listen to what we have to say. The effects of materialism on modern society, despite the fact that it is devoid of any lasting meaning, accompanied by the grand exaltation of individualism, keep most from seeing the problem and hearing the solution.[2] Yet, it is in this environment in the world that we, as Oblates, live out our vocation communicating ideals that are ancient but ever fresh and alive with both temporal and lasting meaning.

The eleventh step of Benedict’s ladder of humility regards the stewardship of speech.[3] Speech, as well as silence, have important roles in our lives, rolls that are intertwined and inseparable. Even the most silent Orders use speech albeit very sparingly. “Here his concern with the good use of speech in ordinary life filters through for the first time. Talking about the ordinary things of life is not simply a necessity, to be reduced to the unavoidable minimum. Such exchanges between brothers must have a certain quality, and they must above all bear the stamp of reason.”[4]

Human beings tend, by nature, to be talkative creatures. Men are no exception to this tendency of human nature. Some of us even talk to ourselves when there’s no one else around and often what we say isn’t in the least way edifying. A lot of the discoursing that takes place between people in the world is degrading and offensive and honestly isn’t worth listening to, things that are in terrible opposition to genuine Christian ideals. But it’s not fair to leave off with ourselves and the world. In the Church we can hear things said that demean others and detracts from living fruitful, faithful lives.

Even Christians aren’t immune to pride, greed, and prejudice. It takes only a moment of listening to people to know where the true interests of their hearts are.[5]
[1] RB 73:6-9
[2] 1 John 2:15-17
[3] RB 7:60-61
[4] Adalbert de Vogue’, Reading St. Benedict, p. 94
[5] Matthew 12:34