Sunday, November 23, 2008

Benedict's School

The importance of academic garnering, gathering all the information we can about a topic or field of expertise whether through private activity or collegial engagement, should be admirably viewed. Learning and literacy are crucial elements in personal development. It comes as no surprise to me that Benedictine monasteries, early on, became centers for learning and continue that tradition in our modern setting. Education can be a lucrative business, one much more glamorous than milking cows and making cheese.

This gives me cause to pause and wonder.

Personal development, in the mind of Benedict, is not limited. It is transcendent. It makes room for the professor in the classroom and the plowman in the field. It takes into consideration the aptitude of the individual but refuses to weigh individuals on the scales of social strata. It does not unjustly reward those who have social means or segregate and punish those who do not.

One of the things that impresses me about St. Benedict is that he insists on the commonality of all who embrace the Rule and enter into monastic profession. None are considered as least. None are considered as best. All are equally important. All are equally valued. The sons of the rich put on the same habit, eat the same meager food, participate in the same manual labor and sleep on the same straw mattresses as the sons of the poor.

More that causes me to pause and wonder.

Benedict refers to his infant Order as a school for the Lord’s service[1] where we learn to listen with the ears of the heart.[2] What does this mean in the Saint’s mind? What is this school being established by Benedict?

“It is the natural place for baptized human beings who have become children of God and disciples of Christ. Once the Church, our mother, has provided us with this new birth in Baptism, the task of the monastic school is to educate us in the life of perfection according to the Gospel. The baptistery leads to the monastery. In the monastery, we do nothing our whole life long but listen to Christ and obey his lessons.”[3]

[1] RB Prologue 45
[2] RB Prologue 1
[3] Adalbert de Vogue, Reading Saint Benedict, p.34