Benedict's Rule

This was one of my favourite readings in the year. We actually read only bits and pieces of it, mostly the beginning. But the entire work is good. It is available here. Reading it made me think: "Wow, if I actually put this stuff into practice...I'd be a good person!" It is inspiring, and its discipline explains why the Benedictines were so formative in European civilization.

In reading the Rule, we need to be mindful that St Benedict is in heaven, loving each of us, right now. He is inviting each of us to be his spiritual child by listening to his fatherly advice.

Prologue: St Benedict tells us to listen with our heart to Jesus. We need to let Jesus' and Benedict's words of instruction enter our heart. When you hear the voice of Jesus act on it. Good intentions with respect to Jesus' voice don't do anything; they're the cobblestones forming the path to hell. Not acting on Jesus' words is like falling in love with a girl, imagining marrying her and raising a family with her, but never actually talking to her; you have many feelings in your heart, but they aren't doing any darn good for anyone. We need to act in obedience to Jesus. Much of the rule is about obedience, and Benedict calls this a labor: obedience is hard work, and he doesn't skirt around that. We do need to be aware of our hate for obedience.

Benedict is telling us that we should right now, today, change and start acting for Jesus, not as a spiritual froot loop, even though that's what we've done until now.

Benedict reminds us, and it is good to be reminded of this, that the whole point of this life of ours is to get to heaven.

Chapter 7: Humility. This is such an important and foundational virtue, and will be treated again in further detail by Bernard. Benedict has 12 not-so-easy steps of humility. The first 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 considereth 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 guardeth 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. Let a man consider that God always seeth him from Heaven, that the eye of God beholdeth his works everywhere, and that the angels report them to Him every hour."
If you don't get this one, the others don't matter. God watches us because he yearns for us to go to heaven so much; he's scared of losing us, because he knows how dangerous our world is; it is like a father watching his kids to make sure they don't hurt themselves. He also watches us because dads get a kick out of seeing their kid do something really good: when we do something right, God's heart thrills. When we see an angry God watching us, as in this text, we're carrying our own baggage into it. He isn't watching us because he's angry, but because he loves us, and thus desires what's best for us. This step is about living in intimacy with God the Father; it orients us to his continual presence.

The other steps: 2) a person loves not his own will 3) he submits to his superior in all obedience 4) when hard and distasteful things are commanded, his heart quietly embraces suffering 5) a person confesses, and does not hide, their secret sins 6) to be content with the worst of everything 7) to see yourself as the lowest and vilest of persons (cf But I am a worm and no man, the reproach of men and the outcast of the people" Ps 21[22]:7) 8) to do only what is in the Rule and what is endorsed by his superiors' example 9) to control your tongue 10) to not be easily moved to laughter 11) to speak modestly, briefly and reasonably 12) to always manifest humility in bearing and in the heart.

St Benedict tells us that the person having accomplished these will have perfect love of God, and will observe the steps easily and out of love for Jesus and delight in virtue.

The purpose of Benedict's ladder of humility is for us to hear the voice of God by climbing it. Sin makes the ears of the heart de-sensitized to God's voice--it gets harder to distinguish his from others' voice. To hear the voice of God, you must have a discipline of live; this is regardless of your vocation. Benedict's Rule is one such discipline, for those called to monastic vocations, but such a discipline is appropriate to secular priests, married folk, and single persons. The Rule is about a discipline of life which makes it possible to hear God's voice; its purpose is to hear God's voice, to discern his voice from other voices.

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