Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Benedict--serving up Rule #1

I have been thinking lately about St. Benedict - and what this ancient monk might have to say to me in my (post) modern life. To save you the "google" Benny was born in Nursia, Italy c. 480 - died c. 547. He was the Abbot of Monte Cassino, and a founder of Christian monastic communities and a rule giver for monks living in community. Right away, if I were you, my eyes would be rolling at the thought of one more religious guy and his "rules." Right? Wrong.

The reason I'm thinking about Benny and his rule is that recently my friend Dr. Mike Moses talked about the value of having a rule (Regula, for you Latin geeks out there) as a guide to one's spiritual growth. He explained a "rule" as a guide or a plan for your spiritual growth. He chose as a metaphor that of an arbor, which gives guidance and support to a young vine as it grows to maturity. A Regula Spiriti, or rule of the spirit, would be one that could guide me in my growth and support my spiritual life in the coming year. And Benedict supplied just such a rule for the monks in his community.

My problem is that I don't so much like rules. Any of them, I'm not choosy. I don't read instruction manuals, and I don't like people telling me I'm doing it "wrong." I'm hard headed that way, and in my children I find a mirror of what happens when one refuses to "listen." Funny, but that's exactly how the Rule of St. Benedict begins, "Listen, my children..." Just like a young vine needs guidance in its growth from the arbor, so a child needs guidance from his parents; and (reluctantly acknowledged) I need guidance from my spiritual fathers and mothers.

Fine... I'll listen. Are you willing to listen to Benedict? I discovered he's not a preacher, not a priest, but a "layman." An ordinary working stiff who was trying to help his friends find some sort of center of soul in the busyness of working. And he wasn't talking to just religious people, as he says, "To you, therefore, my words are now addressed, whoever you may be, who are renouncing your own will..." Hmmm...there's a secret there, from Benny, that the rule is first to listen, then to admit you may be going about things all the wrong way. Thousands of men and later women listend to Rule #1 from Benedict of Nursia. That's why he came to be known as "the founder of western Christian monasticism".

So... Rule #1 from Benedict today is simple.

Stop and Listen...you may be wrong.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

richard - great post and helpful to me. can't believe i didn't think to read benedict's rule in prep for the sermon series. i re-posted your post on my blog - thanks for 'taking it farther?further?' mike moses