Friday, July 11, 2014

Why the Benedictine Way?

On July 11th each year, Christians around the world celebrate the Feast of St. Benedict.  Despite declining numbers of Benedictine monks and nuns living in monasteries, there has been a surge of interest in the Rule of St. Benedict during recent decades.  Just go to Amazon, type the word "Benedictine" in the search box, and well over 5,000 items (5,647 as of today, to be exact) for sale show up (the number of items for sale relating to St. Benedict is probably even higher, but when you search "Benedict", numerous other Benedicts show up, including Pope Benedict, Benedict Arnold, and Benedict Cumberbatch). 

What is it about the Rule of St. Benedict that draws thousands (if not millions) of people like myself to become interested in Benedictine spirituality, even though we have no intention of living in a monastery?  There are probably many different answers to that question.  For some, the Benedictine way of daily prayer may be the primary draw.  For others, it may be the way the Rule leads them to meditate and pray with scripture, using the method of lectio divina.  Still others are drawn to one of the many aspects of the Benedictine way, such as hospitality, stability, humility, or conversion of life. 

The Rule, despite its relative brevity, offers a deep and broad perspective on Christian spirituality which has not been surpassed since it was written approximately 1,500 years ago.  Benedictine monk Gregory Collins put it this way:

"(The Rule's) basic structures and fundamental ethos - the following of Christ in humility through obedience, stability, and conversion of life, constant recourse to scripture in lectio divina as the source of wisdom, the need for prayer of the heart and the centrality of liturgical prayer - are the fundamental ideals which inform Benedictine life..... The Rule is like a base camp for trekking in the mountains - it is a place from which one starts and to which one returns, a secure reference point for whatever adventures lie on the way in one's spiritual journey."

(From pp. 10-11 of  "Meeting Christ in His Mysteries: A Benedictine Vision of the Spiritual Life").

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