Reading “The Rule of St. Benedict“. Turns out to be amazingly easy reading, clear, short and easily understood by even simple minded folks like myself. It is kind of like a precis of everything we were always taught about the right way to live.
I have read through about 70% of the book and more than half of it so far is specific to the conduct of life in a monastery. While this is not really applicable to life outside a cloistered religious order the underlying principles actually apply well to daily life in the world, and what constitutes desirable conduct towards others, our neighbours.
But the most important observation so far is: ” 42If you notice something good in yourself, give credit to God, not to yourself, 43but be certain that the evil you commit is always your own and yours to acknowledge.”
That just flies in the face of everything our modern society believes about how good we are. Man’s natural state is really one of misery and poverty. We, and our society are not, in fact, good by any real measure of good, hence the popularity of religion of relativism these days.
The notion that the culture and society all around us is somehow “advanced” and that we are responsible for that advance is the fruit of our overweening narcissism. We are the woodpeckers and termites in the dead tree of Western Christendom.
As a famous writer remarked:
“Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded—here and there, now and then—are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.
“This is known as ‘bad luck’. ” – Robert A. Heinlein
Benedict of Nursia (Latin: Benedictus Nursiae; Italian: Benedetto da Norcia; Vulgar Latin: *Benedecto; Gothic: Benedikt; c. 2 March 480 – 543 or 547 AD) is a Christian saint, who is venerated in the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Churches , the Oriental Orthodox Churches, the Anglican Communion and Old Catholic Churches. He is a patron saint of Europe.
Benedict founded twelve communities for monks at Subiaco, Lazio, Italy (about 40 miles (64 km) to the east of Rome), before moving to Monte Cassino in the mountains of southern Italy. The Order of Saint Benedict is of later origin and, moreover, not an “order” as commonly understood but merely a confederation of autonomous congregations.
Benedict’s main achievement is his “Rule of Saint Benedict“, containing precepts for his monks. It is heavily influenced by the writings of John Cassian, and shows strong affinity with the Rule of the Master.
But it also has a unique spirit of balance, moderation and reasonableness (ἐπιείκεια, epieíkeia), and this persuaded most religious communities founded throughout the Middle Ages to adopt it.
CHAPTER 4. THE TOOLS FOR GOOD WORKS
1First of all, love the Lord God with your whole heart, your whole soul and all your strength, 2and love your neighbor as yourself (Matt 22:37-39; Mark 12:30-31; Luke 10:27). 3Then the following: You are not to kill, 4not to commit adultery; 5you are not to steal 6nor to covet (Rom 13:9); 7you are not to bear false witness (Matt 19:18; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20). 8You must honor everyone (1 Pet 2:17), 9and never do to another what you do not want done to yourself (Tob 4:16; Matt 7:12; Luke 6:31).
10Renounce yourself in order to follow Christ (Matt 16:24; Luke 9:23); 11discipline your body (1 Cor 9:27); 12do not pamper yourself, 13but love fasting. 14You must relieve the lot of the poor, 15clothe the naked, 16visit the sick (Matt 25:36), 17and bury the dead. 18Go to help the troubled 19and console the sorrowing.
20Your way of acting should be different from the world’s way; 21the love of Christ must come before all else. 22You are not to act in anger 23or nurse a grudge. 24Rid your heart of all deceit. 25Never give a hollow greeting of peace 26or turn away when someone needs your love. 27Bind yourself to no oath lest it prove false, 28but speak the truth with heart and tongue. 29Do not repay one bad turn with another (1 Thess 5:15; 1 Pet 3:9).
30Do not injure anyone, but bear injuries patiently. 31Love your enemies (Matt 5:44; Luke 6:27). 32If people curse you, do not curse them back but bless them instead. 33Endure persecution for the sake of justice (Matt 5:10). 34You must not be proud, 35nor be given to wine (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3). 36Refrain from too much eating 37or sleeping, 38and from laziness (Rom 12:11). 39Do not grumble 40or speak ill of others. 41Place your hope in God alone.
42If you notice something good in yourself, give credit to God, not to yourself, 43but be certain that the evil you commit is always your own and yours to acknowledge. 44Live in fear of judgment day 45and have a great horror of hell. 46Yearn for everlasting life with holy desire. 47Day by day remind yourself that you are going to die. 48Hour by hour keep careful watch over all you do, 49aware that God’s gaze is upon you, wherever you may be. 50As soon as wrongful thoughts come into your heart, dash them against Christ and disclose them to your spiritual father.
51Guard your lips from harmful or deceptive speech. 52Prefer moderation in speech 53and speak no foolish chatter, nothing just to provoke laughter; 54do not love immoderate or boisterous laughter. 55Listen readily to holy reading, 56and devote yourself often to prayer. 57Every day with tears and sighs confess your past sins to God in prayer 58and change from these evil ways in the future. 59Do not gratify the promptings of the flesh (Gal 5:16); 60hate the urgings of self-will.
61Obey the orders of the abbot unreservedly, even if his own conduct—which God forbid—be at odds with what he says. Remember the teaching of the Lord: Do what they say, not what they do (Matt 23:3). 62Do not aspire to be called holy before you really are, but first be holy that you may more truly be called so.
63Live by God’s commandments every day; 64treasure chastity, 65harbor neither hatred 66nor jealousy of anyone, 67and do nothing out of envy. 68Do not love quarreling; 69shun arrogance. 70Respect the elders 71and love the young. 72Pray for your enemies out of love for Christ. 73If you have a dispute with someone, make peace with him before the sun goes down. 74And finally, never lose hope in God’s mercy.
75These, then, are the tools of the spiritual craft. 76When we have used them without ceasing day and night and have returned them on judgment day, our wages will be the reward the Lord has promised: 77What the eye has not seen nor the ear heard, God has prepared for those who love him (1 Cor 2:9).
78The workshop where we are to toil faithfully at all these tasks is the enclosure of the monastery and stability in the community.
The Rule of St. Benedict in English (pp. 26-29). Liturgical Press.
Something to think about. How does one put these principles into practice in our worldly life?