Category Archives: Benedictine Rule

Fullness of Life

And the Lord as he seeks the one who will do his work among the throng of people to whom he makes that appeal, says again: Which of you wants to live to the full; who loves long life and the enjoyment of prosperity? And, if when you hear this you say, I do, God says to you: If you desire true and everlasting life, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from deceit, turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. And when you have done these things my eyes will be upon you and before you call upon my name I shall say to you: Behold, I am here. What could be more delightful, dearest brothers, than the voice of our Lord’s invitation to us? In his loving kindness he reveals to us the way of life.

—-Benedict of Nursia


Today I share a few thoughts from The Rule of Benedict of Nursia, founder of the Benedictine monastery at Monte Cassino. Benedict’s main achievement is his “Rule of Saint Benedict” containing precepts for his monks. The Rule has a unique spirit of balance, moderation and reasonableness, and this persuaded most religious communities founded throughout the Middle Ages to adopt it. As a result, his Rule became one of the most influential religious rules in Western Christendom. For this reason, Benedict is often called the founder of western monasticism. Let me share a few thoughts from him about fullness of life.

Who wants to live a full life? The answer is everyone. The problem with fullness of life is where does it originate? Some would say that the key is to be rich or well educated, others would say it comes from being physically fit and strong.

Be honorable and truthful with your words.

Benedict admonishes us to be attentive God’s to call in order to keep our tongues from evil. An evil tongue constantly stirs trouble and wishes ill will to others. The evil tongue never stops looking for the negative in the lives of others. The evil tongue can be very truthful, but it uses truth as a sword to destroy rather than an instrument to build up. Such a tongue is dishonorable.

The second thought is to not be deceitful. In short, tell the truth and don’t make up tall tales to benefit yourself or bring down others. The truthful tongue builds you and all those you touch. Your words will outlive you and bless others.

Do Good

Doing good is the biggest challenge of our earthly existence. We are surrounded by schemes and schemers. The whole concept of Monasticism was to be free fJohn-Wesley-July-12rom the pressures of the world and grow closer to God. Good is first sought when we dedicate all that we have and that we are to God. John Wesley said, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” By putting Benedict and Wesley together we can broaden our hope for doing good in our lives. Doing good is a key element to any Christian journey, and I urge you to take some time to assess the good you do or can do.

Seek Peace and Practice It

Benedict said to “seek peace and pursue it.” I would assert that a person who seeks peace will find it and spend a life of peaceful practice. The first challenge is to dedicate our lives to finding peace. The ultimate peace is a sound relationship with God. Through that relationship all problems can be faced and many solved to our good. Without God we are on our own and fending for ourselves in a world that is far too complicated for us ever control. As we Jesus-july-12practice the peace of God we find that our problems far less complicated, our victories are sweeter and burdens lighter. Jesus said, ”Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” When we attach ourselves to the yoke of God we find His peace and that peace is one that we can practice with joy.

May we seek the life that God has laid up for us and pursue it with all our being.


Prayer

Lord instill in me the humility to seek you and the courage to find you. Allow me the strength to follow your lead and live a life that is beyond my imagination. I ask for the life that only you can provide. I ask for discernment this day and courage for each day that I follow you

Amen.

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RULE OF LIFE

Note: I am not sure where I got this document, but it has been in my files for a long tome. I’ve taken the liberty to make a few changes from the original. This rule would make for a good way to observe Lent.

This Rule of Life is based Wesley’s General Rules, the membership vows of the United Methodist Church and St. Benedict’s Rule. We believe this rule opens our eyes to God’s grace, balances life and enables us to pursue holiness in all aspects of daily living.  IB

A RULE OF LIFE

PRAYERS

· We will pray daily

· We will use a variety of forms of prayer such as the reflective reading of Scripture and other spiritual texts, confession, the prayer of Examen, intercession, journaling, and contemplation.

· We will fast from food once a week (either a full or partial fast)

PRESENCE

· We will practice a contemplative stance in order to be present to God, the world, and ourselves

· We will be hospitable to our neighbors in our families, neighborhoods and workplaces

· We will be hospitable to our faith community through participation in our worship, fellowship and mission

GIFTS

· We will honor and care for the gift of the earth and its resources, practicing ecologically responsible living, striving for simplicity rather than excessive consumption

· We will practice generosity in sharing our material resources, including money, within and beyond this community

SERVICE

· We will serve God and neighbor out of gratitude for the love of God

· We will practice mutual accountability with a covenant group within the community, for how we serve God and neighbor

· We will practice regular Sabbath as a means of renewal so that we can lovingly serve God and neighbor

WITNESS

· We will practice racial and gender reconciliation

· We will resist evil and injustice

· We will pursue peace with justice

· We will share the redeeming, healing, creative love of God in word, deed and presence as an invitation to others to experience the transforming love of God.

I commit to this rule of life and to the well-being of this community, out of gratitude to God who forgives, heals, and makes all things new. May my life be a blessing within and beyond God’s church, for the transformation of the world.

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Hospitality and the Church

From the rule of St. Benedict, Sixth Century A.D. “If any pilgrim monk come Benedictfrom distant parts, with wish as a guest to dwell in the monastery, and will be content with the customs which he finds in the place, and do not perchance by his lavishness disturb the monastery, but is simply content with what he finds, he shall be received, for as long a time as he desires. If, indeed, he find fault with anything, or expose it, reasonably, and with the humility of charity, the Abbot shall discuss it prudently, lest perchance God has sent him for this very thing. But if he have been found gossipy and contumacious in the time of his sojourn as guest, not only ought he not to be joined to the body of the monastery, but also it shall be said to him, honestly, that he must depart. If he does not go, let two stout monks, in the name of God, explain the matter to him.

True hospitality to the pilgrim is difficult enough, but dealing with someone that disrupts the community is even harder. The solution proposed by Benedict is quite radical by our standards. Perhaps the 21st century could learn from him. Who knows?

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A Monk’s Story Part 3

I had the pleasure of meeting Becket while I was doing some personal soul-searching at St. Joseph Abbey. At the time he was a professing monk who had not taken his final vows. He has since left the monastery to become the personal assistant of the writer Anne Rice. In a recent conversation   has given me permission to reprint his story as he is posting it on Facebook. I hope you find these installments as fascinating as I do. I will be posting these installments on Monday.       Irvin

A Monk’s Story Part 3

by Becket

At the heart of every religious vocation is the call to love. Love one another as we are loved. Sometimes love is prayer. Other times it’s work.

Before I entered the monastery, I don’t think I loved myself. Sure, I had a healthy hope of survival. But that’s not the same as healthy self-love. To be perfectly blunt, I didn’t love myself because I couldn’t. I didn’t know who I was. How could I love someone I didn’t know? This question begged another: If I don’t love myself, how can I love someone else?

Before the monastery, I didn’t fit in. In high school I clique-hopped. Early college too.

I couldn’t do that in the monastery. There were no cliques. There was only a small group of men working everyday to be kind to one another.

So my first year in the monastery was the quintessential pivot-point of my life. It shifted me from self-ambiguity to healthy self-love.

St. Joseph Abbey Church

As a novice I had to have a spiritual director. Usually this is an older or more experienced monk acting as a guide to monastic formation.

One monk in particular I hoped would be my spiritual director, Fr. Ambrose. He was elderly, wore large glasses, and had a long white beard. He was always reading, always quiet. He seemed to have an appealing grandfatherly kindness.

So I was greatly shocked when, upon asking him to be my spiritual director, he said, “No.”

Later I came to know him better. Today I believe he denied my request because all he truly wanted was to diminish before his brothers. That is, he wanted a more hermetic life. Quiet, simple.

A brash novice like myself was a thunderclap in his serenity.

Despite my disappointment, I returned to him twice more.

Finally he consented. I became his spiritual directee.

Quickly I discovered that he and I had different personalities, and that we appreciated different ways of communicating. Nevertheless, he proved to be the best spiritual director I ever had, and one of the best men I’ve ever known.

As my religious brother, he observed me in community, at meals, at recreation, and during prayer and work. As my elder, he called me on many faults. “A monk must let go of the world,” he would tell me. “You’re thinking too much about temporary things on earth and not about the heart of eternal love.”

The greatest fault he caught in me changed me life. He saw my great fault. It wasn’t something that I did consciously. You could say that from my youth I was taught to behave in a particular way. It wasn’t bad behavior. It just wasn’t healthy. Fr. Ambrose saw that how I was was not who I could be. And he said to me in so many words: “Whether you stay a monk or get married, whether you make monastic vows or wedding vows, you can’t give to anyone else something you do not possess. And healthy love is a possession that must by its very nature be given away freely.”

What didn’t I possess, Fr. Ambrose?

“Your self,” he said to me.

The true journey of my monastic vocation began at that moment.

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A Monk’s Story Part 2

I had the pleasure of meeting Becket while I was doing some personal soul-searching at St. Joseph Abbey. At the time he was a professing monk who had not taken his final vows. He has since left the monastery to become the personal assistant of the writer Anne Rice. In a recent conversation   has given me permission to reprint his story as he is posting it on Facebook. I hope you find these installments as fascinating as I do. I will be posting these installments on Monday.       Irvin

A Monk’s Story Part 2

by Becket

I am continually humbled that some of you are interested in my monastic life. Some have asked that I continue with my story. I still feel awkward doing this (forgive me), but I will give it a go.

I left off talking about adjusting to the Gregorian chant. Monastic life was a mystical adjustment altogether.

My first year in the monastery was called the novitiate. I was a novice. (Still am a novice in many ways.)

Daily life was similar to a normal monk in solemn vows. We all worked together. We all prayed together.

In the beginning the work I did was mostly cleaning: Kitchen, bathrooms, church, and abbey. Sweeping, mopping, polishing, the usual sprucing.

I also worked in the bakery two days a week. One of the monastery’s charitable works was baking bread for the inner city of New Orleans, then

Becket, Me, Bede and George after a morning at the bakery.

Becket, Me, Bede and George after a morning at the bakery. (several years ago)

delivering it to soup kitchens. In the summer we awoke at 2 am to bake bread. We finished by noon, before the Louisiana heat struck. We baked over 800 loafs a day.

Fr. Augustine was chief baker. He taught me how to bake all kinds of delicious breads. Sometimes he and I would bake pizza for the monks for lunch, a kind treat for them.

One night a week was special. The monastery had an infirmary, where sick and dying monks ended up. One night a week, I would keep watch over the infirmary, staying up all night, being attentive to the needs of the infirmed.

An old priest was there, Fr. Daniel. He was so gentle, especially toward the end, when he passed away the night before I became a monk. I spent the year of my novitiate trying to make him comfortable. But he didn’t need much. His prayer life had given him faith that he would be in eternal rest.

All our work was not beyond the scope of our prayer life. Everything we did – be it cleaning, baking bread, or watching the infirmary – had to be done with a prayerful spirit. We tried to depend on God’s help for everything, especially the work of our hands.

But not all prayer revolved around work. We also had community prayer.

All the monks would gather into the church five times a day for five routine prayers: Matins, Lauds, Mass, Vespers, and Compline.

Matins is a predawn prayer (5am). Lauds is Morning Prayer (6am). Mass was at noon. Vespers is evening prayer (5pm). Compline is night prayer, right before bed (7pm).

During community prayer, the monks divided into two groups: Choir One and Choir Two. Choir one was on the left side of the church; Choir Two on the right; both groups facing one another.

Then the two choirs of monks would take turns chanting the psalms and other biblical texts, each choir chanting a stanza. We chanted all 150 psalms in a month’s time – like the early monks from the 5th century.

Our day began with prayer. Our day ended with prayer. Chanting biblical words bookended our daily work.

Work and prayer. It was a life of labor and love. It was a life of simplicity.

More to come………..

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A Monk’s Story Part 1

I had the pleasure of meeting Becket while I was doing some personal soul-searching at St. Joseph Abbey. At the time he was a professing monk who had not taken his final vows. He has since left the monastery and to become the personal assistant of the writer Anne Rice. In a recent conversation   has given me permission to reprint his story as he is posting it on Facebook. I hope you find these installments as fascinating as I do. I will be posting these installments on Monday.       Irvin

A Monk’s Story Part 1

by Becket

 Some here have asked about my life before meeting Anne Rice, namely from what I’ve shared previously — that I was a monk.

If you’re interested in it, here’s some of the story:

In 1997 I moved to New Orleans. I had been a fan of Anne’s for years, having read her books in high school. I remember the first time I walked down St. Charles Ave., with the streetcar passing by, the old double gallery houses, and the branches of the large oak trees canopying over the Garden District. My first thought was: Lestat hurtled down this road on a motorcycle, listening to Bach’s Art of Fugue through a Walkman. I was agog at the magic of that ancient and beautiful city.

New Orleans’ spiritual heritage encouraged my eagerness to grow closer to God.

I entered a little monastery not too far outside the city, across Lake Pontchartrain, on the North Shore — St. Joseph Abbey, a house of the Benedictine order (an old order dating back to the 5th century). St. Joseph Abbey is about 100 years old. But, for 1500 years, the Benedictine Order has lived by two fundamental rules: Work and prayer. That’s all I really wanted. I sought to work, to pray, and to use both as tools for deepening my relationship with a power greater than myself.

That lasted eight years.

If you’re interested in the daily routine of my monastic life, I can explain it in days to come. I fear this is getting too long.

Let me leave with this: I met Anne shortly after I became a Benedictine monk. When she began writing Christ the Lord, Out of Egypt, she emailed me with a question. A delightful email correspondence began shortly thereafter.

In 2005 when I left the monastery, Anne offered me a job on her staff.

An amazing 8 years later, here we are……….

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Practice Hospitality

monasteryporterBe hospitable to one another without complaining. Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.

1 Peter 4:9-10

Monastic hospitality is the model for us today. The monastic way of hospitality holds the key to the future of the church, at least here in the United States. Monastic hospitality requires that the Monastery doors be open to all Christians who present themselves to the porter at the gate. Churches and Christians need to realize this kind of hospitality may require changes of attitude, and even lifestyles, so that the church can be a more vital place ministering to others in the twenty first century.

Our challenge is to finds ways that we can practice hospitalty in our everyday lives. When the “open door” becomes a way of life for us God will bring blessings to our lives. We can all practice hospitality in simple ways. Here are a few.

  • Throw a party and invite someone new.
  • Greet strangers as Jesus did.
  • Invite someone to your home for a meal.
  • Host mission volunteers.
  • Prepare someone’s favorite food for them.
  • Turn the TV off and log off the computor when a guest arrives.
  • Simply welcome unexpected guests.
  • Make your guest feel like you are interested in them.

Dictionary.com defines hospitality as “the friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers.” I think the keyword here is “friendly” because we can receive people and show no feelings at all.

We can receive them coldly, or make it obvious that we’re put out.I think in our American culture many of us have forgotten what it means to be hospitable. Sure we all put on a good face when we have people over on our terms (like for a dinner party), but what about being hospitable when it is an inconvenience for us? I think about when people stop by our home and we’re watching TV.

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More on Silence

For over a fifteen hundred years monastics have practiced the discipline of silence. The monk knows that God is best heard in silence and community harmony is best maintained with an absence of excessive verbage. St Benedict understood that silence as an essential element of life. This is so that we can learn to listen to God more exclusively. God speaks to us in the Bible, but also in the depths of our heart and, as we begin to tune into him, we learn to be attentive to his presence in others. Thus harmony with God and man is achieved as we practice silence.

  •  Silence allows us to focus on God.
  • Silence allows us to think outside of ourselves
  • Silence creates an attitude of other worldliness
  • Silence gives value to others

When we withdraw into silence and spend this special time with God we equip ourselves to be joyful Missional people. It is a most excellent way to prepare ourselves for the opportunities God provides for us.

The more we listen to God, the more capable we are of listening to each other. As we listen, we hear needs and cries from our friends and neighbors that have been lost in the noise of this world. If we are to be about the mission of God then we have to take time to become people of silence.

Each of us wants to be all we can be as disciples of Jesus Christ. Let me suggest that you carve out some time each day that you observe total intentional silence. If daily doesn’t work then do it weekly but DO IT. God will richly bless your efforts.

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A Rule for Missional People

This past weekend I had the pleasure of sitting under the teaching of Dr. Elaine Heath, who is Professor of Evangelism at Perkins School of Theology. Her topic was “New Monasticism.” She shared ways that people can band together in intentional communities, and what it would take for that to be successful. Elaine, with a group of others, has formed the institute for Missional Wisdom. This institute has proposed a “Rule of Life” for those who want to commit to living in community. I would like to set forth this rule as not only a way to live in community, but also a way for individuals to live a Christ centered life. I want to share it with you today.

RULE OF LIFE

Our Rule of Life is based Wesley’s General Rules, the membership vows of the United Methodist Church and St. Benedict’s Rule. We believe this rule opens our eyes to God’s grace, balances life and enables us to pursue holiness in all aspects of daily living.

OUR RULE OF LIFE

PRAYERS

  • We will pray daily
  • We will use a variety of forms of prayer such as the reflective reading of Scripture and other spiritual texts, confession, the prayer of Examen, intercession, journaling, and contemplation.
  • We will fast from food once a week (either a full or partial fast)

PRESENCE

  • We will practice a contemplative stance in order to be present to God, the world, and ourselves
  • We will be hospitable to our neighbors in our families, neighborhoods and workplaces
  • We will be hospitable to our faith community through participation in our worship, fellowship and mission

GIFTS

  • We will honor and care for the gift of the earth and its resources, practicing ecologically responsible living, striving for simplicity rather than excessive consumption
  • We will practice generosity in sharing our material resources, including money, within and beyond this community

SERVICE

  • We will serve God and neighbor out of gratitude for the love of God
  • We will practice mutual accountability with a covenant group within the community, for how we serve God and neighbor
  • We will practice regular Sabbath as a means of renewal so that we can lovingly serve God and neighbor

WITNESS

  • We will practice racial and gender reconciliation
  • We will resist evil and injustice
  • We will pursue peace with justice
  • We will share the redeeming, healing, creative love of God in word, deed and presence as an invitation to others to experience the transforming love of God.

I commit to this rule of life and to the well-being of this community, out of gratitude to God who forgives, heals, and makes all things new. May my life be a blessing within and beyond God’s church, for the transformation of the  world.

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Under the Lord Christ

Benedict of Nursia delivers his rule to the Be...

Benedict delivers his rule to the Monks

To you, therefore, my words are now addressed, whoever you may be, who are renouncing your own will to do battle under the Lord Christ, the true King, and are taking up the strong, bright weapons of obedience.

——Rule of St. Benedict

Perhaps it is not too popular these days to speak of our Christian journey as a battle complete with weapons, however, we are called to be witnesses to our faith in the Christ. In his Rule, Benedict gives us guidance and advice that facilitates our journey. Remember, the primary purpose of the Rule was to adjust to living in community. Interestingly enough, the biggest challenge in Christianity today is inner conflict. For that reason, I would suggest that Benedict’s words are very timely.

Today’s advice is to set aside your will, and pride I might add, to do battle under the Christ. For under Him we find peace, strength, harmony and the partnership we need to live our days in this world – to live them as not a mere existence of futility, but with a sense of vitality and vigor that pleases God and man. For us to surrender to the Messiah and let him guide us gives us a fuller and more satisfying life.

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