7 Ways to Bring St. Benedict into Your Heart and Home
“Benedict’s Rule, then, is itself a kind of catechism. Even though it’s been the central guidebook for Western monasticism, its vision of life isn’t just for a particular sect of Christians called ‘monks’ and ‘nuns.’ This is a vision for the whole world, rooted in a particular way of life. From the very start, Benedict lays out a vision of real life for all who want to live well. It’s a vision that assumes that the Old and New Testaments reveal the bedrock truth about what it means to be human. It’s a vision that trusts that we’ve seen the human being fully alive in Jesus Christ. But it’s a fundamentally practical vision for all people. The vision, in short, is this: left to our own desires, we make a mess of our lives. But our Creator has shown us the way to true life. To receive the gift of this way is to follow it. This is not a rule for some part of our life called “spiritual.” It is a rule for all of life.” —Jonathan Wilson Hartgrove, The Rule of St. Benedict
Seven Ways to Bring the Rule of St. Benedict into Your Heart and Home
Adapted from The Rule of Saint Benedict by St. Benedict of Nursia, with Paraphrase and Introduction by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
1. For starters, begin every good work with this prayer: “Lord, bring it to completion.” Since God is full of goodness and has already called us his children, we shouldn’t grieve him by doing wrong. Instead, we should take advantage of the good gifts God has given us and become good listeners.
2. But here is a word of caution: good listening only pleases God and builds up a community when we do what we’re asked without rolling our eyes or dragging our feet. Half-hearted obedience won’t cut it, even if we end up doing what we were asked to do at first. The key is to see that when we listen to our sisters and brothers, we’re listening to Jesus, who said himself: Whoever listens to you, listens to me (Luke 10:16a). And then, we’re not only to listen, but also to listen gladly, for God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7c).
3. Don’t be overwhelmed by fear and run away from the way that leads to salvation. It’s bound to be hard at first, but as we move on in this way of life and in faith, we will run on the road of God’s good words—our hearts overflowing with delight. We’ll know what it means to live in the way of love, even if there are no words to describe it.
4. You should not live the same way other people do; for you, the love of Christ takes first place. You don’t lash out in anger or nurse a grudge against someone who’s wronged you (no, you’ve learned a better way to deal with the trials that everyone faces). Don’t fool yourself. When you greet someone with the peace of Christ, mean it! Don’t avoid someone who needs to receive God’s love through you. Make promises you can keep, always telling the truth to yourself even as you’re honest with others.
5. Don’t be addicted to your own self-image or to anything else that promises cheap fulfillment or an easy escape from problems. Beware of too much eating or too much sleeping. Watch out for laziness (Romans 12:11a). Don’t spend your time complaining or talking bad about other people. Put your hope in God alone.
6. There’s no sense acting like you’ve achieved sainthood. Instead, work on becoming a saint in every little thing you do so your actions might one day speak for themselves. Make God’s good words your constant guide: treasure chastity; don’t harbor hatred or jealousy; and don’t let envy drive a single action. Don’t get into arguing, and turn your back on arrogance. Respect the wise and love the inexperienced in community. Out of love for Christ, say a prayer for the one who’s become your enemy. If you have an argument with someone during the day, make peace with him before the sun goes down.
7. Last of all: never lose hope in God’s mercy.