Benedict of Nursia (c. 480-547?) was born in North Central Italy (the Umbria province) when the Asian hordes were pulling much of the region back into violence with their war and pillaging. His biographer, St. Gregory the Great, pope from 590 to 604, does not record the dates of his birth and death, though he refers to a rule written by Benedict.
Benedict is considered to be the father of Western monasticism – a few centuries after monasticism began in Egypt, Asia Minor, and Palestine. His genius was to put the forms of the East into an accessible format that was warm and flexible. He was mostly the leader of a community, not a scholar. The Rule is the sole known example of Benedict’s writing, but it shows his genius as he crystallizes the best of the monastic tradition and passes it on to Europe. The Benedictine vows are basically “obedience, stability, and conversion of life.” He helped formalize a movement of the Spirit into “a school of the Lord’s service, in which we hope to order nothing harsh or rigorous.” These “schools” that soon dotted Europe were centers of light and stability for centuries. Benedict, and the subsequent monks in his tradition, are known for their disciplined days of prayer and labor (ora et labora).
Read more about Benedict at Celebrating our Transhistorical Body.
For the next few days we will follow Esther de Waal’s thoughts and meditations on Benedict’s Rule in her book Seeking God – The Way of St. Benedict. “The book was written by Esther De Waal in the midst of a very demanding professional and personal life as a wife, a teacher and a mother. It is all the better for that.”
Today’s Bible reading
The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. — 2 Corinthians 9:6-7
More thoughts for meditation
The disciple’s obedience must be given gladly, for God loves a cheerful giver. If a disciple obeys grudgingly and grumbles, not only aloud but also in his heart, then even though he carries out the order his action will not be accepted with favor by God who sees the grumbling in the heart. He will have no reward for service of this kind; on the contrary he will incur punishment.
Suggestions for action
The verse about a “cheerful giver” is often referred to financial giving, but Benedict includes all of the ways we give to God including money, time and love. Grumbling can come so easily to us that it can feel not just natural but necessary — maybe even therapeutic. Cells can devolve into a state of grumbling if the leader is not directing people beyond what is immediately displeasing.
What is the last thing you grumbled about? What is something that you could do besides grumbling?Sometimes if we look below the surface we realize what we are upset about is not the thing we are grumbling about at all but a deeper pain. Pray for God to reveal and heal.