Encouragement for a lifelong journey of faith

Category: Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict (Page 1 of 2)

May 29, 2016 — Harmony

Today’s Bible reading

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. — Matthew 6:33

More thoughts for meditation. 

Stability as the rule describes it, is fundamental. It is something much more profound than not running away from the place in which we find ourselves. It means not running away from oneself. This does not involve some soul-searching, self-indulgent introspection. It means acceptance: acceptance of the totality of each man and woman as a whole person involving body, mind and spirit, each part worth of respect, each part calling for due attention. Benedictine’s emphasis on stability is not some piece of abstract idealism: it is typically realistic. It recognize the connection of the outer and the inner: stability of relations with those around us (a community, a family, a marriage, a business) depends upon the stability and the right ordering of the disparate elements within ourselves, acceptance  and not rejection or denial. The habit, which comes all too easily to many lay people, of dividing life into religious and the worldly, the spiritual and the bodily, and of feeling that the former even if it claims only a small proportion of time is yet somehow superior and to be kept apart, would have probably appeared scandalous to the man who in speaking of the way to God uses simple physical terms. Here is no ascent of souls, with that visual image of bodiless spiritual beings, which even if their authors never intended it to be so have yet so often brought great unease and discomfort to many readers of that particular genre of spiritual treatise. For right at the start, in that invigorating invitation of the Prologue, St Benedict speaks of us running, of our hearts and bodies being got ready, as though the legs, the feelings do actually matter. A disembodied spiritual being does not concern him. Yet we seem to have forgotten his message, and the neglect of the body has been a serious loss in the religious life of the west. Only in our own day are we beginning again to discover that in our physical bodies we have a temple in which God can be reached, that the body commands respect and carries power, and that to deny this is to cut ourselves off from one of our most powerful sources of energy and strength on our way to God.

Suggestion for action

Consider the three ways the Benedictines spend their time and energy: body, mind and spirit.  In which of these three areas do you give the most time and energy? Which one do you give the least?


Among the Celtic peoples of the fishing and farming communities of the Outer Hebrides a man or woman would pray O bless myself entire, since to ask for a blessing on the soul without also asking a blessing on the body would never occur to them. The two are inseparably linked.


Pray: O bless myself entire

May 28, 2016 — Enclosed creativity

Today’s Bible reading

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. — Ephesians 2:10

More thoughts for meditation

But so many people find themselves in the situation of enclosure, in a marriage or a career, with the fundamental difference that by their refusal to accept it it has become a trap from which they long to escape, perhaps by actually running away, perhaps by resorting to the daydreaming which begins with that insidious little phrase “if only…” Family life which is boring, a marriage which has grown stale, an office job which has become deadening are only too familiar. Our difficulty lies in the way in which we fail to meet those demands with anything more than the mere grudging minimum which will never allow them to become creative.

That limitation can lead to creativity is something which any good artist knows and it is as fundamental to the artistic understanding as it is to the monastic. It is no less true when practiced in the less obviously rewarding situations of daily life. While we can see that art consists in limitation, and that artists must submit themselves to the necessities imposed upon them by paint and canvas, by words or notes or stones, it really is very hard indeed to see how we can apply this principle to the confused and humdrum elements which go to makeup modern living: the mechanical repetitiveness on the shop floor, the relentless demands of minding young children, the frustrations involved in being part of some huge administrative machine. Clearly this means accepting the monotonous and making it work for us, not against us. How easy it is to say that! How easy to hear that as yet one more piece of unhelpful moralizing which simply deepens our feelings of frustration and anger! Yet the way in which such limitation can bring both freedom and fullness is the heartfelt paradox of the Benedictine understanding of stability. 

For stability says there must be no evasion; instead attend to the real , to the real necessity however uncomfortable that might be. Stability brings us from a feeling of alienation, perhaps from the escape into fantasy and daydreaming, into the state of reality. It will not allow us to evade the inner truth of whatever it is that we have to do, however dreary and boring and apparently unfruitful that may seem. When we have discovered that a necessity is really necessary, that it is unalterable and we can do nothing to avert or change it, then our freedom consists in the acceptance of the inevitable as the medium of our creativity.’

Suggestion for action

Consider how you can be creative in your monotony today. Whether it’s your morning commute , chore, task or conversation. Rather than looking at the restrictions (i.e. — you have to go to work so you have to get in your car) as prohibitive consider them to be opportunities. Mainly, be present to your monotony, don’t avoid it. Be present enough for God to do something new with the usual.

May 27, 2016 — Humility

Today’s Bible reading

Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. — Thessalonians 2:8

More thoughts for meditation

In these first steps the humility comes from the inside; later it comes from relationships with other people. Subjecting myself to another “in all obedience for the love of God” means giving up my power, my arrogance, and instead submitting myself to seek the will of God through others. If I want to grow, openness and interaction with others is imperative since then I can grow with  the help of someone else’s gifts. I admit my limitations and my weakness, and I let someone else hold me up so that I can go on. This of course prevents any false self image and cuts down my pride in my own sufficiency. It involves trust, for it means recognizing someone else’s strengths so that  he can rescue me from my weakness. My attachment to material things clearly has to go, and we shall see later how much stress St Benedict places on this. But equally important, and often much more difficult, is to let go of my ambition and self esteem, my self-assertiveness, my wish to be just a little different from everyone else.

The interconnectedness that occurs through community is essential to being a Jesus follower to Benedict. But if this connectedness does not have time to take root how can we as people, with all our defense mechanisms and avoidance allow ourselves to be known? Having been part of a community (Circle of Hope) for some time now as allowed me to become comfortable enough with myself to be more accepting of my limitations. Rather than make us feel limited this can free us up to accept ourselves be free to act according to our gifts.

Suggestion for action

Pray: But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.


May 26, 2016 — Collaborators

Today’s Bible reading

But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.” “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me. — Isaiah 49:14-16

More thoughts for meditation

Obedience is a risky business. It is much easier to talk about it than to act it out. It means being prepared to take my life in my hands and place it in the hands of God.

Yet by doing this we discover that in fact God has made us collaborators with him, since what he was drawing out of us in our moments of decision or crisis was not blind obedience and mechanical conformity, but rather an obedience that asked us to take moral responsibility for ourselves. Only perhaps in looking back can we see the extent to which obedience has encouraged a process of growth and of self-transcendence.

What is asked from us is not the securing of a correct answer but something much freer and more creative. “The Christian and monastic model for discerning God’s will in a given situation is not that of finding the solution of a crossword puzzle,” says a recent Benedictine discussion of obedience, “where the answer must be exactly right, fitted to some preconceived plan. A better model is that we are given building blocks and have to see what can be done with them, using in the task all our intelligence, sensitivity and love.”

Suggestions for action

I like thinking how God loves me enough to make me part of his redemption project — not just to be a watcher, but to be an active participant. What part of God’s redemption project are you apart of? Be grateful that you get to be part of it.  On what are you and God collaborating? Can you freely take that responsibility, yet?

« Older posts