This week the Church remembers the life and witness of St. Benedict, Abbot of Monte Cassino and — along with his sister St. Scholastica — founder of the Benedictine monastic order. His Rule of life, though over 1500 years old, is still used in Benedictine practice today.
One of the remarkable things about this “little Rule” as Benedict calls it, is that in addition to paying close attention to the monastic pattern of prayer and study, it also goes into painstaking detail about the day-to-day life of the monastery: meals, sleeping arrangement, clothing, etc. Benedict envisioned a communal life centred around prayer and work — ora et labora — in which both the spirit and the body are cared for. There is no place for extreme asceticism here — Benedict teaches us that outward acts of piety are not enough. It is the inward conversion of life within the context of community that forms us into the image of Christ — slowly and with much patience.
We live in a very different age from St. Benedict, but there is still much we can learn from his Rule. The emphasis on community is particularly important in our increasingly isolated and individualistic society — an emphasis the Church might well take notice of. Communal life, even if it is not lived 24 —7 under one roof, is crucial for human flourishing — both physical and spiritual. The Church at its best offers a radical way to belong — a way which nurtures both body and spirit in the context of loving interdependent community. As in Benedict’s vision, it matters not what your social status is, nor how young or old you are, nor how learned nor how experienced. All give, all receive.
How are you allowing yourself to be shaped by community? Are you a chronic giver, never allowing anyone to serve you? Or do you doubt your ability to offer anything of value in return for all you receive? This week, let us consider surrendering ourselves anew to loving conversion of life as members of the Body of Christ, and pray for the grace to be transformed by and with one another.
Download the Sunday service booklet here: Liturgy at Home Pentecost 5 July 10 2022