July 9, 2017

Reflection for the Memorial of St. Benedict of Nursia

Saint Benedict of Nursia

Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot, July 11, 2017

By Msgr. Bernard Bourgeois

Proverbs 2:1-9, Psalm 34, Matthew 19:27-29

Then you will understand the fear of the Lord; the
  knowledge of God you will find. (Prv 2:5)

[On July 11th, the Church celebrates] the feast of St. Benedict of Nursia, the father of western monasticism. St. Benedict lived from 480-547, and wrote his Rule, which has governed monastic life ever since. Those who have given up everything and entered monastic life have done so in order to fulfill one goal: to seek God. Prayer, work, obedience, simplicity of life, and stability guide the daily living of monastic life and thus guide the monk in his solitary goal of life.

Seeking God is not the activity only of monks and nuns in monasteries. Rather, it is the task given to all of the baptized. And while most of us will not enter monastic life, there is an “inner monk” within us that compels us to seek God in our individual vocations and lives, whether as a diocesan priest, as principal of a high school, as members of families, married or single. Seeking God takes place in the here and now, in this situation, with these people, in this family, this workplace, this school, and in this time. It is not only for those holy monks; it is for me! In his Rule, St. Benedict gives the world the roadmap to seeking God. Prayer, work, obedience, simplicity of life, and stability help monks seek God; adapted, they can help the rest of us, too.

The monastic day is bookmarked by prayer early in the morning and in the evening, along with several moments of communal prayer throughout the day. For anyone seeking God, prayer has to become the primary activity of the day. It cannot be put aside for “more pressing” matters. Prayer is the first priority of one’s day, and all other activities of work, home, and family work around it. Monks pray the Liturgy of the Hours seven times a day, which lay people can also pray if they so desire. However one prays, time with the Lord is a necessary component in seeking Him. The Eucharist is the heart of prayer, and anyone seriously seeking God ought to consider it a daily practice, if possible. It is in those moments of spending time with the Lord that the person will detect His presence in his heart and soul.

Monks work in order to support themselves. Monasteries are known for their products or the educational services they provide in order to fund their lifestyle. Work in monastic life is a means to an end; it provides the independence the monastery needs for a lifestyle conducive to prayer. In work the human person shares in God’s creative activity. Through his work, the human person can find meaning and purpose. One’s gifts and talents are often put to use in work; it is an expression of one’s vocation. One can see the hand of God in work, and thus detect His presence

In monastic life, the abbot or abbess holds the place of Christ, and the monks or nuns are expected to live in obedience to the person in that office. God is obeyed in following the direction of the abbot. Obedience to God’s will is an important part of seeking God. Giving one’s life over to Him in trust and confidence is a major step in life. Monastic life also reminds us that when a legitimate superior asks us to do something, even if that task seems unwanted or beyond one’s reach, it might just be God calling! He works through others, most especially those in whose care we find ourselves. Be open to God’s call and direction, and know He often works through others.

Monks vow a stable life. It is incumbent on the new monk that he understand that his life will be lived in this monastery, within these walls, until death do them part. There is no running away at the first sight of a problem; God has called you to be here. Within that monastery, monks live a simple life. Unencumbered by material things or the noisemakers of modern life, monks focus on the task at hand: seeking God. Each of us outside of monastic life also needs stability. Be rooted in the present. Continuing to run or move will never allow the time or space needed to seek God. While the lives of monks will be simpler then yours or mine, unencumber yourself from those possessions that hold you back from the most important task of your life: seeking God. A stable, simple life will help you find God

Prayer, work, obedience, stability, and simplicity of life marks the life of monks. In developing the “inner monk” within you, take what you can from the monastic lifestyle to find God in your life.

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