Overview of Benedictines Magazine
By Barbara Ann Mayer, OSB
Requirements for the Monastic Journey
The essentials of the Benedictine life can be narrowed down to The Rule of Benedict, Liturgy of the Hours, community, and <em >lectio divina.Even after living in a monastery many years most of us are still learning to live those essentials. The work or ministry we do is not so important. It is being formed day by day in the image of God as we pray and grow in love that makes us monastics. In this issue, our writers plumb the depths of some of these requirements for the monastic journey.
Sister Aquinata Böckmann, well-known scholar and lecturer on the Holy Rule, explores what Benedict means by listening with the ear of the heart. She analyzes the layers of meaning beneath the words in her unique perceptive way. Sometimes exaggerating to make her point, she gives examples of how monks are to listen and respond to the abbot and to one another. She breaks open the Rule, expanding and interpreting what Benedict wanted to teach in his “school of the Lord’s service.”
Sister Anita Louise Lowe, a liturgist at the Benedictine monastery in Ferdinand, Ind., writes of the history of the Liturgy of the Hours, from early Christianity to Vatican II, especially as it was experienced by Benedictine women in the United States. She recounts a bit of the suffering our foremothers endured in the United States when they were deprived of reciting the Divine Office because they were no longer cloistered. She also gives a theology and spirituality of this prayer of the Church and why it is held in such high esteem.
Judith Valente, a prizewinning journalist on religion and a Benedictine oblate, shares what she has gleaned from Benedict’s Rule for living her professional life. Using examples of people she has met in the work world as well as the monastery of Mount St. Scholastica, she shows Benedict’s wisdom in caring for people and taking time to develop one’s spiritual life. She believes monasteries can teach people to value “community over competition, consensus over conflict, simplicity over consumption, listening over talking, and service over self-aggrandizement.”
The foundations of lectio have been explored in other journals. Living in community is one of the most challenging parts of monastic life. It is not easy to love those who irritate and disturb us, who think differently from us. But these people help to smooth the sharp edges of our personalities and to develop all manner of virtue: patience, humility, gentleness, kindness, etc. They also teach us about the need for forgiveness and reconciliation.
Lectio divina gives us the opportunity to be nourished by the Scriptures and aid us in seeking God. It is a way of centering ourselves and becoming more aware of the presence and action of God in our lives. Someone has described lectio as chewing the Word as a cow chews her cud, not skimming over it, but taking time to relish and ponder. This is another important aspect of the transformation Benedict envisioned for his followers.
We have much to learn as we plod along on our spiritual journey. There are many challenges, not only for the mature and serious-minded, but also the weak-hearted and lazy. But as one monk responded when asked what he does all day, “I fall down and get up, fall down and get up, and fall down and get up.” Hopefully we keep getting up and helping others along the way. As Benedict reminds us, “Never departing from his instruction, but persevering in his teaching in the monastery until death, we will share by patience in the sufferings of Christ, so that we may deserve to be sharers in his kingdom.” (Prol. 50)