domingo, 20 de março de 2011

St. Benedict of Nursia 21.03


St. Benedict of Nursia was an Italian monk who founded a community of monks in the 6th century after living for three years outside of Rome as a hermit. The only existing document written by St. Benedict is a fairly modest book called the Rule of St. Benedict, an ancient writing instructing Benedictine monks in the ways in which they should govern their bodies and minds while performing the will of the Lord. The book resulted in Benedictine becoming renowned for his holiness, and the Rule became the foundation for a community of monks made up of cells of 13 monks each. Benedictine eventually left and went to an old pagan holy place called Monte Cassino, where he started the first truly Benedictine monastery.

The Rule of St. Benedict became the chief rule in Western monasticism under the Carolingians, and the Cistercians also follow the Rule. The 73 chapters of the Rule are rooted in a spirit of moderation and common sense, and they set forth the central ideas of Benedictine monasticism. The rules describe a common cause for all monks, yet they allow for the distinctiveness of the individual and each person’s unique path to God. Benedictine monks choose to reject the materialism and turmoil found in the world and live ascetical lives by adhering to a strict set of basic principles.
The Idea. Above all, Benedictine life is aimed at seeking God. The information and guidance written in the Rule is intended to facilitate this holy purpose, and everything else in life is subordinate to attaining this goal.
Prayer. Prayer makes one aware of God’s presence in time and in place, and gives openness to the wondrous mystery of God’s will. Both the sorrow and joy of life are given voice in a monk’s prayer and praise. The monk’s day also includes time for meditative holy reading, the message of God as conveyed in the Scripture and interpreted by the Church.
Silence. The first command of St. Benedict at the very beginning of the Rule is this: "Listen, O my son, to the precepts of thy master, and incline the ear of thy heart." Before we can listen, the spirit and practice of silence is essential. Only one who has learned how to be silent will be able to hear the cry of others, as well as the call of God.
Community Life. Benedictines pursue personal holiness as members of a community. The support of a group of like-minded individuals helps each monk as he makes his way to God. The community members provide each other with guidance, advice, correction, fraternal love, and frequent opportunities to exercise charity.

Poverty. A Benedictine monk receives all that is necessary for material and spiritual sustenance from God, through the community. Therefore, he can avoid the temptation of accumulating possessions and making them the center of his existence. He seeks to own nothing, and to let nothing own him. Trusting that what he needs will be provided, he is free to focus his attention on that which truly matters.

Conversion. Aware that internal weakness and external temptation pose constant challenges to spiritual growth, a Benedictine monk is committed to reject complacency and to be always open to the voice of God, so that the kingdom of God might be established within him.

Stability. A Benedictine monk makes a vow to spend the remainder of his life in the community of his profession. Making such a vow forces a person to confront problems without the possibility of escape and evasion, and enforces the family-oriented characteristics of a monastery, where monks spend decades together on their journey to God. Each benefits along the way by the diverse gifts all have to offer.

Prophetic Witness. The early Church considered monks to be the successors to the prophets of the Old Testament. Every genuine prophet is a witness for God, and the monk’s separation from worldly things is in essence a public statement that God’s kingdom is to be valued above all else. A Benedictine monk’s life should be a silent but eloquent witness to the primacy of God, which is attained when the materialistic aspects of existence are set aside.

Celibacy. A Benedictine monk forgoes marriage as a sign of his total dedication to God and His Kingdom. Instead of promising himself to another person, he promises celibacy, a visible sign of the spiritual pilgrimage he has chosen. Monks are committed to chastity, honesty in relationships with others, never allowing momentary impulses to take the place of permanent commitment. The monk’s only permanent commitment is to a religious fellowship with God, which frees him for service to those around him.
Obedience. The essence of St. Benedict’s teaching is that a monk must, like Christ, lay aside his own will in order to be free to do the will of God. In this context, one can see the vow of obedience as freedom, not enslavement. Obedience gives freedom from the enslavement of sin and self-will in order to allow growth in spiritual maturity as sons of God.
Renunciation. With morality, as with diet, bad habits lead to a weighing down of the person that hampers the full and proper enjoyment of life. A Benedictine monk seeks to prepare himself for his spiritual quest by giving up bad things, and even good things if they are obstacles to attaining God.
Work. Any type of work compatible with the structure of the monastic life described by St. Benedict is suitable for a monk, and he can undertake whatever activity he is assigned with joy and a clear conscience. In a community founded on the Rule’s balanced approach to work, each monk is given the opportunity to use his talents within the larger framework of a life of prayer.

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