Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Saint Benedict of Nursia

Today the Church honors Saint Benedict, the great Father of Western Monasticism. But for us who are living, not in monasteries but directly immersed in the world, what is his significance?

The first lesson of Benedict is dissatisfaction. Benedict belonged to the Roman nobility and he had everything any of us would have wanted: intelligence, money, (good looks?) prestige. But having all these, Benedict's heart kept searching for something more, which made him turn to solitude where the 'still small voice' could be found. Benedict's heart rested not in the fleeting company of the world but yearned to be with God, who alone could satisfy his longing.

The young Benedict went into a cave but soon enough, came out as a man of God. In the Prologue of his Rule, Benedict exhorts the aspiring monk, not to retreat but to take up arms for Christ. He himself founded twelve monasteries and wrote the Rule which up to now remains the principal source of monastic spirituality. Even when bound within the monastic walls, Benedict always sought to give glory to God; his battle cry: "Ut in omnibus glorificetur Deus"-that in all things God may be glorified. Although himself bound by the monastic vow of stability, Benedict was a man in constant flux.

But even in the midst of his movement, even outside the solitude of the cave, Benedict maintained a profound stillness of spirit-peace which has since been his legacy. In the end, Benedict was not a man who fled the world to find God's home, but one who found a home for God in his heart while living amidst the world, even if only the world within the walls of his monastery, or if he were in our time and in our place, the hectic and complicated world we live in. The monastery is not a place of escape from the world. The true monastery is that home we share with God in our hearts where we can retreat at the end of the day and rest secure.

On this feast of Saint Benedict, let us pray for his three gifts. May we always long for God in our lives and may our longing spur us on to give him glory in all that we do. Even amid the hustle and bustle of life, may we find a sanctuary for God in our hearts-an intimate and hidden dwelling where we can remain with him and find our peace.

Saint Benedict, pray for us!

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