St. Benedict offers three aspects
Published 9:29 am Friday, July 11, 2014
Across the Pastor’s Desk by Mike Ellis
Today is the feast day of St. Benedict. In honor of St. Benedict’s feast day, three spiritual aspects come from the rule of St. Benedict for us to reflect upon on these summer days.
The first is prayer
We learn from a very young age that prayer is saying certain prayers. We sputter away the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be and believe we have prayed. Later in life, we learn about prayer being acts: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication. In other words, let God know how great God is, confess what we feel needs to be forgiven and thank God for God’s steadfast love and forgiveness, then hit him up for some goodies. Not a bad approach, but it can too easily become rote and meaningless. St. Benedict challenges us to consider the depth of prayer is as being contemplation — not talking to God as much as simply “opening the ear of your heart,” as Benedict says in the first chapter of the rule. We are called to be silent in life, listening for the movement of the spirit, clearing away the clutter of the day and very literally preparing a place for the presence of God.
Love through service
Ora et labora, “prayer and work,” is the Benedictine motto. Silence is golden, as the saying goes, but our labor is how we can make God’s presence known most perfectly in the world. And lest the monastic brothers and sisters come to regard their daily physical exertions as mere ends in themselves, Benedict offers a helpful guiding principle: “All… are to be welcomed as Christ” (RB 53). That is, as Jesus expressed God’s love explicitly through his ministry to others, even unto the point of death on a cross, so must we be ever mindful of the objective of our labors: to make the love of God apparent to those in our midst. It is by their very presence that Christ walks among us.
It is very easy these days to assume that spirituality is something that pertains only to individuals; something to be experienced rather than practiced, enjoyed rather than applied and guarded rather than shared. How else can we explain the prevalence of the commonly heard quip, “I’m spiritual, but not religious”? Anselm Gruen, OSB, suggests that many people he meets are drawn to spirituality because they see it as something that will make them “more interesting.” This is a misguided assumption. The true mark of the life of the spirit, he went on to say, is the way that we are emboldened to look beyond ourselves and meet the other face to face. More specifically, it means taking what we encounter in our contemplative lives and making it applicable to the world “out there.” In order for this to be effective, we must be acutely aware of what is happening around us in our local, national and global communities.
As we move about our summer days let us be mindful of deepening our prayer life through contemplation. Make God’s love apparent to those we encounter in our day to day lives and be aware of God’s presence in our lives and share it.
Mike Ellis is a deacon at St. Theodore Catholic Church in Albert Lea and St. James Catholic Church in Twin Lakes.