We again celebrate , with the entire Church, the solemn feast of our father Saint Benedict, whose life and Rule we each professed to follow, possessed by the consuming desire that this way of life should lead us to the Kingdom of God. We pray to Saint Benedict for his intercession for us, his disciples and his sons in Christ.
We also call mind the members of the vast Benedictine family who have gone before us, for over fifteen centuries. In this liturgy we are all one, those in heaven and on earth, in celebrating and thanking Almighty God for the blessing this holy man’s teaching is in our lives.
As Cistercian monks, our community has a singular share in this celebration. Nine-hundred years ago, our Cistercian fathers made the inspired decision to leave the flourishing monastery of Molesme that they might more authentically live Benedict’s Rule without the accretions of customs and novel rituals. We still follow them today, striving to live according to that same vision, in our present circumstances in the Twenty-first Century.
The Rule for Monasteries which Benedict wrote for his followers is recognized by monks and laity alike in our day as an authentic way of living the Gospel of Christ. Those like us, called by God to commit our lives completely to him under a Rule and an abbot in the monastery, find ourselves witnessing to the Gospel to so many souls around us in the midst of today’s secular society.
The scriptures we have just heard speaks of this witness which God calls us to manifest. Although we prefer to dwell hidden and unknown within our monasteries, we nonetheless publicly demonstrate a community-centered life, as described in the Acts of the Apostles, called to renounce the claim to possess anything as our own. We can show that renunciation not only in material things–my books, my money, my home, my car–even my time or job–as we can also seek for true Wisdom that arises from the surrender of self-will, to conform more completely to God’s will. We express this life in common by our choice to live in mutual obedience in freedom of heart.
The fruit of such living is, according to St. Paul’s teaching, a true spiritual peace, that peace that only God can give. Is that not the peace that, today, so many long for and pray? Pope Benedict XVI once referred to St. Benedict as “Steeped in an atmosphere of prayer, the very foundation of his existence…Without prayer there is no experience of God.” A life of prayer gives birth to continual communion with our heavenly Father, as Jesus offered his apostles the night before he died: That they may be one, Father, as we are one. For those who dwell in God’s peace, there is divine communion.
Such prayer is the soil generating personal humility and detachment: the freedom from needing to control. This is that school of charity which Saint Benedict and our Cistercian Fathers established. Here is the law under which you wish to fight. If you can observe it, enter; if you cannot, you are free to depart. In God’s great mercy, we have entered, my brothers. And now, never departing from his school, but persevereing in the monastery according to his teachings until death, may we by patience share in the sufferings of Christ and deserve to have a share also in his kingdom.