Many have inquired about attending St. Benedict for the Rest of Us which will be held at the Retreat House Chapel on April 17th. Their inquiries have ranged from ‘ how do I register’ (answer: by sending email to email@example.com) to ‘can the Rule of St. Benedict really apply to me? Can I really use it?’
The answer to the second question is a resounding yes. The Rule has many aspects to it that can support the spiritual life of any Christian-inside or outside the cloister. Within the Rule is very practical advice and guidance on living as Jesus called us to live.
That being said, we have to be careful because it is not, as Esther de Waal the famous Anglican Benedictine scholar once said-a self-help book. You won’t find the Rule next to “Twenty ways Jesus can make you happy” or “How faith in God can cure your rheumatism,” at your local bookstore (if you can find a local bookstore anymore). The Rule will not be useful if you are looking for it to solve your life’s problems with a ten step program.
Rather the Rule, and contemplative, monastic life, offer to those of us not in the monastery real, useful, and powerful information about balance, simplicity as a way of life, and non-attachment to things and even ideas, and about hospitality and prayer. The key to using the Rule for laypeople is to spend time with St. Benedict’s words about living an authentic and realistic Christian life.
The Saint, remember, says very clearly in the rule that he wishes to write nothing very burdensome. Many, who have the misunderstanding of the severity of monastic life being a manifestation of denial (though clearly there are aspects of the life that we would consider severe and monks and nuns do deny themselves many things we take for granted) will be surprised when reading the Rule to see the gentleness of it, the reasonable-ness of it for a life totally dedicated to God.
And while we may think only monks and nuns are to be ‘totally dedicated to God,’ truth is Jesus calls us ALL to be totally dedicated to God.
In our session on the 17th we’ll explore ten (probably more when we are done) aspects of monastic life that I have found are very applicable to my life and can be to yours. I have lived with this Rule in my life for over 35 years and have found it serves as a welcome and useful companion to the very hard work of trying to follow Jesus.
You might too.
We’ll also have a question and answer period/panel discussion with two Benedictines not in a monastery, Tim Carrington, the Chairman of the Board of Friends of St. Benedict (www. benedictfriend.org) and Pamela Butler an Oblate at St. Benedict’s Monastery in Bristow, Virginia (www.osbva.org) who has recently begun to teach on the Rule and lives as a Benedictine Oblate recently received at St. Benedict’s. They too will reflect on how the Rule has influenced their life, Tim from the perspective of someone who is not an Oblate (oblates in Benedictine monasteries are lay people who have made a commitment to the monastery and live a modified form of the Rule but do not take vows) but who has inculcated many Benedictine principles into his life, and Pamela from the perspective of one who has made a serious commitment to Benedictine life with that monastery.
I encourage anyone who has been interested, or even just curious, about monastic life to join us on the 17th. We will have our session and q/a starting at 3:30pm and after will go to the monks chapel and enjoy their chanting of Vespers (evening prayer) and Benediction, a beautiful time in the presence of Christ. Information and registration: firstname.lastname@example.org