monasticism, monk, psalm 51, rule of life, sincere heart, spiritual growth, St. Benedict, The Sophia Center for Spirituality, wisdom
A verse from the Psalm of the day (51) speaks to me of St. Benedict whose feast is celebrated today. It says, “Behold, you are pleased with sincerity of heart and in my inmost being you teach me wisdom.” Benedict was born into a distinguished Italian family in or around the year 480. He felt the call to be a monk early in his life but did not find the life of the monastery he entered helpful in his quest for God so he became a hermit living in a cave for three years. Other monks came to him then, asking him to lead their monastery. He agreed but that experience was worse than the first as he was deemed too strict for the monks and they actually tried to poison him. His heart was by then, however, converted to the monastic way so and he dreamed of a monastery where families of monks could all come together in a life of brotherhood and unity with permanence/stability in prayer. This he achieved in the monastery at Monte Cassino which became one of the most famous monasteries in the world. Benedict is credited with bringing monasticism to the West and his Rule of Life (the only text he ever wrote) has been a model for monastics for 1500 years. The rhythm of prayer, liturgy, study and manual labor while living together in community has gathered men and women of sincere heart in an atmosphere of God’s love and in the quest for wisdom with the goal of union with God. Today, a new expression of Benedict’s rule is growing as “regular folks” join groups in “monasteries without walls.” Going about their life in “the world” these monastics of the heart follow the rule of Benedict seeking a balanced day of work and prayer, alone and in regular gatherings with others. Many have written about this phenomenon (Try Google!) and it is one more indication that God is alive and well and living in our world. Today we should be grateful for Benedict and all others who, simply by their sincerity and wisdom have led many seekers on the path of spiritual growth.