May 15, 2006

The Pope is a monk

In “America” magazine, Christopher Ruddy writes:
Benedict the abbot? – Pope’s focus on community, freedom in Christ

[Some excerpts from the article; then a link for the complete text of it.]

When Joseph Ratzinger chose Benedict XVI as his papal name, commentators quickly and correctly pointed out its significance. And in the year since his election, the new pope’s actions have borne out many of those expectations.

… And like St. Benedict of Nursia, the pope has worked to foster a Christian culture capable of renewing church and world in an age of daunting threats….

And yet, if his pontificate remains embryonic, a clear portrait of the man has begun to emerge: Pope Benedict the abbot. …I suggest that Benedict can be summed up as an abbot concerned with leading his community to a deeper encounter with God through prayer and service. …Benedict is a “gatherer,” concerned primarily with its [the Church’s] communion….

In one sense, the image of Pope Benedict XVI as abbot should not be surprising, as both titles, pope and abbot, mean father. And the pope’s admiration for St. Benedict and the Benedictines is well known.

On a deeper level, though, the Rule of St. Benedict tells us much about the pope’s vision of the church and of his ministry in it. Benedictine spirituality is perhaps the least spectacular of Catholic spiritualities. Where the Ignatian [Jesuit], for example, seeks the greater glory of God as a companion in Christ’s mission, and the Franciscan a radical identification with the poor and crucified Christ, the Benedictine encounters Christ above all in the routine of daily life. Rarely dramatic, it is a deep life, grounded in steady, prayerful attentiveness to God and in hospitable community.

The monastery, as the Rule famously describes it, is to be a “school for the Lord’s service”:
In drawing up its regulations, we hope to set down nothing harsh, nothing burdensome. The good of all concerned, however, may prompt us to a little strictness in order to amend faults and to safeguard love. Do not be daunted by fear and run away from the road that leads to salvation. It is bound to be narrow at the outset. But as we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love.
This entwining of moderation and zeal finds its complement in the Rule’s depiction of the abbot, who “holds the place of Christ in the monastery.” He is, literally, the vicar of Christ. Acting with discretion, the “mother” of all virtues, “he must so arrange everything that the strong have something to yearn for and the weak nothing to run from.”

I do not know whether Pope Benedict has consciously shaped his ministry in light of the Rule’s vision of the monastery and its abbot, though I suspect he has, but I suggest three areas in which that heritage helps make sense of his pontificate: love for the person of Christ, leadership as listening and his interpretation of Vatican II as an experience of renewal in continuity with the past….

Among the Benedictine Rule’s first lines are, “What, dear brothers, is more delightful than this voice of the Lord calling to us? See how the Lord in his love shows us the way of life.” In the gentleness of his person and the quiet joy of his words, this pope-abbot is showing … that call….

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For the complete text of the article, click on: HERE.

For the text of the “Rule of St. Benedict” click on: HERE.


Blogger Deep Furrows said...

We are so blessed to have a good father in Pope Benedict!

6:30 PM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

Yes, Fred!

We greatly need the personal teaching charism that he has long exercised in the Church.

8:11 PM  
Blogger Saint Peter's helpers said...

After reading the article, it just occured to me that the Pope can indeed be described as a monk. I couldn't quite find the correct description of his pontificate but your description seems quite accurate. I think it's timely that we have a Benedictine Pope.

4:38 PM  

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