July 11, 2008


How a Benedictine monastery can lead a man to God

[Click on the diagram to see it larger.]

If he truly seeks God, a monk looks in THREE directions, and receives support from them.

1 The monk has a relationship with his COMMUNITY OF FELLOW MONKS in the monastery as individuals and as a community.
However, the community is not an absolute, but is relative to and receives moderation from the abbot, from the “Rule” (St. Benedict’s book of teachings and regulations), and from the individual monk. St. Benedict encourages openness to the reality that God can send guidance to the community by revealing it to even the youngest monk.

If the community were to become an absolute, the possible results could be anarchical, antinomian, and whimsical (“politically correct”). St. Benedict has set up some democratic processes in the monastery, but without making democracy the patter for the monastery.

The monastic community also mediates the Church, the Body of Christ, to the monk. The broader local Church itself prevents the monastic community from becoming an absolute. St. Benedict even assigns to the neighboring laity, clergy, and religious the moral obligation of intervening against a monastic community that has collectively decided on a path of vice.

2 The monk has a relationship with the ABBOT of the monastery.
However, the abbot is not an absolute— whether a tyrant or a benevolent absolute monarch.

The abbot receives moderation by obeying the Rule and by listening to counsel from his community and individual monks.

Nonetheless, the abbot “holds the place of Christ,” in the teaching of St. Benedict, and mediates the headship of Christ to the monk and the community.

3 The monk has a relationship to the RULE (St. Benedict’s book of monastery regulations and spiritual teaching).
However, the Rule is not an absolute (as in legalism, fundamentalism, “sola-Scripturism,” Phariseeism).

The “Rule” of St. Benedict does not define every single aspect of the monastery’s culture, but leaves some discernments to the abbot and the community.

The Rule is a mediation of the Ten Commandments (of the Father), the Gospel of Christ the Son, the inspired (by the Spirit) Word of God, and the teaching of the apostolic Church.

Benedictine monastic life draws the monk away from making himself into an autonomous absolute; it intentionally “relativizes” him by putting him into “relationship-mediated” relationship with God. Men come into being from and in relationship: they come into being from the relationship between father and mother, and in relationship to father and mother; men come into being from God the Creator, and in relationship to the Creator. However, a man does not exist merely as a subordinate of parents and the Creator; he also exists as a collaborator of God, as an equal of other men, and as a potential parent (“procreator”). While a monk’s calling to celibate chastity for the sake of God’s kingdom does not include marriage and the begetting of children, St. Benedict refers to the monastery as God’s household, where all are sons in the family of God.

All relationships in the monastery— and in the entire Church— are called to be intentionally dependent on and ordered towards the persons of the Trinity who are in relationship, in communio, with each other.

- - - -
I wrote the above to give a fuller unfolding of some things I have in my blog-article about monastic life and my own monastery.
Click HERE for it.


Blogger gilbs72 said...

Father, how does the Rule allow for sports and other physical recreation - to maintain the monks' good health? After reading the Life of St Benedict, parts concerning monks who were disciplined by the holy father seem to paint a picture (at least to me) that monks should not "enjoy" sports or maybe exercise. Surely, I am wrong as you all look quite healthy. Just that I have not come upon articles that explain this. Many many thanks again for finding time to enlighten me on my questions, Father.

6:07 PM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

Please remember that St. Benedict wrote in the sixth century. In those days they did not have our ideas about sports, physical recreation and good health. Monks would have gotten some exercise merely by physical work.

Today, Benedictines do not typically engage physically in farming, so they don't get exercise in that way. We have space in our modern schedules for "free time" when we can do physical exercise that is not necessarily work-related.

8:46 AM  

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