January 25, 2008

Benedictines Seen as Aid to Ecumenism

Abbot Says Key to Unity Is Being Rooted in Christ

From Zenit.org, January 25, 2008

The Benedictine spirituality is an asset to the quest for Christian unity, since St. Benedict lived before any great divisions in the Church, says the abbot of the community at St. Paul Outside the Walls.

Benedictine Father Edmund Power affirmed this in an interview with H2O News ahead of Benedict XVI's visit to the basilica today. The Pope went to St. Paul Outside the Walls to celebrate vespers for the closing of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Father Power affirmed that the modern world poses many "challenges, threats and difficulties for Christians." He said a commitment to "defining better what it means to be a Christian in the world, especially in the West, where Christianity is not well understood" is beginning to be seen.

The abbot confessed that when he first heard the term "spiritual ecumenism" he thought it was a phrase used "because of a lack of concrete progress in unity"— as if it was recognized that "it's not possible to have real unity, so let's have a spiritual unity."

Later, he said he understood that "there is a deep significance to spiritual ecumenism," which he takes to mean, "What we can do is to seek Christ together, to seek the will of God together through prayer, sacrifice and service."

"This is primary, but more important is that no union is possible if all who believe in Christ are not profoundly rooted in his life," Father Power continued. "This is the essential point of unity, the spiritual element. It means to highlight this and advance together to find concrete, pragmatic, daily ways of living together."

For all

The abbot said the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, which during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity hosts vigils with the participation of various Christian confessions, is "an ecumenical basilica."

This ecumenical character proceeds, in part, from the spirituality of the monks, he said: "The Benedictine spirituality is a spirituality of the united Church because St. Benedict [480-543] lived before the divisions in the Church."

Therefore, Father Power continued, "The spirituality of our monastic life in the West is that of St. Benedict, a spirituality for all Christians. That's why our style of life goes along very well with this commitment to unity."

The Benedictine said that the community at St. Paul Outside the Walls is not precisely an ecumenical community in that, "we don't have monks that are not Catholics." But, he said, "We have here the tomb of St. Paul to welcome whoever comes and looks for God, especially Christians, but others as well."


Anonymous Bob Farrell said...

Spending our energy to establish the KoG using means upon which we can agree is a fearful prospect to Satan and that's why he spends so much time getting us to waste our energies on disagreements.

I have a quibble however with how Abbot Edmund characterizes the ecumenical appeal of St. Benedict in saying "...because St. Benedict [480-543] lived before the divisions in the Church."

Due to Man's imperfections and Satan's efforts, there has never existed a time without division in the Church. Early divisiveness is readily apparent in St. Paul's constant rebukes and calls for unity among the communities he establishes. The time before the Great Schism was not an idyllic period of Christian unity.

Divisiveness will always be a problem until the end times, and that's why Abbot Edmund's message in this article is so important. We will have differences (like whether to hold hands during the Our Father). So what? Working together to further Jesus' mission is what's important.

10:46 AM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

In St. Benedict's own day Christianity was still struggling against the Pelagian heresy.

Part of the appeal of St. Benedict for the Eastern Churches is that St. Benedict refers to St. Basil as "our father."

1:47 PM  
Anonymous Dean Whinery said...

Most of my life I've had contact with either Benedictines or Franciscans. While these Orders are quite different, it is obvious that members of both carry within themselves a certain joy. I think this joy is what makes them tools for ecumenism.
It can also be observed that non-Catholic groups, various strains of the Anglicans, some Lutheran, and others, are trying in their own ways to follow the Rules set forth by the saints who founded these orders. Another form of ecumenism?

9:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


5:48 AM  

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