July 12, 2008
July 11, 2008
11 JULY A.D. MMVIII, SOLEMNITY OF SAINT BENEDICT
All the posts below for today are re-postings of posts I have done in the past that are relevant to Saint Benedict and his monks.
The Benedictine calendar has an additional day for celebrating St. Benedict, March 21, the anniversary of his death in A.D. 547.
Except for Sacred Scripture, no other document has had so great an influence of the development of Western European civilization as the “Rule” (or “Regulations”) that St. Benedict wrote for monasteries.
As the Church spread from Southern Europe into Middle and Northern Europe, the Church planted monasteries to serve as centers of evangelization, catechesis, worship, collective agricultural economy, and education. The typical pattern in founding a new monastery was to send a combined team of monks and laity to a new location to build a monastery and a village.
Many, possibly most, European towns have or had a Benedictine monastery as their historic center and origin.
One “archaeological” remnant that shows some of the Benedictine roots of Western culture is the cuculla, the full monastic liturgical garment. The cuculla’s modern secular and religious descendants are academic gowns, judge’s chamber robes, and church choir robes.
A second contribution of Benedictine monasticism at least to the English language is the use of the word “chapter” to refer to the local branch of a widespread organization. Benedictine monks gathered for daily meetings at which they read aloud a chapter from the regulations of St. Benedict. They came to call all their meetings of any sort “chapter meetings.” We still refer to all of a monastery’s monks in perpetual vows as that monastery’s “chapter.”
Pope Pius XII called St. Benedict the Father of Europe.
[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.
(Restoration! Yes, but only to pose for a photograph!) SAINT BENEDICT, MONKS, SHARP OBJECTS, ALCOHOL
St. Benedict died on 21 March A.D. 547. Back in the sixth century, monks wore knives at the belt like everyone else. The knife was a multi-purpose tool for both eating and working. At some point during the one and a half millennia since the life of St. Benedict, monks discontinued the wearing of a knife.
How cool it would be if the Benedictine habit still included a knife at the belt! Make mine a Ka-Bar! Actually a short medieval dagger would be more in keeping with the habit.
Here’s what St. Benedict had to say about monks and knives.
Chapter 55: On the Clothes and Shoes of the Brethren
.... And in order that this vice of private ownership may be cut out by the roots, the Abbot should provide all the necessary articles— hooded garment, tunic, stockings, shoes, belt, knife, stylus, needle, handkerchief, writing tablets— that all pretext of need may be taken away.
Chapter 22: How the Monks Should Sleep
.... Let them sleep clothed and girded with belts or cords, but not with their knives at their sides, lest they cut themselves in their sleep.
Whenever St. Benedict expressly prohibits or discourages something, I’m sure he does so because he finds it necessary. From experience.
Here’s something similar.
Chapter 40: On the Measure of Drink
.... We read it is true, that wine is by no means a drink for monks; but since the monks of our day cannot be persuaded of this let us at least agree to drink sparingly and not to satiety, because "wine makes even the wise fall away".
- - - -
More about the Clothing of Monks.
. . . St. Benedict died.
He was the first to prescribe the use of a "scapular". However, in his time a scapular was still merely a work apron. Over time monks began to see it as a symbol of the work of the Cross. Benedictines made the scapular increasingly longer and began to wear it all the time, not just for work. The habit scapular became a long panel of cloth with a hole in the middle for the head. It is shoulder-wide, straight-sided, ankle-length and square-cornered. The scapular hangs nearly to the ankles both in front of the body and behind. Most of the older religious orders copied the scapular from the Order of Saint Benedict (the oldest religious order).
The small devotional scapular that many Catholics wear is a symbolic miniature of the full-size scapular that monks and nuns have as part of the habit. Like the full-sized habit scapular of monks, the miniature devotional scapular has a front panel and a back panel with cords that pass over each shoulder ("scapula" in Latin) to connect the front and back panels. The brown devotional scapular pictured above is the scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Some time ago I posted a description and images of the parts of the complete Benedictine monastic habit.
July 10, 2008
July 08, 2008
Italian teen one step closer to sainthood
The Congregation for the Causes of the Saints issued a decree last week recognizing the heroic virtues of Chiara “Luce” Badano, a young Italian girl who belonged to the Focolare Movement and died in 1990 at the age of 18.
The new “Venerable” Chiara was born in Sassello, Liguria, on October 29, 1971, to the joy of her parents, truck driver Ruggero Badano, and Maria Teresa Caviglia, who waited eleven years to have a child.
“Amidst our great joy, we understood immediately that she was not only our daughter but also a daughter of God,” her mother said according to a biography published by Focolare.
Since childhood, Chiara showed a deep love for God and a strong but docile character. She was joyful, kind and very active.
At the age of nine she joined the Focolare Movement. In 1985 Chiara moved to Savona to continue her education, and according to her biographers, “She had a difficult time despite her great efforts. She was held back one year and this made her suffer greatly.”
Chiara had many friends and loved sports, especially tennis, swimming and hiking. She dreamed of being a flight attendant and enjoyed dancing and singing. However, at the age of 16 she decided to pursue the consecrated life.
She had a close relationship with the foundress of the Focolare, Chiara Lubich, who gave her the name, “Luce.”
Soon afterwards she was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in her shoulder. She began intense chemotherapy while she continued her daily life with the same joy and faith.
This joy and faith moved Chiara to give all of her savings to a friend who was going to be a missionary in Africa, even though she was ill.
Despite the efforts by doctors, her illness progressed rapidly and she lost the use of her legs. “If I had to choose between walking or going to heaven I’d choose heaven,” she told her family.
In July of 1989 she suffered severe hemorrhaging and her death appeared imminent. She told her parents, “Don’t cry for me. I am going to Jesus. At my funeral I don’t want people to cry, but rather to sing with all their voices.”
On her deathbed, Chiara prayed for the strength to fulfill God’s will. “I don’t ask Jesus to come for me to bring me to heaven; I don’t want to give him the impression that I don’t want to suffer anymore,” she said. She asked her mother to help her prepare for her funeral, or her “wedding feast,” as she called it.
She gave her mother detailed instructions about how she should be dressed, the music, the flowers, the hymns and the readings. She asked her mother to repeat the words, “Now Chiara, go to Jesus.”
She died on October 7, 1990, surrounded by her parents. Her friends were gathered outside the door. Her final words were, “Ciao. Be happy because I am.”
Some two thousand people attended her funeral.
Chiara’s cause for beatification was opened in 1999 by Bishop Livio Maritano, the bishop of Acqui at the time. He said his decision was based on Chiara’s “way of living, especially the extraordinary example she gave during the last stage of her life.” “I had no doubt about promoting her cause,” the bishop said.