St. Benedict

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the memorial of St. Benedict. Although for a long time I had no particular attachment to St. Benedict, the combination of visiting his birthplace in Italy (Nursia, or Norcia) and the devotion to Benedict of a now-deceased priest who was a good friend of mine led me to pay more attention to him.

We know Benedict as the founder of an order that still thrives today and as the author of a Holy Rule that he established for his followers. What we sometimes forget about Benedict and his Rule is that Benedict was a layman; he was never a priest. And his Rule was written for the laity.

Let me say here just two things about Benedict’s Rule. First, he intended it as “a little rule…for beginners.” It offers what could be called a moderate path to holiness, a path any ordinary person could take. He aimed that “the strong would have something to strive after and the weak would not be driven away.” Another author suggested it contained “the moderation and compassion of the Gospel itself and it also has the urgency and the fire and passion of the Gospel.” Moderation is not a bad rule for us to keep in mind.

Second, concerned with our ability to be distracted, and thus led to sins of omission or indifference, Benedict proposed reminders for prayer at prescribed times of day. It was with the development and spread of Benedictine monasteries that the Liturgy of the Hours became an established practice in the Church.

There is value in these reminders, and we might ask ourselves, what daily reminders or interrupters might we incorporate in our daily schedule to bring God to mind at various times during the day, to just take a momentary time out. Although I have gotten out of the practice of doing so, for a long while the first thing I did when I arrived in my office was go to the Angels of the Hours feature on the website and spend a few moments listening to the bells for Prime. (Now, when I arrive at the law school, I try to stop into the meditation room that I pass on my way to the stairs to go to my office for at least a few minutes.) Some people use the ringing of the telephone as their interrupter, taking a moment to be consciously in God’s presence before answering the call. It doesn’t matter what it is, the idea is to find something, anything the serves the same purpose as the bells signalling one of the “Hours” a call to mindfulness, a call to consciously mark a moment as sacred. I’m sure you can come up with a meaningful one for yourself.