More Benedictine Thoughts

I’m still basking in the glow of my week at St. Benedict’s Monastery. It was a productive week of work on the conversion book and just a wonderfully prayerful time.

As I sat reflecting back on my week there, a couple of things came to mind that I thought I’d share.

The first relates to the end of the Prologue of the Rule of Benedict, which gives a good reminder that how things seem to us at first is not necessarily how they will always seem to us. In the last paragraph of the Prologue, Benedict explains that it was not his intention to impose anything that was harsh or burdensome in the rule. However, he implores

if a certain strictness results from the dictates of equity for the amendment of vices or the preservation of charity, do not be at once dismayed and fly from the way of salvation, whose entrance cannot but be narrow (Matt. 7:14). For as we advance in the religious life and in faith, our hearts expand and we run the way of God’s commandments with unspeakable sweetness of love.

Many things that seem difficult at first blush, may not seem so to us as we grow in the faith. It is a good thing to keep in mind both when we look at the behavior of saints, which sometimes seems so impossible for us to emulate, and when we think about practices that might be suggested for our growth in faith.

The second thing that came to my my mind was a comment one of the sisters made at dinner one evening. I was telling her that while I enjoyed participating in the communal prayers and went every day to Morning Prayer and Noon Prayer (and Mass), I almost never made it for Evening Prayer.

The reason is this: Evening Prayer is at 7:00p.m. On most days, Mass is at 4:30, with dinner immediately following. The result is that dinner is finished by 6:10 or so. If I walk back to my office and try to get some work done, no sooner will I get my head wrapped back into my writing than it will be time to walk back for Evening Prayer.

As I said that, the Sister quietly said, “Well, yes, sometimes coming back for prayer is a sacrifice – having to stop our work, but we do it.” She made clear that she had no criticism of my not getting back for Evening Prayer (guests are invited but not expected to attend prayer services), but it was clear she would stop what she was doing to attend.

I thought about the conversation again and wondered, whether I should adopt more the practice of the Sister. Stopping my work to come back for Evening Prayer even if it was inconvenient. Or maybe taking a walk or even just sitting in the chapel or oratory between dinner and prayer. Something to think about for my next visit.