Core Values of Benedictine Spirituality

This blog is by Sam Rahberg, Director of the Benedictine Center, St. Paul, MN, and first appeared on the website of the Benedictine Center.

Benedictine spirituality offers an important voice in our world today, a voice which informs our praying, living and discerning. It is one among many schools that speak to contemporary hearts, yet it is particularly unique in its lasting impact on Western Christianity.

SAINT BENEDICT

Benedict of Nursia lived from ca. 480 to 547 CE in Italy. The Rule of St. Benedict (RB) became a foundational text for monasticism in the West, having emerged in the sixth century as the Roman civilization was collapsing. There was societal chaos and political dissatisfaction and we might wish that the conditions of those times did not sound so familiar to our modern ears. What we know about St. Benedict himself comes to us mainly through Gregory the Great (ca. 540-604 CE), who praised Benedict for his discretion and moderation.

THE RULE OF SAINT BENEDICT (RB)

According to monastic scholar Fr. Columba Stewart OSB, the 73 brief chapters of the RB make up four major sections. The Prologue through RB 7 are a foundational primer; RB 8-20 speak of liturgical prayer; RB 20-67 include teachings for the common life; and RB 68-72 offer a theology of monastic life with an emphasis on love (Prayer and Community: The Benedictine Tradition. Orbis, 20-21). RB 73, the final chapter, is more or less a bibliography for all that precedes it.

The RB is saturated with Scripture and, as Esther de Waal has suggested in her book Seeking God: The Baptismal Invitation of the Rule of St. Benedict (Liturgical Press, 2009), the Prologue exemplifies this as a model of baptismal instruction.” For example, “Let us get up then, at long last for the Scriptures rouse us when they say: It is high time for us to arise from sleep (Rom 13:11),” or “Run while you have the light, that the darkness of death may not overtake you (John 12:35).” Scripture and baptism undergird the Benedictine vision of Christian discipleship, a vision which relies on a prayerful orientation toward God and relationships which support us in Christ-centeredness. Thus prayer and community, to borrow again from Stewart, are at the heart of the Benedictine school of spirituality.

CORE VALUES OF BENEDICTINE SPIRITUALITY

Among the many available lists of core Benedictine values, I find that of Saint John’s Abbey to be one of the most helpful. For the reader’s convenience, I will include only six of them here along with a simple explanation. As you read, pay attention to the one or two which resonate most for you today. You will likely recognize the timeless quality of the values which has caused them to endure for centuries and continue speaking to the many layers of our human experience (personal, familial, communal and societal).

Moderation

Balance is less about achieving perfect equilibrium than it is a pendulum which continuously swings back toward a central point. How are we being invited to swing back toward Christ-centeredness? What does it mean for us to learn contentment with living simply? That kind of movement toward moderation is especially important as we live the open and complex questions.

Dignity of Work

We each hunger to make a meaningful contribution to our world. How have we been equipped by God to do so? It is a matter of self-respect and purpose which we see clearly in the changing nature of retirement. What do I make (or make possible) with the precious energy of my life?

Listening

The discipline of slowing down to pay attention renews our orientation toward receiving the presence of Christ. What calls us to attention? What helps us practice setting down our agendas in order to be more fully present? Stop the madness; listen to the God who loves you.

Common Good

The wisdom of Native Americans has often been quoted as a way of thinking about the long term implications of our present actions: “What is the impact of our decisions on the seventh generation?” We are called to consider ourselves part of God’s larger and longer story, living a legacy which was a gift to us and inspiring others who will follow.

Stewardship

We are moved to profound respect for the ways the Creator puts resources at our disposal to further the kingdom of God. How do we “respect all things as vessels of the altar” (RB 31:10).

Justice

People are tired and worn out from striving against unhealthy systems. Unfortunately, Jesus never indicated discipleship would be easy. How are you being called to participate in God’s work of reconciliation, healing, and in shaping structures that support values like these.


REFLECTION

Which value speaks to your heart most strongly at this time and why?
How are you feeling called to commit that value to practice in the days ahead?

by Sam Rahberg
Benedictine Center
St. Paul Monastery, St. Paul, Minnesota

 

Membership has its benefits

In May the Core Team met to plan the 2019 Conference and take care of other ABRC business.  We want to reach out to Monasteries/Retreat Centers to invite you to be members of ABRC. There is information on joining our organization on the home page of this website, and preliminary information about the 2019 Conference on the Biennial Conference page.

We are working to improve our website and our media presence.  First of all, you’ll be getting quarterly newsletters from ABRC, with a retreat center featured, and other ABRC news  The ABRC website comes up, along with http://www.osb.org, when anyone googles Benedictine retreats.  We want to expand our member listing with a photo and additional information (such as your social media links)  to help those who are searching for a monastic retreat.  This blog, entitled “Reflections” is a place for conversation about our retreat centers and about benedictine spirituality.

We are dedicated to Benedictine spirituality and promoting our retreat centers.

Sisters Bobbi, Mary Jo, Betty, and Carol
Association of Benedictine Retreat Centers, Core Team

Return to Reflections 

Starting the conversation

Greetings!

This blog page has a dual purpose.  It will be a place for information about our organization between meetings — updates from your leadership team and the like.  It is also a place to extend the mission of our Benedictine Retreat Centers by sharing posts about the nuts and bolts of Benedictine spirituality — things like lectio divina, Liturgy of the Hours, and our balance of prayer and work.  So, we hope to start a conversation that will be helpful to all!

Sister Mary Jo
Association of Benedictine Retreat Centers, Co-chair

Return to Reflections