Living the Zeal of Benedict

a blog by Sister Marilyn Schauble, OSB

Since few, however, have the strength for this, we urge the entire community during these days of Lent to keep its manner of life most pure and to wash away in this holy season the negligences of other times. RB 49:2-3

Benedict knew that few people could really handle Lent year round, so he encourages his followers to at least keep the season of Lent especially pure.

Perhaps we might take extra time to deepen our relationship with God.

Perhaps we might respond to others’ needs with less thought about our needs.

Perhaps Benedict is
- showing a way to help us with interior transformation.
- asking us to make Christ the center of our lives.
- expecting us to be the manifestation of God’s presence in the world.

March 21 - The Passing of Benedict

Six days before Benedict's death, he ordered his tomb to be opened. Soon he was attacked by fever and was weakened with severe suffering. As the illness grew worse every day, Benedict asked his disciples to carry him into the oratory. There he strengthened himself for his departure. While the hands of his disciples held up his weak limbs, Benedict stood with his hands raised to heaven and breathed his last breath amidst words of prayer.

On that same day a revelation concerning Benedict came to two brothers, one of them resting in his cell, the other a long way off, in the form of a self-same vision. For they saw a road going in an easterly direction covered with carpets and shining with innumerable lamps which led from the cell right up to heaven. Above stood the shining figure of a man in venerable array who asked them if they knew whose road it was. The brothers admitted that they did not. So he said to them, "This is the road by which Benedict, beloved of God, ascends to heaven." Thus the death of the holy man was seen by the disciples present and was also made known to those absent by the sign foretold to them.

Benedict was buried in the oratory of blessed John the Baptist which he himself had built after he destroyed the altar of Apollo.

The Life of Saint Benedict
by Gregory the Great

The life of a monastic ought to be a continuous Lent. RB 49:1

The integrity of who we proclaim to be ought to have a Lenten quality. Lent, according to the popular view, is a portion of the year given over to fasting, abstinence and ascesis (practices) of self-discipline which emphasize “giving up.”

For Benedict Lent has a wider and deeper meaning. He is speaking of a Lent of the spirit. Each person’s life is to be spent seeking a meaningful union with God. As the union intensifies it manifests itself in acts of charity. According to Benedict, viewing Lent in this way means EVERY DAY ought to have a Lenten quality. The implication is that what happens in Lent also applies in principle throughout the year.

Benedict is gentle, even serene, in his approach to those who would follow his way of life. He is concerned that our Lenten journey should come from the heart and not merely external observances.

Sing Scholastica's fair story sing a strong and holy life.
As a young and true disciple she took up the noble strife
joining other holy women against the evils which were rife.

Honoring in her heart all nature, earth and water, fire and air.
She as God's own faithful daughter told the story of God's care
to her sisters as they gathered joined in listening, song and prayer.

Knowing God to be the author of the soul's desire to pray,
Benedict's twin sister ever with her brother shared the way
of the Holy Rule each striving to reflect the Spirit's ray.

Taught by God, she grew in wisdom, gave strong counsel to the weak,
holding work and prayer in balance time for silence, time to speak.
May we follow her example and with her God's presence seek.

Poem/Text by Elizabeth Morris Downie
Oblate of Mount Saint Benedict Monastery

Day by day remind yourself that you are going to die. RB 4:47

This verse in the Rule of Benedict is really something! A wake up call for me for sure!

Each time I read this line Benedict reminds me that my goal is to live in a state of mindfulness - a growing realization that my words, silence, actions, emotions, etc. affect my own spiritual journey and the journey of everyone and everything else that I share this planet with.

If I could really live every day as if I were about to die I hope I would be
-kinder inside and out
-more compassionate and forgiving
-less likely to judge others or myself
-more aware of the expansiveness of the divine presence
... the list could go on and on!

So how would you be?