Living the Zeal of Benedict

a blog by Sister Marilyn Schauble, OSB

The life of a monastic ought to be a continuous lent. 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 season the negligences of other times. RB 49:1-3

Lent is the model for the whole life of those who follow Benedict.
He indicates that the practices taken on during Lent
changing our behaviors
devoting ourselves to prayer with tears
extra reading
additional service to others
abstinence from food or drink
less talking and idle jesting
could spill over into the other days and seasons of our lives.

Benedict asks each one of us to try especially hard during the season of Lent
to improve the quality of our spiritual lives
so that each and every day might be filled with Easter joy and spiritual longing.

The life of a monastic ought to be a continuous Lent. Rule of Benedict 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.

The ladder erected is our life on earth, and if we humble our hearts God will raise it to heaven. (7:8)

While it is true that God is the principal actor in spiritual growth, Benedict never underestimates the importance of our contribution. Spirituality and the Way of Benedict are a means of entering into the fullness of life. External behavior often points to our inner life and hopefully our inner life shapes our external behavior. Virtue occurs when the inner life and outer life meet to form an authentic expression of our spiritual existence.


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

Every exaltation is a kind of pride. RB 7:2

Benedict is giving us a life principle: any form of self-exaltation is a barrier between us and God.

When everything is going smoothly, when we are feeling self-sufficient, God can be far from our consciousness, even distant. We usually discover God in hard times. Our own limitations push us to look beyond human resources for a solution to our discomfort. Benedict is reminding us that we do not usually find God when the going is good. Seeking for certainty elsewhere can limit our awareness of the ever-present love, compassion and faithfulness of God.