Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Rule of St. Benedict and Family Life

I am currently discerning becoming an oblate at Clear Creek Abbey. I have been praying about this and reading the rule of St. Benedict (again) to aid in discernment. As I read through the chapters and meditate on the wisdom of the Holy Father of Western Monasicism I am struck by the uniqueness of the Rule. St. Hildegard of Bingen referred to St. Benedict as a second Moses because like Moses he gave a rule of life. The monastery is meant to be the ideal place and environment in which to strive for Christian perfection. However, I am not a monk, nor are the majority of the readers of this blog. Most of us are fathers and mothers of children, or single people still discerning their vocations. Thus as I read the Rule I am struck most acutely by how well it pertains to the rule and order of family life. The wisdom pertained therein isn't only for those in religious life, but provides a basis for the restoration of Catholic Culture in the home as well.

As I read the Rule I begin to understand that the secret to the success of monasteries is really all in order. St. Benedict set up a life for his monks that flowed from one thing to another. Idleness, the great enemy of the soul, has no place in a monastery faithful to the Rule. Ora et Labora provide a constant rhythm of life, which when followed carefully, guides the soul to a more perfect union with Christ. Undoubtedly, at times the good Saint is quite strict, and yet his Rule is known for being quite moderate and therein lies its secret of success. As Abbot Phillip Anderson of Clear Creek once pointed out: (paraphrased the early monks tried to pray all day and simply went crazy, they couldn't do. St. Benedict gave an approach to life that was balanced and fulfilled man's nature. St. Benedict warns of the pleasures of the world. This morning I read how the road of pleasures leads to the gates of hell, and recently that the brothers ought not to pamper themselves. He recognizes the slippery slope that the world offers and instead offers the high road to perfection.

It is not reasonable that a family could do everything that the rule offers, suggests, or demands. Rather that family can adapt it to their own needs and desires. A family could not be expected to pray the 8 times a day required in the Rule, but they could pray part of the Divine Office together, or at least have set prayer times. The Rule has much to say for families today in their brokenness. I hope that some of you will take some time to read the Rule and see what it has to offer.



Devin Rose said...

We are interested in Tulsa because 1) Benedictines of Clear Creek are nearby, 2) a new Benedict community Our Lady of the Cenacle has been started there, and 3) Daughters of Mary, Mother of Israel's Hope has been started there (Rosalind Moss' community).

Our hope would be that we could be oblates/third order with one of these communities. The Benedictine Rule would be awesome to embrace. But we also would like to be geographically close to them if possible. Are there reasons y'all could not move closer to there?

Matthew said...

Laudetur Iesus Christus!

Kevin, have you heard of the book "Listen My Son: St. Benedict for Fathers" by Dwight Longenecker?

May be of some interest to you. I'm not a father, but read it a while back. It seemed to offer some very nice reflections.

Kevin Ford said...

Devin- Well the reasons currently for not being closer to Clear Creek are both practical and familial. My wife and I both went to a Catholic college and have alot of student debt. The county we live in here in KS has a 5 year loan forgiveness program that we just started. In five years our student loans will be gone, and I will have enough farming experience to go wherever God leads us. The other reason is that my wife's family is in KS and she is extremely attached to them. It is very hard for her to be 3.5 hours from them, and making it 6 hours would happen only if we believed it to be God's will. We have a fantastic living arrangement on a farm with a very generous owner who wants to see us succeed in our farming goals. We are paying next to nothing to live here in a very nice farmhouse with just right amount of acreage. I don't know that we will be here forever, but we feel certain this is where God wants us for now. By the way, where would you be moving from if you move to the Tulsa area?

Matthew- Thank you much for the book. I put it on the list of desired books that is always expanding. I also want to get a 1963 monastic diurnal to pray the hours along with the monks as well as the commentary on the Rule for oblates that Clear Creek has on their site. It is supposed to be very good.


Devin Rose said...


Makes sense. Good for you finding such a good situation to start your farming life. We live in New Mexico right now, and looked around here first, but fact is water is scarce and land with water is through the roof. So Oklahoma calls!