“An attractive aspect is that Benedictine spirituality directs itself so distinctly toward what needs to be done here and now, at this moment. It is not directed toward remote and exalted ideals which are only gained by spiritual masters. For her the holy is common; her asceticism is not directed toward elevated experiences, but everyday dedication to the improvement of quality.”
“Every contribution to the cognitive, esthetic, and moral quality of the world is a contribution to the kingdom of God.”
Quotes from The Rule of Benedict for Beginners by Wil Derkse
This is what attracts me so strongly to the Benedictine charism – its something I can do. It’s a way to God that I can live out.
I’ve worked most of my adult life as an accountant. It’s not the kind of career that many folks would think of as leading one to God, what with its strong financial orientation. In fact, there are probably few accountants who would think that way. Yet, being an accountant orients a person to seek order and even beauty. I’ll give you an example.
I remember when I was starting my career in public accounting working with an older gentleman, very experienced but considered by most as, at best, a bit of an eccentric. He had independent means and worked only part time. This was in the day before computers, or even electronic calculators, and everything was done by hand. We used paper spreadsheets, often taping two or more together to get a lot of columns on one page. In order to indicate that required audit steps had been completed, we usually used red, blue or green pencils to make “tick marks”, symbols, on these spreadsheets to indicate what steps had been done.
One day, while working on an audit, I walked by the older fellows desk and saw that he had one of our spreadsheets out and, also, a box full of different colored pencils. He was busy making numerous “tick marks” using nearly every color in the box. The spreadsheet was awash in color. My first thought was that he was wasting time and ruining a work paper so I spoke up, hesitantly. “Horatio!” (Not his real name) “Horatio, what are you doing?” He looked up at me with joy in his eyes, looked back down at his creation and said, “A think of beauty is a joy forever!” I looked, and the spreadsheet was beautiful.
This happened more than 30 years ago and I’ve never forgotten it, in fact, I’ve always considered it a valuable lesson. I realized that, even as an accountant, I could appreciate beauty in my work. I didn’t understand at the time that this was a truly Benedictine way of looking at things, but I’ve always strived to put it into practice. I had no idea at the time of honoring God, but that’s what Horatio was trying to say.
All beauty is from God. Benedict wants us to learn from his Rule to become attentive to it in everyday events, all of them. The first word of the Rule is “Listen”, meaning: pay attention to what is going on around you, listen for God. I think Benedict would say that, many people who become separated from God don’t do so because they outright reject him, they do so simply because they become inattentive. It happens that they may, for some reason, just stop going to Mass every week, they stop praying every day, they just get out of the habit of paying attention to their faith. They stop listening. This is what Benedict warns us about when he writes, “Listen.”
Listen, can you hear His voice?