Reflections on the Rule: January 2009 Archives

Reflections on the Rule, Friday, January 16, 2009

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For the care of the monastery's property in tools, clothing and other articles let the Abbott appoint brothers on whose manner of life and character he can rely; and let him, as he shall judge to be expedient, consign the various articles to them, to be looked after and to be collected again. The Abbott shall keep a list of these articles, so that as the brothers succeed one another in their assignments he may know what he gives and what he receives back.  RB Chap 32

 

 

          Is the use of equipment a spiritual matter?  In this chapter in the Rule, Benedict lays out some guidelines for the care of the monastery's property and tools, so it's clear he thinks it is.  It is so important to Benedict that he lays the responsibility for these items at the feet of the Abbot, the head man.  The Abbot may delegate the responsibility but only to brothers on whose manner of life and character he can rely.  Why would Benedict include matters that seem to have little or nothing to do with the prayer and growth in Christ of the monks of the community? 

 

          I think the underlying reason is that he doesn't see life as divided between "holy" activities such as prayer and meditation, and everything else.  He isn't one to compartmentalize our work, play and prayer lives; for Benedict, they are not separate and distinct, but one.  Given that, Benedict is saying that if any aspect of our lives is holy, then the tools, as well as the talents we use to carry out those activities are also, in a sense, holy.  They are also gifts from God.  That makes us stewards of those gifts; we owe God the duty to use them and take care of them. 

 

          Benedict, then, is preaching an "attitude of gratitude."  Our daily routines many times seem wearisome, stressful, frustrating, and sometimes pointless.  It's hard to see our work as a gift.  It's even harder, when these times come, to stop to thank God for grace he has given us in the job itself, as well as the talents and tools we need to do it so that we can support ourselves and our families.  Yet Benedict thinks these things are gifts and wants us to show gratitude for them by valuing them and taking care of them.  He wants us to be good stewards.  This little chapter of the Rule is a reminder to be attentive to God's grace, even in the little things.

 

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