Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ora et Labora

Pray and work. That's the motto of the Order of St. Benedict. These are the guys who basically saved Western Civilization after the fall of Rome. Oh sure, the Empire endured over in Constantinople, and Byzantine society flourished, but Europe had basically been left to the barbarians.

I mention this because I neglected to post on the Feast of St. Benedict which was on July 11. It is not a good thing to forget stuff like that. Considering that the monasteries that were the product of Benedict's spiritual fruitfulness preserved the whole of Europe for generations, we should be quite thankful that God gave us such a man. Even more than that, though, God has chosen to glorify this hero in His heavenly presence. It seems only just that, here on Earth, we should glorify him and the work he did for God's Church.

Keeping in mind that Benedict wrote his famous Rule for layfolk rather than clergy, I point out this very simple nugget, found in the Rule's Prologue:

To thee, therefore, my speech is now directed, who, giving up thine own will, takest up the strong and most excellent arms of obedience, to do battle for Christ the Lord, the true King.
In the first place, beg of Him by most earnest prayer, that He perfect whatever good thou dost begin, in order that He who hath been pleased to count us in the number of His children, need never be grieved at our evil deeds. For we ought at all times so to serve Him with the good things which He hath given us, that He may not, like an angry father, disinherit his children, nor, like a dread lord, enraged at our evil deeds, hand us over to everlasting punishment as most wicked servants, who would not follow Him to glory.

What has always struck me by this passage is that it immediately takes what we normal conceive as the peaceful and uneventful life of the monastary and casts it in the mold of warfare. not just any warfare either, but rather a war with the highest stakes possible. This continues throughout its contents, as Benedict constantly reminds us that every day life is nothing short of a conflict between good and evil, with us as the combatants.

You can read the rest of the Rule here, at the Order's web site. Would that we all had the internal constitution to incorporate it into our own lives.

Holy Father Benedict, pray for us.


Anonymous said...

Do you have a source for the claim that it was written for layfolk? I haven't studied it in some time, but my recollection is that it largely governed the behavior of the Abbot, religious, worship, etc. Then again, perhaps you mean layfolk to mean those who are not ordained (thus including the monk).

I don't, of course, think this undermines anything you say about the work's importance.

Throwback said...

By laity I do mean non-clergy. However, there are Benedictine Oblates, who are basically regular folks living in the secular world and living by the Rule.

Check out The Benedictine Handbook, edited by Anthony Marett-Crosby. It's got some great stuff on the history of the Rule and its application in both the monastic and secular settings.