Published on February 19, 2014
Benedictine Virtues Sister Edith Bogue Saints Catholic week The College of St Scholastica 18 February 2014
Being Benedictine, Being Catholic, Following Christ • Tonight, speaking from the Benedictine perspective • Less mention of “Catholic” or “Christian” • St. Benedict was, first of all, a disciple of Christ • • • • In his life, he gave up everything to follow Christ His Rule is grounded in Scripture and particularly the Gospel He refers constantly to the teachings of the Lord, and he means Jesus. Anyone of any religion may find wisdom in Benedict’s Rule, but he says that it is written for people who are called by Christ, and that one carries it out only through the grace of Christ. • St. Benedict’s monasteries were connected with the Church • There were Arians, including the Emperor, active in his time. • In his life and in Rule, he treats them with hospitality and prudence, but there is also evidence that he stayed connected with the bishop of his area and with the Catholic Church. • So it is fitting to talk about Benedictine Virtues in Catholic Week
Values & Virtues
Benedictine Values College of St Scholastica St. John’s and St. Ben’s • Community • Hospitality • Respect • Stewardship • Love of Learning • Awareness of God • Community Living • Taking Counsel • Respect for persons • Listening • Dignity of work • Hospitality • Stewardship • Truthful living • Moderation • Common Good • Justice
Values vs. Virtues • “Values” are principles for a group or society • “A principle, standard, or quality considered worthwhile or desirable.” (The Free Dictionary, http://www.thefreedictionary.com/values) • “Society should be animated by a just hierarchy of values.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church §1895) • “Virtues” are practices & actions of an individual • “Firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith.” • “They make possible ease, self-mastery, and joy in leading a morally good life. The virtuous person is one who freely practices the good.” • “Virtues are acquired by human effort. They are the fruit and seed of morally good acts; they dispose all the powers of the human being for communion with divine love.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church §1804)
What are BENEDICTINE Virtues? • Virtues are a way to move towards whatever is good. • Many ethical and religious systems recognize various virtues • Plato listed 4 core virtues: prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance. • The early Church added theological virtues: faith, hope, and love. • “Charisms” are specific methods or practices to grow in holiness, in these virtues – to grow close to God. • St Benedict’s Rule and his example teach us his specific path. St Benedict written by Sr Mary Charles McGough
“School” of the Lord’s Service • Virtues are not something we can adopt, like an idea. • Virtues are something that are built within us. • They become part of who we are • They moderate and buffer some of the other parts of who we are – vices • When virtues grow, we know that God’s grace is at work in us. Photo by Sister Edith Bogue https://secure.flickr.com/photos/edithosb/
“The external practices of monastic life are directly connected with our search for God. In and through these practices we express our spiritual values and ideals, and daily live out our commitment to God.” Cummings, Monastic Practices
Order and Balance
Order as the Source of Freedom • St. Benedict’s Rule spells out many of the details of everyday life. • Ten out of 73 chapters for the schedule and method of prayer • Job descriptions for all sorts of people, from leaders to kitchen helpers. • Instructions for sick people and those who care for them. • Instructions for going on a journey and what to say when you come back. • Instructions for making a mistake and correcting someone who does. • Prescribes an order for coming and going and sitting at meals. • Lays out a schedule for the day.
Winter Schedule 2:30AM Preparation for night office. 3:00AM Nocturns (aka Matins. 5:00AM Reading 6:00AM Matins (Lauds) at daybreak, Prime 7:30AM Reading 8:00AM Terce, Morrow mass, Chapter 9:45AM Work 12:00PM Sext, Sung Mass 1:30PM None 2:00PM Dinner 2:45PM Work 4:15PM Vespers 5:30PM Change into night shoes 6:00PM Collatio 6:15PM Compline 6:30PM Bed Summer Schedule 1:30AM:Preparation for night office. 2:00:AM: Nocturns 3:30AM:Matins (Lauds) at daybreak. 4:00AM:Change and wash. 5:00AM:Trina Oratorio, Reading 6:00AM:Prime, Morrow Mass, Chapter 7:30AM:Reading 8:00AM:Terce, Sung Mass 9:30AM:Work 11:30AM: Sext 12:00PM: Dinner 1:00PM: Siesta 2:30PM: None, Drink 3:00PM Work 5:30PM Supper 6:00PM Vespers 7:30PM: Change into night shoes, Collatio 8:00PM: Compline 8:15PM: Bed
Flexibility as the Key to Maintaining Order • Benedict’s Rule is not arbitrary • • • • He provides a break for “the needs of nature” in the midst of long prayer He gives the table-servers a little wine & bread before they work He adjusts the amount of food the workload and season He constantly advises the superior to suit the work and the correction to the temperament of the particular person. • After detailing exactly which psalm to sing on which day at what time for the whole week, St. Benedict writes: • “We strongly recommend, however, that if this distribution of the Psalms is displeasing to anyone, she should arrange them otherwise, in whatever way she considers better, but taking care in any case that the Psalter with its full number of 150 Psalms be chanted every week and begun again every Sunday at the Night Office.”
Time as Cycle of God's Year
How Do Benedictines Do This Today? • As a community, we keep a rhythm of prayer • Schedule and bells; different for the elderly & infirm • Each sister keep her own time for private prayer • Reading and prayer with scripture • Other private prayer • We work together and with our staff to have a clean and simple appearance in the monastery = peaceful • We have all sorts of assignments to take part in liturgy, play the organ, be the hostess at supper, prepare for festive occasions, plan the week’s hymns. • All parts of the monastic schedule are important, so we try to balance them. • Prayer AND work • Times assigned to service AND times not to serve
How could students practice this virtue? • Decide what things are most important and put them into the schedule first (for Benedictines, it is prayer). • HAVE A PATTERN TO YOUR DAY AND TO YOUR WEEK. It is HARD to get started, but carries you along even through tough times. • Include the SOCIAL PARTS of life in your schedule: meals with friends, time for sports or music or games with interaction. • Keep time for your SPIRITUAL LIFE no matter what. St Benedict gives the best hours of the day to LECTIO DIVINA (spiritual reading) and prayer.
Authority and Responsibility
AUTHORITY • We have paradoxical ideas about authority • We hope everyone will be “a leader” and train them for it • We promote independent thinking and individual choice, rather than looking for and following a leader • Benedict tells us to follow TWO authorities all the time: • The Rule AND the Abbot (superior) who takes the place of Christ • Many parts of the Rule describe how to be a good underling • Don’t grumble and complain, but be satisfied with the work you’re asked to do • If a task seems impossible, explain the problem but try it anyway if you have to. • Don’t get puffed up about your contributions • If the Rule and the Abbot are in conflict, try to keep the Rule but remember that it tells you to obey the Abbot.
RESPONSIBILITY • The true authority is Jesus Christ • The Rule embodies a particular path to follow Christ as his disciple • The Abbot is the voice & hands of Christ calling on us to do what is needed. • We want to respond with our best self; this takes Christ’s help and grace. • RESPONSIBILITY means that our community, our superior, and the people we encounter believe in us: • They know we have promised to be followers of Christ in the monastery • They sincerely expect us to live out our promises • They will let us know when we fall short. Our sisters in community will also give us encouragement and help to do better.
Authority & Responsibility as Virtues • Authority: Only for the common good • The superior has authority, but St. Benedict also gives responsibility for the spiritual and temporal well-being of all. • The superior will be evaluated by God for how well “the flock” fared, not by wordly standards of wealth or success. • Authority becomes a virtue: the practice of making decisions and choices by looking out for the good of others. • The Rule gives much advice for this. • Responsibility: Only for the common good • Each person is responsible for helping authority to accomplish its goals. • Supporting the authority when it is strong, and helping it when it is weak. • For Benedict, good leadership requires good “followership” too
How to Evaluate Your Actions
Chapter 72: Good Zeal and Bad Zeal • “Just as there is an evil zeal of bitterness which separates from God and leads to hell, so there is a good zeal which separates from vices and leads to God and to life everlasting.” • How do I know which is leading me? • DISCERNMENT is a key virtue for Benedictines. • • • • Watching carefully and mindfully to see God’s action & call in my life Striving to be aware of what I am doing and thinking. Being ready to hear from others what has gone well and ill. Trying to do better tomorrow than what I did today. Photo by Sister Edith Bogue https://secure.flickr.com/photos/edithosb/
Chapter 72: Measuring up • “Thus they should anticipate one another in honor.” • “They most patiently endure one another's infirmities, whether of body or of character” • “They vie in showing obedience one to another.” • “No one following what she considers useful for herself, but rather what benefits another.” Photo by Sister Edith Bogue https://secure.flickr.com/photos/edithosb/
How can we do this in a culture that leads to… • Constant sense of dissatisfaction with life. • Messages that we need to “look out for #1” • Fear of missing out or of being left out • Focus on individual success, and doing whatever it takes. By Leunig http://www.leunig.com.au/
Living the Gospel… • It has never been easy. • Jesus himself told us that following him would mean giving up our worldy life. • Jesus also promised us that this death to would keep on the path always growing closer to him. • The last phrase I quoted from Chapter 72 is a good way to evaluate just about any course of action you undertake: “No one following what she considers useful for herself, but rather what benefits another.” Photo by Sister Edith Bogue https://secure.flickr.com/photos/edithosb/
Stability: The ability to stay • The MOST Benedictine of virtues • A vow is made only by religious who follow the Rule of St Benedict. • It is a promise not to leave. • That promise involves a number of virtues • Perservering at difficult or unpleasant tasks • Avoiding day dreams about other opportunities • Working at difficult relationships even when it’s easier to avoid someone or even move away • “Never despair of God’s mercy and love.” (Chapter 4) Photo by Sister Edith Bogue https://secure.flickr.com/photos/edithosb/
How can students live this virtue today? • This may be the virtue most desperately needed by the world. • We have what Pope Francis calls a “throw-away” society. • We don’t think about a long-term commitment to a place, and so we may not care for our buildings, grounds or environment well. • We don’t expect to stay in a job, an organization very long, and so we are not careful to build our part in it well. • We are quick to give up at the start of classes, activities, sports, new languages or instruments. • St Benedict tells us that “it has to be narrow at the start” and “do not be daunted and run away in fear” – the virtue of stability • Some are quick to leave friendships, relationships, even marriages, saying “It doesn’t work for me any more.” • St Benedict tells us – just as Jesus did – that the path to a deep relationship with God always runs through difficult places. It only comes to those who learn the virtue of stability, staying.
"These practices do not create union with God. If that happens, it is an accident. But these are the practices that will make you accident prone." Fr. Greg Mayers
Benedictine Virtues Sister Edith Bogue Saints Catholic week The College of St Scholastica 18 February 2014
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