I finished reading the Rule of St. Benedict today during my Holy Hour and I’ve come away with a few thoughts on the Rule.
When I first began reading the Rule, it seemed very rigid and very cold, especially when reading about humility, obedience, and restraint of speech. But as I moved passed the first chapters which seemed to stress principles, and went beyond the middle chapters in regards to the liturgy of the hours, I found that the end had much to say about the application of the rule in the every day lives and tasks of the monastery. And in those pages I found a rich abundance of mercy, love, and joy! The charity and the community that the Rule calls for is not what you would expect in the beginning when St. Benedict says that you must regard yourself is lower than a worm, and than causing laughter is essentially a bad thing.
Like a life of Christian virtue, one may be tempted to give up on examining the Rule in the beginning because it seems hard, and kind of depressing. But if one gives the Rule a chance and goes higher up and further in, one sees the beauty, love, generosity, and brotherhood that the Rule seeks to foster.
Though I need a little more prayer, I am becoming more and more convinced that I at least need to try the Rule out.
In a monastery.
As a little exercise in my discernment I am reading the Rule of St. Benedict, since I am at the moment very interested and drawn towards Cistercian/Trappist charism. The first chapter of the rule lays out the four types of monks. St. Benedict defines them as follows:
Cenobites-monks that live in a monastery and serve under a rule and an abbot.
Anchorites (hermits)-monks that have passed the test of the monastery with the help of the brothers and now go on to fight the devil in solitude .
Sarabites-detestable monks that have no experience and live under no rule, accepting and rejecting whatever suits their fancy.
Gyrovagues-monks that travel from community to community, spending a little time here and little time there, living off of others. Benedict says that these are in every way more detestable that Sarabites.
This is a real eye-opener for me, because in my heart of hearts, I have the spirit of a gyrovague. I desire to move around a lot. I am never satisfied or happy where I am. In my vision of the future I have lived many places and met many people, but have really made no lasting relationships, haven’t opened up to anyone. Essentially I run. I run from intimacy with other people. I’ve known this for a long time and it was one of the issues that Fr. Wilhelm and I discussed at great length way back when he was my spiritual director.
But I don’t want to be a gyrovague. I don’t want to live in fear and loneliness which the life of a gyrovague is. What good is meeting thousands of people if you know not one of them? I want to live in community.
I remember when I went on Summer Project in 2008. It was one of the best experiences of my life, living in a close community of faith where we got to know each other, where we supported each other, where barriers were broken down. That is what I desire again. I want my heart to be changed so that I take the risk to be an integral part of that kind of community.
Lord, change my heart from one of a gyrovague to that of a cenobite, one who is stable in his relationships and his community. Amen.