ENLARGING THE HEART

UPDATE:             1ST January 2015   We now begin a new series of commentaries on the Rule of our Holy Father Saint Benedict (Series 3). We hope this will continue to be a source of spiritual nourishment for you. 


Daily readings from the Rule of Saint Benedict

By a Benedictine of Saint Cecilia's Abbey, Ryde


"... as we progress in our monastic life and in faith, our hearts

   shall be enlarged, and we shall run with unspeakable sweetness of love in the way of God's commandments." 

(From the Prologue of the Rule of Saint Benedict)



St Benedict wrote his Rule for monks some fifteen centuries ago.  Driven by his love of Christ, he wanted to establish his monastery as a "school of the Lord's service": a place where people who truly seek God could find him; places where "authentic Gospel values prevail"(1); where nothing whatever would be preferred to Christ. The Rule of St Benedict spread all over Europe, and had an enormous influence on the life and spirituality of the Latin Church.  It continues to inspire monks, nuns, and countless lay people throughout the world today.

Like many monasteries we divide the Rule into sections so that the whole Rule is covered over a period of three months. The commentaries will follow the sequence of the sections.

(1) Pope John Paul II, to Benedictine Abbots, 23 September 1996


Sept 19

22. Not to follow the promptings of anger.

23. Not to seek an occasion of revenge.

24. Not to foster deceit in one's heart.

25. Not to make a feigned peace.

26. Not to forsake charity.

27. Not to swear, lest perhaps one perjure oneself.

28. To utter the truth with heart and lips.

29. Not to render evil for evil.

30. To do no wrong to anyone, but to bear patiently any wrong done

            to oneself.

31. To love one's enemies.

32. Not to speak ill of those who speak ill of us, but rather to speak

            well of them.

33. To suffer persecution for justice' sake.

34. Not to be proud.

35. Not to be given to wine.

36. Not to be a glutton.

37. Not to be given to sleep.

38. Not to be slothful.

39. Not to be a murmurer.

40. Not to be a detractor.

41. To put one's trust in God.

42. To attribute any good one sees in oneself to God and not to oneself.

43. But always to acknowledge that the evil is one's own, and to

            attribute it to oneself.

 

Today we shall focus on the 26th tool: Not to forsake charity. This is a striking maxim. St Benedict says we should never abandon charity. There are many ways of forsaking charity: we may simply give up trying to put another’s needs before our own.  We may lead a narrow, limited life with the minimum amount of good works, as little threatened by the needs of others as possible.  We may decide that the best way of dealing with so-and-so is to keep right out of the way.  I may define strictly what my business is and what my business is not. There are in numerous ways, attitudes that replace charity in us, and that are really a deviation from it.  To really love is difficult, costly.  Our love must be founded on the love of Christ; only then will it survive and be strengthened.  Only then will it not depend on other people, on their response.

 

 

Jan 20, May 21 Sept 20

44. To fear the day of judgment.

45. To be in dread of hell.

46. To desire everlasting life with all spiritual longing.

47. To keep death daily before one's eyes.

48. To keep guard at all times over the actions of one's life.

49. To know for certain that God sees one in every place.

50. To dash upon Christ one's evil thoughts the instant they come to

            one's heart, and to manifest them to one's spiritual father.

51. To keep one's mouth from speech that is wicked or full of guile.

52. Not to love much speaking.

53. Not to speak words that are vain or such as provoke laughter.

54. Not to love much or noisy laughter.

55. To listen willingly to holy reading.

56. To apply oneself frequently to prayer.

57. Daily with tears and sighs to confess one's sins to God in prayer,

            and to amend these evils for the future.

58. Not to fulfil the desires of the flesh.

59. To hate one's own will.

60. To obey in all things the commands of the Abbot, even though he

            himself (which God forbid) should act otherwise, being

            mindful of that precept of the Lord: "What they say, do ye; but

            what they do, do ye not"

61. Not to wish to be called holy before one is so, but first to be holy

            that one may be truly so called.

62. To fulfil the commandments of God daily by one's deeds.

 

First be holy, that one may truly be called so... From this chapter we see that there is nothing sentimental or abstract about St Benedict understanding of holiness. Holiness is not an invitation to certain spiritual feelings or thoughts about holiness.  It is something concrete.  This chapter speaks of loving others, doing them no wrong, being patient, forgiving and cheerful, meek, honest and true, performing our daily duties, giving ourselves to prayer and reading events in the light of Scripture-and much else.  As Blessed John Henry Newman put it: “Is not holiness the result of many patient, repeated efforts after obedience, gradually working on us and first modifying and changing our hearts?”  The challenge of holiness may be difficult, but as Newman goes on to point out “we dwell in the full light of the Gospel and the full grace of the Sacraments” (PS I, 344).


Sept 19

22. Not to follow the promptings of anger.

23. Not to seek an occasion of revenge.

24. Not to foster deceit in one's heart.

25. Not to make a feigned peace.

26. Not to forsake charity.

27. Not to swear, lest perhaps one perjure oneself.

28. To utter the truth with heart and lips.

29. Not to render evil for evil.

30. To do no wrong to anyone, but to bear patiently any wrong done

            to oneself.

31. To love one's enemies.

32. Not to speak ill of those who speak ill of us, but rather to speak

            well of them.

33. To suffer persecution for justice' sake.

34. Not to be proud.

35. Not to be given to wine.

36. Not to be a glutton.

37. Not to be given to sleep.

38. Not to be slothful.

39. Not to be a murmurer.

40. Not to be a detractor.

41. To put one's trust in God.

42. To attribute any good one sees in oneself to God and not to oneself.

43. But always to acknowledge that the evil is one's own, and to

            attribute it to oneself.

Today we shall focus on the 26th tool: Not to forsake charity. This is a striking maxim. St Benedict says we should never abandon charity. There are many ways of forsaking charity: we may simply give up trying to put another’s needs before our own.  We may lead a narrow, limited life with the minimum amount of good works, as little threatened by the needs of others as possible.  We may decide that the best way of dealing with so-and-so is to keep right out of the way.  I may define strictly what my business is and what my business is not. There are in numerous ways, attitudes that replace charity in us, and that are really a deviation from it.  To really love is difficult, costly.  Our love must be founded on the love of Christ; only then will it survive and be strengthened.  Only then will it not depend on other people, on their response.