“There was a man, Benedict, who was revered for the holiness of his life, blessed by God both in grace and name. While yet a boy, he showed mature understanding and possessed a strength of character far beyond his years, keeping his heart detached from sinful worldly pleasures. While still in the world, he was in a position to enjoy all that the world had to offer; but, seeing how empty it was, he turned from it without regret” (Dialogs of St. Gregory the Great).
The year was 1993. I was in my senior year of college. I was facing a massive change in my life after graduation. Where would I go? What would I do? What would happen to all the friendships I made? As intriguing as these questions were, I knew that there was something in my heart that was yearning for a sense of direction. I didn’t want to graduate from college without something to begin anchoring my spiritual life to.
That Fall, I visited Glastonbury Abbey in Hingham, Massachusetts. I was introduced to Saint Benedict and his Rule. When I first read The Rule, the first thought I had was “Is this guy crazy or what?” Once I started to read The Rule, and experience the hospitality of the monks there, I knew something changed in my life. I would never be the same.
Twenty three years since, my life has experienced many twists and turns. Many successes and failures. Yet, any time I felt like my life was going on a wrong path, The Rule of Saint Benedict time and again has redirected me to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Thomas Merton in his book The Rule of Saint Benedict: Initiation into the Monastic Tradition wrote;
“The Purpose of the Rule is to furnish a framework to build the structure of a simple and pure spiritual life, pleasing to God by its perfection of faith, humility, and love. The Rule is not an end in itself, but a means to an end. and it is always to be seen in relation to its end. This end is union with God in love, and in every line of the Rule indicates that its various prescriptions are given us to show us how to get rid of self love and replace it by the love of God: (p.6).
Saint Benedict, his life and Rule, shows us how to live the contemplative life by being open to God’s Providence and listen to God “with the ears of the heart” (Prologue of The Rule). If a mystical experience is to happen, it begins with letting go of all that holds us back. It is a letting go of the many things we attach ourselves to, and see the power of God illuminating us with grace and “the inexpressible delight of love” (Prologue of The Rule).
Whoever your favorite Saint is, who’s spirituality you are drawn to and whatever draws you closer to God; it begins with letting go. As Saint Benedict wrote in The Rule, Chapter 72, “Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring us all together to everlasting life.”
Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB