Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Everyday Grace:
Benedict: What's in a name

by Mary Cronk Farrell

(From the May 19, 2005 edition of the Inland Register)

Mary Cronk Farrell The eyes of Catholics rest on new Pope Benedict XVI, waiting to see what kind of a leader he will be. One of his first actions was to choose his name, inspired, he told the cardinals in the conclave, by St. Benedict, who founded European monasticism at a time of chaotic history as the Roman Empire disintegrated.

St. Benedict’s way of life inspires not only popes and monks. He offers practical wisdom for people like you and me, people raising children, people working in and outside the home, people fussing about daily problems and people struggling to get along with each other.

St. Benedict formulated a “Rule” by which his monks would live. “This then is the beginning of my advice,” he wrote, “make prayer the first step in anything worthwhile that you attempt.”

His approach to prayer: God is present everywhere and prayer is our way of opening ourselves to that presence, widening our vision to see as God sees. “Listen with the ear of your heart,” states the Rule.

This type of prayer requires some quiet time and space, and Benedict would also include reading and reflection on Scripture. Some regularity would be good, but rather than focusing on minutes or hours spent on the knees, the Benedictine way would have prayer weaving throughout our days, revealing to us our belovedness, and the belovedness of all God’s creation.

Benedict urges a humility of listening, rather than talking. And this extends beyond God and scripture. Tune in to each circumstance of your day, to each person you meet. Reflect without ego, on what God is showing you in each moment.

When deciding some matter in the monestary the whole community was called together and everyone shared ideas. The Rule advised, “…it often happens that the Lord makes the best course clear to one of the youngest.”

This may be difficult for parents to admit, but I recently experienced how true it is.

My husband and I were making plans for a trip to celebrate our anniversary. The timing proved a challenge and it appeared we would have to be away the first week of school. I didn’t like it, but it seemed the only way until we asked our kids what they thought. Hearing how much they wanted us there as they started the new school year made it clear we had to find another plan.

We can also practice this openness through hospitality. The Rule, which offers flexibility as monks struggle upon the spiritual path, gives no leeway here. “All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ,” wrote Benedict.

He didn’t mean spend the day getting the house spic and span, setting the table with silver and china for twelve and hosting a dinner party with the latest Northwest nouveau cuisine. Benedict’s hospitality is much less and at that same time much more.

It begins with something like the simple courtesy I experience when I drop by my neighbor Shelly’s house. Whatever time of day, she always invites me in. Would you like a cup of coffee? A glass of water? Though I know she’s a busy mother, she makes me feel as if she has nothing more important to do than sit and visit with me.

Another example is the mother who told me that her teenager and his friends literally go from house to house after school looking for whose kitchen has the most desirable food. No, Benedict would not say we should stock our cupboards with expensive junk food to please teenagers. But, yes, he would say, share what you have with a generous hand.

Benedict’s style of hospitality is about being truly present to the “stranger” at our door, and in today’s global community, the whole world is at our door. Whether it’s a neighbor, a hungry teenager, a difficult co-worker, someone from the opposing political party, or the enemy a continent away, St. Benedict calls us to see in them the face of Christ.

I have far to go to become like St. Benedict. Still, he would say, God is there with you, right where you are.

© 2005, Mary Cronk Farrell

(Mary Cronk Farrell is a Spokane free-lance and children’s writer. Her new children's novel, Fire in the Hole!, is available from Clarion Books.)

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