“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.” - Acts 2:42-47a
Benedict of Nursia: Basic Facts
- He left behind a life of wealth and worldly influence when he was a young man, and became a hermit living a life of prayer in a cave in the wilderness.
- Later, he founded a series of small monasteries, including the one where he would spend the rest of his life—Monte Cassino, which is still active as a monastery in Italy today.
- His greatest accomplishment and legacy is the Holy Rule he wrote and implemented—a handbook of rules and practices for monks. This little book shaped the practice of western monasticism, which would become one of the most effective forms of Christian ministry for the next thousand years.
Themes, Thoughts, and Quotes from Benedict's Ministry:
- The way of the Christian involves hard discipline, but it is a way of great joy:
“Even if, in order to correct sins or to preserve love, we are directed to do something which seems a little stringent, we shouldn’t immediately fly away in dismay from the way of salvation, because that way is ‘the narrow road,’ and cannot but be narrow. But as we advance in the Christian life and faith, we shall run the way of God’s commandments with expanded hearts and unspeakable sweetness of love.”
- In the first place, to love the Lord God with the whole heart, soul, and strength
- To honor all people
- To love fasting
- To prefer nothing to the love of Christ
- To refer whatever good one sees in himself, not to himself, but to God
- But if he sees any evil in himself, let him be convinced that it is his own, not God’s, and charge it to himself
- To keep death before one’s eyes daily
- Not to desire to be called holy before one is, but to be holy first, that one may be truly so called
- And never to despair of God’s mercy
Features of Benedictine Monasticism:
Benedictine spirituality is summed up by the words ‘ora et labora’ (‘prayer and work’): “Idleness is the enemy of the soul; and therefore the brethren ought to be employed in manual labor at certain times; at others, in devout reading and prayer.”
Benedictines hold 8 separate prayer services each day (including one in the middle of the night!), revolving around praying the Psalms.