“Listen, my child, with the ear of your heart.” —Prologue, The Rule of Benedict.
I keep returning to The Rule of Benedict. Listen “with the ear of your heart” is in the first line of the Prologue to this pattern for living in community written by St. Benedict of Nursia. It was composed in the sixth century during the dark ages, and is still used by Benedictines fifteen centuries later. The Rule is a balanced model of life that offers a radical alternative to a culture out of control. It was written for monastic life, but is also applicable for anyone seeking a spiritually disciplined rule for living in the world. The Benedictine day is organized around regular periods of private and communal prayer, sleep, work, recreation, hospitality, and study.
Joan Chittister’s book, The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century, is used by the Community of Hope International, a program equipping and supporting lay pastoral caregivers who minister to people in all conditions. The Community of Hope International emphasizes developing skills and spiritual practices through immersing ministers in Benedictine spirituality in community. Chittister’s book can be used privately or in group discussions of the Rule. She writes a very helpful meditation and interpretation after each selected part of the Rule that can be read in daily segments.
Memphis lawyer John McQuiston has written another concise modern interpretation of The Rule of Benedict called Always We Begin Again. It is pocket sized, so it is easily carried with you during the day.
A third book I recommend is Spirituality for Everyday Living: An Adaptation of the Rule of St. Benedict by Brian C. Taylor. This is another offering to help those outside the monastery experience Benedict’s rule of obedience and stability in relationships with others. It promotes living in the balanced tension of the paradox of turning our lives over to a higher power, while continuing to stay in relationship with others. The aim is to keep from becoming stagnant in order to be able to change and grow.
Esther de Waal focuses on this aim, even in the title of her book of reflections or meditations on Benedict’s Rule: Living with Contradiction. She also gives us, in her book To Pause at the Threshold, numerous Benedictine and Celtic reflections and prayers to practice when we cross a threshold from one room to another. She invites us to say a short prayer, trying to leave behind the “baggage” in our heads so that we are open to a new experience. This can be especially helpful when visiting the sick or homebound, as we enter their hospital room or front door.
There are so many other books on Benedictine spirituality; but these are five that have made a difference in my life, and the ones I give to people seeking a spiritual rule of life. Again, I would love to hear from you about the books on Benedictine spirituality that have made a difference in your life.
Purchase a copy of a Spiritual Rx for Lent and Easter from me firstname.lastname@example.org, Wordsworth Books in Little Rock or on Amazon. Proceeds go for Hurricane relief in the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast.