Novena to St. Benedict – Day Four – The Lawgiver


Today we reflect on the necessary role of law in our faith and religious life.  May St. Benedict inspire us all to a greater understanding and appreciation of this often-misunderstood aspect of faith!


As once upon Cassino’s heights,
Our blessed Father still invites
Stout hearts to his monastic school
To live according to his Rule.

Discreet, yet firm, this sacred norm
Of Christian life, may it reform
Our stubborn wills, as we each day
Sincerely strive to walk God’s way.

All praise to God the Father be,
And to His Son eternally
With equal glory, as is meet,
To God the holy Paraclete.

ANTIPHON: A wise man’s teaching is a fountain of life.

PSALM 18:8-12.  The Law of God
Your laws, O Lord, are prefect, / they give us life and comfort; * your wise decrees are truthful, / they guide the poor and humble;
Your precepts, Lord, are righteous, / they make hearts glad and joyful; * and your commands are faultless, / they take away our blindness;
Your words, O Lord, are holy, / they promise life for ever; * your judgments, Lord, are truthful, / are based on love and justice;
Above all gold more precious / than any finest metal, * and sweeter than the honey / from honeycomb extracted.
A great reward you promise * for those who keep your precepts.

ANTIPHON: A wise man’s teaching is a fountain of life.


I would like to tell you much more about the saintly abbot Benedict.  But, there is one point in particular that I would call to your attention.  While the man of God was renowned for the many miracles he wrought, he was no less outstanding for the wisdom of his teaching.  He wrote a Rule for Monks that is remarkable for its good sense and discretion, as also for its clearness of language.  Anyone who wishes to know more about his life and character can discover in his Rule exactly what he was like as an abbot, for his life could have differed from his teaching.
R. Thanks be to God.

V. Those who keep God’s law.
R. Shall dwell in peace.

PRAYER:      Let us pray. God our Creator and supreme Legislator, you inspired St. Benedict to compose a Christ-like rule of life, with the Gospel as his guide. Grant that we, who seek to serve you under the guidance of his Rule, may persevere to the end in keeping your commandments. This we ask of you through Christ our Lord.      R. Amen.


V. Pray for us, holy Father Benedict.
R. That we may obtain the grace of a happy death.

Holy Father Benedict, * Blessed by God in grace and in name, * while standing in prayer with your hands raised to heaven, * you most happily yielded your angelic spirit into the hands of your Creator.  You promised zealously to defend against the snares of the enemy, * in the last struggle of death, * those who shall daily remind you * of your glorious departure and your heavenly joys.  Protect us therefore *  this day and every day by your holy blessing, * that we may never be separated from our blessed Lord, * from the company of yourself and all the blessed.  We ask this through Christ Our Lord.  Amen.

REFLECTION: The Law of God

Laws are much on everyone’s minds these days with the recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to force all 50 states to recognize same-sex marriages.  Today’s iteration of the novena reminds us of the ultimate origins of law and our 4th of July celebrations should also have us recall that even the non-Christian Deist Thomas Jefferson opined in the Declaration of Independence that:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The paradox in all of this is that while God is the ultimate source and author of law, the Church, or in Benedict’s case the religious authorities of the monastery mediate God’s laws to the rest of us.

One particularly relevant example of this is the Catholic Church’s laws regarding marriage as found in the Code of Canon Law. The Church has largely held to the same basic understanding of the nature and purpose of marriage and the Code reflects this.  I’ve been thinking a lot this week that perhaps if the majority of Christian America had historically held to this understanding (or something close to it) of the nature and purpose of marriage, that we might not be lamenting this innovative legislating from the bench that we’ve recently witnessed.

Christians, especially now, will have to be on guard against skepticism against legitimate authority with regard to our faith and religion.  As St. Gregory the Great makes clear about Benedict in today’s reading, some kind of Rule of Life is necessary if one is to make progress in the moral and spiritual life.

May the Rule of St. Benedict be such a guide for us!