Novena to St. Benedict – Day Two – The Monk

Day2

HYMN

In God alone the noble youth,
Saint Benedict, sought after Truth:
He fled the world’s alluring sham
To share the triumph of the Lamb.

O blessed Saint, behold us here
Amid a world of strife and fear:
Detach our hearts from things below
That God may higher gifts bestow

Most blessed, holy Trinity,
To you be praise eternally,
Your love divine you did impart
Unto our Saint’s enraptured heart.

ANTIPHON: The man of God, Benedict, forsook the glory of the world, for the Spirit of God was           in him.

PSALM 14. God’s Household

Who it is that shall dwell with you?  *  Shall dwell within your kingdom, Lord?  /  Shall live upon your holy mount?
All those who keep the laws of God, / observing all of his decrees: * who practice justice in their deeds:
Who seek the truth with honesty: / who slander no man with their tongue: * who harm no one with bad intent: / who cast no slurs nor ill remarks that would their neighbor’s name destroy:
Who hold in scorn all sin and vice, / but honor those who fear the Lord: * who keep their oaths and promises, / though this may mean a painful loss:
Who lend their money to the poor / and do not make unjust demands of those who are already poor: * who do not falsely testify, / and who would never take a bribe against the just and innocent.
The lives of those who do all this / will always please the Lord our God, * and therefore they shall always live / upon God’s holy mount in peace.

ANTIPHON: The man of God, Benedict, forsook the glory of the world, for the Spirit of God was           in him.

A READING FROM THE DIALOGS OF ST. GREGORY (II, Prol.)

Born at Norcia, Italy, Benedict was sent to Rome for a liberal arts education. Surrounded by vice and crime of every kind, he decided to withdraw from the very world which he had been preparing himself to enter, for he was afraid that, if he acquired any of its learning, he would be drawn down to eternal ruin. In his desire to please God alone, he turned his back on further studies, gave up his home and inheritance, resolving to embrace the religious life. He took this step, fully aware of his ignorance, and yet he was truly wise, uneducated though he may have been.
R. Thanks be to God

V. The Lord has led the just through the right ways,
R. And has shown him the kingdom of God.

PRAYER

Let us pray. Mighty God, the source of all perfection, by the gift of your grace, the blessed Benedict left all things that he might dedicate himself more fully to your service for the salvation of the world. May all those, who strive to walk the path of Christian perfection not go astray, but run without stumbling and be rewarded by you with the gift of eternal life. This we ask of you through Christ our Lord.

R. Amen.

PRAYER FOR A HAPPY DEATH

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 Christian Way of Life

AppleMark

Entrance to the Abbey of Gethsamni, Trappist monastery, Trappist, KY

The prayer and readings today focus on the conversion event that propelled Benedict into monastic life.  He encountered a world in Rome that was a dangerous and unsafe place in which to nurture his faith and felt the need to withdraw.  The scene from the reading likely took place around 500 AD, the Roman Empire had officially collapsed with the overthrow of Rome by a barbarian king in 476, and that king was overthrown in 493 by a Gothic and Arian ruler.  Needless to say, Rome had been a politically tumultuous place, but now it was also ruled by an Arian and Benedict would have likely viewed him a heretic.  Given that Benedict was thought to be born around 480 and he was raised in the relative quietude of the small village of Norcia about 100 miles northeast of Rome, it is no surprise that this politically and morally chaotic world in Rome contrasted so strongly with the spiritually-minded aspirations of the young Benedict.  Christianity, he concluded, required withdraw, a certain “starting over” and refocusing on the essentials.

This desire to live a more deeply Christian life had been finding a monastic outlet for centuries, dating back to before Antony the Great, popularized by St. Athanasius, in the mid third century.  Much of this monasticism was taking place in the eastern portions of Christendom: in Egypt, the Holy Land, and Asia Minor.  Many monastic rules existed in Benedict’s time, but in the western portions of Christendom St. Augustine and John Cassian dominated the spiritual and intellectual scene.  Benedict explicitly recommends the writings of Cassian, along with Saint Basil of Caesarea in his Rule.

Today’s prayer and readings also get at the heart of the lately much-discussed “Benedict Option” being proposed by writer and blogger Rod Dreher.  Taking his cue from Alasdair MacIntyre’s famous statement in the final chapter of After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory (as does this little blog) that, Dreher too is proposing that perhaps our culture has reached a point where we as Christians need to work out a new fuga mundi (flight from the world) in order to effectively live a Christian life.  I too think our Christianity could use a jolt from a new kind of monasticism or perhaps a new ecclesial model where parishes and churches embrace elements of the radical-yet-traditional forms of prayer, spiritual discipline, and community that the monastic tradition has embodied for 1800 years.

 

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