Novena to St. Benedict – Day One – The Saint

Day1

Here we are.  Day One of the novena.  Just a few notes before you start.  First, the ” / ” divisions within the psalm indicate original divisions in the biblical text.  The ” * ” indicates where to switch if praying in a group or with a designated leader.  Check out my post here for an outline of the entire nine days.


HYMN

(A hymn introduces the Novena prayers each day; suggested melodies for singing this hymn are given on pages 39-40 of the booklet.)

The golden sun lights up the east,
Recalls, by solemn yearly feast,
When Benedict ascended high
To heaven’s mansions in the sky.

O gracious father, on this day,
With humble hearts and words we pray,
That, taught by you to live aright,
We may enjoy God’s vision bright.

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

ANTIPHON: There was a man of venerable life, Benedict blessed by God both in grace and in name

PSALM 1. The Good and the Wicked

How happy those who follow not the evil ways of the wicked men:  *  they walk not in the ways of sin,  /  nor in the sinful company of the irreligious, scornful men.

Their joy is in the law of God: * both day and night they think of it;

Like trees that grow by running streams and in due season yield their fruit:  /  like trees whose leaves are ever green and do not wither in the sun, * so they are blessed with happiness,  /  they find their fortune everywhere,  /  in all they undertake to do.

Not so the wicked who, like chaff, are blown about by every wind;  *  their cause at judgment will not stand,  /  nor will there be a place for them among the righteous and the just.

The Lord, indeed, protects the just who faithfully observe his law  /  and find their happiness therein;  *  but those who walk in sinful ways  / will meet destruction in the end.

ANTIPHON: There was a man of venerable life, Benedict blessed by God both in grace and in name.

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

There was a man, Benedict, who was revered for the holiness of his life, blessed by God both in grace and in name.  While yet a boy, he showed mature understanding, and possessed a strength of character far beyond his years, keeping his heart detached from sinful worldly pleasures.  While still in the world, he was in a position to enjoy all that the world had to offer; but, seeing how empty it was, he turned from it without regret.

R. Thanks be to God.

V. The Law of God is in his heart.
R. And his steps do not falter.

PRAYER

Let us pray.  Almighty and eternal God, may the example of blessed Benedict urge us to strive for holiness of life and, by celebrating his memory, may we be inspired to follow him in the spirit of his Rule.  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: Seeking God

The Christian life generally –and the monastic life especially– is focused on seeking God above all else.  This has been the focus not only of the life of St. Benedict, as the reading from St. Gregory’s Life of Benedict indicates, but of the whole monastic tradition dating back to the earliest times of the Christian Church.  The author of the original reflection points out two essential elements in our pursuit of God: uncompromising detachment and resolute perseverance.

Uncompromising detachment is essential today because there is so much in our lives that distract us from God.  Speaking as a married father of two young boys, there are numerous demands on my time and attention when merely considering my role as husband and father.  While these are actually the raw materials for my vocation and, ultimately, my salvation, they require balancing and integrating with my other admittedly lesser but necessary responsibilities like work deadlines, extended family, friends,a yard and a house that are constantly in need (I am not fond of yard work), friends, and it all creates quite the juggling act.  The juggling act gets compounded when we factor in the pervasive modern distractions like smartphones, the internet, and TV and movies.  Detaching from that which is non-essential and carving out space for God to speak to us has become nearly a full time job in our world today.  Here’s where the second element of seeking God comes into play.

Given all of our numerous responsibilities and the additional myriad of distractions, we need more than ever a resolute perseverance to maintain the presence of God in our lives.  I have often joked that the only spiritual gift I have is perseverance.  Growing up, I was never quite the best at anything in sports or school.  I always did well, but I had to really work at it.  Upon becoming Catholic earlier in life, it seemed only natural that I would have to “work out my salvation.”  In this process of conversion, the likes of Thomas Merton and my early encounter with lived Benedictine monasticism at St. Martin’s Abbey etched out a sort of template, in my then neophyte soul, for living out the sort of resolute perseverance, that even 18 years ago, I knew to be necessary in our modern world.

Praying this novena is one little way to provide space for me to seek God.  I pray over these nine days that it can do the same for you.

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