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194 WiL Derkse Listening and Responding: Benedictine Spirituality in Non-monastic Contexts A Simple Way ofLife One of the blessings of Catholic life is its wealth of spiritualities: Ignatian, Franciscan, Salesian, Augustinian, Dominican, the Carmelite spirituality of St. John ofthe Cross and Theresa ofAvila, Benedictine, and many others. These spiritualities are quite different both from a theological and from a practical point ofview.Yet there are important similarities. All are connected with a founding father or mother—so with persons, not with theories and concepts—someone who was especially attentive and responsive to the Spirit. All try to incarnate this spirit in a way oflife. All are centered around Christ. In the midst of this wealth of spiritualities, Benedictine spirituality is one ofthe oldest. St. Benedict wrote his little Rulefor Monks in the first halfofthe sixth century. And still his simple and balanced "Manual for Total Quality Management" (as I am fond ofcharacterizing the Rule) appears to be perfectly suitable to direct the daily life ofthousands ofnuns and monks, and many tiiousands oflay people. This paper was first given at a seminar at the Jesuit Institute ofBoston College on December 12, 1998. LOGOS 3:3 SUMMER 2O00 BENEDICTINE SPIRITUALITY IN NON-MONASTIC CONTEXTS By the way, Benedict was a layman himself and his monastic communities around Monte Cassino consisted mainly of laypeople. The Rule has two careful and rather cautious chapters about priests who wish to live in the monastry, and on the ordination to deacon or priest of one of the members ofthe community. Among the many Catholic spiritualities, Benedictine spirituality probably is the least dramatic. It is very down-to-earth, very unspectacular , with only a very limited degree of spiritual direction, not directed at"interesting" enlightenment experiences or dramatic conversions . Whatever enlightenment might occur is of the type expressed in a well-known Zen proverb: "Before enlightenment: hewing wood and drawing water; after enlightenment: hewing wood and drawing water." Benedictine spirituality is as far away from the supposedly spiritual adventures in James Redfield's The Celestine Prophecy as you can get. Here is a spirituality that is firmly rooted, without haste, not eclectic, not esoteric, not oriented in a subjective manner to the individual's mystical quest, but instead to the individual 's personal growth embedded in a community and its everyday, often very mundane activities. It is telling that the central maxim of Benedictine spirituality (which is not the often mentioned ora et labora, a combination that cannot be found in the Rule and is even somewhat misleading as it suggests a dualism, whereas Benedictine life should be a "seamless garment") can be found in one ofthe most mundane chapters ofthe Rule, chapter 57 on the craftworkers of the monastry: ut in omnibus Deus glorificetur—"that in all things God may be glorified." This remark has to do with the price level ofthe craft products. Even the context ofbuying and selling can give possibilities ofglorifying God. This is Benedictine spirituality in a nutshell: that in all things God may be glorified, that in every activity God's praise may be sung. This is indeed a holistic spirituality. I9Í 196 LOGOS A Visit to St. Hildegard'sAbbey To bring this before your eyes, I will describe some episodes taken from the beautiful Dutch-Flemish television production, called "Abbeys of Western Europe and their inhabitants," and readers should use their imaginations to provide the pictures to the following description. We will consider first some episodes from the daily life of the nuns living in the Abtei St. Hildegard near the little German town of Eibingen, which is quite near the remains of the abbey built by Hildegard of Bingen, that remarkable medieval "woman for all seasons ." People unaquainted with the monastic world would at first sight find this portrait strange. What motivates a group of about sixty women from three generations to live under an abbess and a fifteen-hundred-year-old Rule for monks? "What are you doing there in the MiddleAges?"could be an understandable question. Little details will soon show, however, that these women are living at the close ofthe twentieth century: a portable telephone clipped on to a scapular, modern kitchen utensils, the computerized...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-791X
Print ISSN
1091-6687
Pages
pp. 194-213
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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