Saturday, July 11, 2009

To Achieve His Present End

July 11, 2009

Memorial of Saint Benedict, abbot

But Joseph replied to them: "Have no fear. Can I take the place of God? Even though you meant harm to me, God meant it for good, to achieve his present end, the survival of many people. Therefore have no fear. I will provide for you and for your children." By thus speaking kindly to them, he reassured them. Genesis 50:19-21

"Therefore do not be afraid of them. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. Matthew 10:26-28

On this the feast day for the Benedictine order as well as for our Pope, our Tripod brings in some key passages from the prologue to the Rule of St. Benedict which also (I pray) help and inspire us to fulfill our spiritual journey of piety, study and action.



Listen carefully to my instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart. This is advice from one who loves you; welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice. The labor of obedience will bring you back to one from whom you had drifted through the sloth of disobedience. This message of mine is for you, then, if you are ready to give up your own will, once and for all, and armed with the strong and noble weapons of obedience to do battle for Jesus, the Christ.

First of all, every time you begin a good work, you must pray to God most earnestly to bring it to perfection. In God's goodness, we are already counted as God's own, and therefore we should never grieve God by our evil actions. With the good gifts which are in us, we must obey God at all times that God may never become the angry parent who disinherits us, nor the dreaded one, enraged by our sins, who punishes us forever as worthless servants for refusing to follow the way to glory.


Let us get up then, at long last, for the Scriptures rouse us when they say: "It is high time for us to arise from sleep (Rom. 13:11)." Let us open our eyes to the light that comes from God, and our ears to the voice from the heavens that every day calls out this charge: "If you hear God's voice today, do not harden your hearts (Ps. 95:8)." And again: "You that have ears to hear listen to what the Spirit says to the churches (Rev. 2:7)." And what does the Spirit say? "Come and listen to me; I will teach you the fear of God (Ps. 34:12)." "Run while you have the light" of life, "that the darkness" of death "may not overtake you (Jn. 12:35)."

Benedict, long before anyone thought of Cursillo, focused his students and companions on two core principles – “Ora” (prayer) and “Labora” (work). When the monks would break from work, at meals eaten in silence, one would read aloud. After Vigils (prayer at night) they would study scripture, the psalter and “explanations of scripture by reputable and orthodox writers.”

The traditional hospitality of the monks at Belmont was marked by, among other acts, always inviting the visitor to join them for meals when passing through or visiting the college. When you reach the dining room, rather than hearing the low hum of many table discussions over lunch or dinner, the room was united in holy silence while another monk read aloud from a selected book.

Further on in the Prologue, Benedict echoes the reassurance of the readings from Genesis and Matthew to us today. He does not want us to shy away from his road to salvation. The road is not one to be explored by wandering but through a disciplined yet flexible program of prayer, work and study -- the precursor and model to our Cursillo school of leaders.

We intend to establish a school for God's service. In drawing up its regulations, we hope to set down nothing harsh, nothing burdensome. The good of all concerned, however, may prompt us to a little strictness in order to amend faults and to safeguard love. Do not be daunted immediately by fear and run away from the road that leads to salvation. It is bound to be narrow at the outset. But as we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God's commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love. Never swerving from God's instructions, then, but faithfully observing God's teaching in the monastery until death, we shall through patience share in the sufferings of Christ that we may deserve also to share in God’s eternal presence. Amen.


If we wish to dwell in God's tent, we will never arrive unless we run there by doing good deeds. But let us ask with the prophet: "Who will dwell in your tent, O God; who will find rest upon your holy mountain (Ps. 15:1)?" After this question, then, let us listen well to what God says in reply, for we are shown the way to God's tent. "Those who walk without blemish and are just in all dealings; who speak truth from the heart and have not practiced deceit; who have not wronged another in any way, nor listened to slanders against a neighbor (Ps. 15:2-3)."

Doing “good works” for others in the monastery and in the community also is central to the Benedictine life.

In Chapter 4 of the rule, Benedict continues to outline the tools for good works which differ from those we pursue every day:

Your way of acting should be different from the world's way; the love of Christ must come before all else. You are not to act in anger or nurse a grudge. Rid your heart of all deceit. Never give a hollow greeting of peace or turn away when someone needs your love. Bind yourself to no oath lest it prove false, but speak the truth with heart and tongue. "Do not repay one bad turn with another (1 Thes. 5:15; 1 Pt. 3:9)." Do not injure anyone, but bear injuries patiently. "Love your enemies (Mt. 5:44; Lk. 6:27)." If people curse you, do not curse them back but bless them instead. "Endure persecution for the sake of justice (Mt. 5:10)."

Maybe the National Cursillo office should add St. Benedict as another patron saint of Cursillo. As an added advantage, all of our friends who were not able to meet the high standards for entrance at Benedictine colleges like Belmont Abbey and instead had to attend such other minor universities such as those founded by the Jesuits or the Holy Cross fathers in some desolate, cold cornfield (you know who you are Ken, Mike, Sam, et. al) may now enjoy the benefits of the Benedictines beyond the brandy.