Commentary on “How the Church has changed the world”

There is an article in the popular liturgical monthly ‘The Magnificat’ called ‘How the Church has changed the world.’ The following might be entitled ‘How Benedict changed the world.’

Outside the Anglican Cathedral in Norwich there are two recent statues, one of Julian of Norwich and the other of St Benedict. The one of St Benedict has a finger over his lips and the Latin word ‘Ausculto’ – Listen. As we read these words we can listen to the message and allow the Holy Spirit to nudge our hearts and speak to us today.

I will go through a list.

Hospitality

St Benedict tells us to receive travellers as Christ Himself. There are countless thousands of our brothers and sisters, including babies, throughout the world wandering along trackless wastes to nowhere. They should have homes. There are thousands who are sleeping rough in doorways in our own country. This is a vast subject. We need to respond. How can we be hospitable to them? How can we welcome the stranger? We need to pray and think about these challenges and not feel useless, even if we cannot go out and physically help them we can give to organisations and people who can.

Welfare

Monasteries used to run almshouses and hospitals. They were at the beginning of welfare and healthcare

Agriculture

This was mainly the work of the Cistercians. Vast tracks of wasteland were brought under the plough. Sheep were tended and peasants were employed and cared for.

Education

Look around the noble cathedrals and colleges and see the influence of monasticism on learning, art and music. Culture is an abused word these days, however, the followers of Benedict preserved it in truth. There are manuscripts, icons, books, glass work and buildings that still remain today. Through all these means, the individual is given freedom to grow under the guidance of Benedict and His Rule.

What have I missed out?

Prayer

This wraps everything into one special whole. Prayer is the very basis of our lives lived according to the will of God. We are not always conscious of this yet we can turn to God at any time. To do this we need a structure and Benedict gives us just this in the Rule. There are 10 Chapters on the Office. It is impossible for most people, even monks and nuns to fulfil all the obligations laid down in the Rule (50 psalms a week for example) but oblates can try to pray at least part of the Office daily and so receive some of the tranquility and serenity of our monasteries. We can learn from our monks and nuns on how to pray as we live our lives outside the cloister. We can strive to live calmly and gently in the Holy Spirit. We need God’s Spirit of wisdom, perseverance and also common sense!

Every thing in this small article is about Love. It is all in 1 Cor. 13. Let us make love our aim and so prefer nothing to the love of Christ this Eastertide and at all times.

This article was submitted by Ron O’Toole, Oblate of Douai Abbey.

Unfortunately, due to ill health, Ron has asked me to rework and complete it.

Sr Benedict Gaughan, OSB, Minster Abbey

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