Today, on the feast of Saint Benedict, I want to talk a bit about the Benedictine vows of obedience, conversion and stability.
Obedience, is, perhaps, not so unusual a vow to take in religious life. It is, really, the vow we all take as Catholics--to be part of a Church that has a hierarchy that we believe was put there by God. Rather than mindless adherence, obedience requires intelligent study of the precepts of the way of life one has professed to follow. Only then, can the true beauty of the structure come forth. Only then, can true growth take place.
Conversion of life is another vow that seems to be almost a given in spiritual life. It is something that is presupposed in religion. Of course one is to be converted! But, how many times do we find ourselves going through the motions of our faith without any instinct towards actual change? How many times do we try to find spiritual loopholes so that we can continue to live our comfortable lives? How often do we berate others for not crossing every t and dotting every i, when we ourselves are far from Christ-like?
Jesus' life on earth was not about exhorting people to put more and more layers of religious practice onto themselves or others in order to be saved. In fact, he spoke against that very thing. His message was one of true inner conversion--acting from the real love of God which surrounds us, to change ourselves and the world. So, we are to continually seek out conversion of life.
The final Benedictine vow is truly unique, and that is one of stability. This is a truly counter cultural concept today. Stability. Sticking it out. Hanging in there. If we truly lived the other 2 vows, we would find stability much easier, I think. If obedience to a legitimate authority and true conversion of life are our goals, then we will find true stability will come fairly naturally.
We live in a truly throw away society today. We buy cheaply made products from countries with questionable human rights records merely to assuage our hunger for continual change. We have become a society where serial pseudo-marriages are the norm; sexual relationships of convenience that are thrown away as easily as the expensive technological toys that we end up paying for long after they no longer work or have bored us.
Saint Benedict saw the flaws in the society of the late Roman Empire of his own time. He realized how difficult it was becoming to live anything close to a Christian life in such a society. He decided that the values that were intrinsic within Christianity had to be lived, somewhat apart from the society in which he found himself, in order to work at all. So he separated himself from the way of the world, founded monasticism and preserved the crumbling Western Civilization that was fast disappearing. By living apart from the corruption of the world around him, his monks preserved literature, music, and indeed democracy in an age of tyranny.
On this feast of Saint Benedict, let us pray for the grace and strength to follow his example and be truly converted to Christ.
Hat tip to Fr. Dwight Longnecker for his informative article on St. Benedict--Benedict the Balanced.