The Rule of St. Benedict

The Rule of St. Benedict

Though very little is known about the life of St. Benedict, his Rule was to have a lasting impact on the development of Christianity. Born into a “distinguished Italian family” in 480 C.E., St. Benedict would abandon his liberal education in Rome for a life of solitude.[1] However his solitude would soon be broken by groups of monks who sought out his wisdom and guidance. While at first St. Benedict refused to allow these visiting monks to live near him, he eventually took them on as disciples. At some point in his life, St. Benedict wrote his famous Rule to help guide these disciples as they banded together into communities. By the time of his death in 547 C.E., St. Benedict had founded twelve monasteries “with an abbot and twelve monks in each of them.” [2] The Rule itself is fairly simple and straight forward, blending the best elements of the Eastern and Western monastic movements. The four primary guiding elements of the Rule are the opus Dei, communal work, intellectual activity, and vow of stability. Gluing these elements together was an “evident love and concern for the welfare” of the monks along with some basic common sense. [3] In reading the Rule I could not help but be struck at the cult-like instructions of total obedience to the abbot. Not only were the monks to obey every command of the abbot, they were not allowed to disagree with him on threat of physical punishment. [4] Though I know the culture was different during the time of St. Benedict with family patriarchs regularly controlling the actions of their offspring,...
The Story of a Soul by St. Thérèse of Lisieux

The Story of a Soul by St. Thérèse of Lisieux

Born in France on January 2, 1873, St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus of the Holy Face enter into the Carmelite order in Lisieux at the early age of 15 after pleading her case to Pope Leo XIII. Upon entering Carmel, she joined two of her older sisters who had joined the order before her. Later on a third sister joined the Carmelites, allowing St. Thérèse the joy of being with her biological sisters as walked out her pledge to Jesus. St. Thérèse died in 1897 of tuberculosis at the age of 24, having spent nine years within Carmel. Six Her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, was written in three selections during the last three years of her life at the request of two of her Prioress (i.e. the first nine chapters was written at the request of Mother Agnes while the last two chapters came at the request of Mother Marie de Gonzague). Her biological sister, Mother Agnes, combined St. Thérèse’s writing and published them on the one year anniversary of her death (September 30, 1898). Sixteen years later a cause of Beatification was introduced in Rome with her becoming “Blessed” in 1923. Two years after that St. Thérèse was canonized with a Doctor of the Church declaring coming in 1997. All of these events are very remarkable seeing how St. Thérèse died so young. The autobiography itself is fairly straight forward as it tells the story of St. Thérèse life from her earliest days as a young toddler to the months leading up to her death. Each chapter is focused on a short time period of...
The Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila

The Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila

Born on March 28, 1515 in Spain, St. Teresa of Avila was a reformer of the Carmelite Order during the Roman Catholic Counter Reformation. She was a proponent of the contemplative life whose writings were very influential on the literature of the Spanish Renaissance. The Interior Castle (originally published in Spanish as El Castillo Interior) was written between June and November 1577, but wasn’t published until 1588, six years after her death. The book quickly became known as her best work and served to establish her as one of the top thinkers in the Roman Catholic Church. In fact, she was canonized by Pope Gregory XV a mere forty years after her death and named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI in 1970, one of four women among a list of thirty-six. The book itself is divided into seven selections corresponding to the seven mansions found within the inner castle of our soul. Each selection has between one and elven chapters, depending on the complexity of that mansion. The overall theme of the book is to help people understand the soul’s journey into and through these seven mansions. Throughout the book St. Teresa is careful to note that this journey is not forced or controlled solely by the person. Rather it is a gift from God given not because the person is holy, but so that God’s “greatness may be made known” (page 19). The first mansion the soul must enter is gained through “prayer and meditation” (page 20). Both practices are necessary as one must know to whom one speaks while also knowing what it...
Lectio Divina – Step Four: Contemplate (Contemplatio)

Lectio Divina – Step Four: Contemplate (Contemplatio)

The fourth and last step of the Diving Reading is to contemplate – that is, to stop and be silent while allowing everything you have read, mediated on, and prayed about take shape in your life. This is where we use our intuition in order to coalesce the previous three steps. It is meant to consummate the union of our mind and God’s truth, our heart and God’s love, our life and God’s life, our person and the person of God. Since it is a time of silence – which is hard for most people – it is easy to skip this part, but we must NOT skip it as it is the most important part. It is during this final step that we let go of our own ideas and plans and let God’s ideas and plans wash over us. It is a time of silent prayer; of breathing in all that happened. The spiritual discipline of “Contemplative Prayer” comes into play here: “Contemplative prayer is silence, the ‘symbol of the world to come’ or ‘silent love.’ Words in this kind of prayer are not speeches; they are like kindling that feeds the fire of love. In this silence, unbearable to the ‘outer’ man, the Father speaks to us his incarnate Word, who suffered, died, and rose; in this silence the Spirit of adoption enables us to share in the prayer of Jesus.” –from the Catechism of the Catholic Church In other words, the contemplative step is a way of cementing everything together as one. A practical tip: before you start, set a timer for five or seven...
Lectio Divina – Step Three: Pray (Oratio)

Lectio Divina – Step Three: Pray (Oratio)

As mentioned before, the Lectio Divina (or “Divine Reading”, to use the English translation) was developed in the 3rd century by the early church fathers as a way to pray through the Scriptures.  Split into four parts, the Divine Reading helps one to slow down and really allow the Scriptures to seep into one’s soul. The first step is to read a short passage, savoring each word as it crosses your lips rather than trying get through large volumes of verses. Following this, one is to meditate on words of Scriptures – turning them over and over again as they seep into one’s heart. The third step of the Divine Reading, which we will be talking about today,  is prayer – or more distinctly, creating a place where you can talk to God about what was read and meditated on. The last part, which we will cover later on, is to contemplate upon all that has happened with the previous three steps. Four steps working in unity to breath life into the Scriptures and change our souls. Powerful stuff made even more powerful by the fact that countless Jesus followers throughout centuries have walked through these four steps… wow, talk about finding the “ancient paths” of the faith (Jeremiah 6:16).  Enough of the review, let us turn to the third step of the Lectio Divina, praying. Step Three: Pray (Oratio) The third step is where we dialogue with God about what He told us. It is where we move from thinking about – meditating about – and start responding to the message of the Scriptures. It is the place...