The Church celebrates the life of St. Benedict of Nursia (c. 480-543 A.D.). He is remembered as a monastic reformer through the development of his Rule, which is essentially a spiritual guide and a set of rules for monastic communities. Benedict saw himself establishing a “school of service to the Lord” when he established his first monasteries. These communities are opportunities for monks to pray and work in common under the guidance of a religious superior, who are charged with the care of each of the members and the community itself. Obedience had a foundational role in monastic life for Benedict. It was not only a way to maintain order, but it was a spiritual disposition requisite to Christian faith.
For Benedict, obedience to God is the virtue of those who “hold nothing dearer to them than Christ.” The singular attention on Christ in life allows us a freedom to re-appropriate things that fill our days and attention span—family, work, community life, etc.—into our relationship with God. When our sense of self rests on God’s love for us and our call to discipleship, they no longer control us unreflectively. Rather, what fills our days are the instruments God uses to stretch our hearts. They become occasions to lessen vices and foster virtues. In those moments, we judge our actions from a deeper knowledge of Jesus’ life and mission. They become moments when we lose our life for Christ’s sake, and our lives are returned to us “with the unspeakable sweetness of love.”
Benedict hoped all followers of his Rule would receive a deeper freedom to follow the Lord through obedience to a religious superior. For most Catholics, God asks obedience of us to our spouses, family members, in our collaborative projects at work, our worship and civil communities, and many daily self-sacrifices unique to each of us. Obedience to God is a universal call that grows from our daily practices in any vocation to which we are called.
When was the last time I experienced the freedom of a singular focus on God? How am I obedient and self-sacrificing to God in my daily interactions with others?
(Quotations taken from Rule of St. Benedict, trans. Leonard Doyle, available at www.osb.org)