32nd Friday In Ordinary Time
All the Saints of the Benedictine Family
Is 61:9-11; Jn 15:1-8
Today we are celebrating all the citizens of heaven who lived according to the Rule of St. Benedict. We are kindred spirits with them; we are all part of the same family. Today we celebrate their victory; today we share in their happiness. The thought of their joy gives us hope and inspiration. They kept the Rule, and the Rule kept them. It guided them safely to port. Now, they are our special intercessors. All these sons and daughters of St. Benedict are up there pulling for us, urging us on in this blessed way of life we have chosen.
St. Benedict was a great synthesizer of what went before him. He took the trials and errors of monastic life that had preceded him and formulated them into something that would become the norm in western monasticism. He studied The Rule of the Master, Cassian, Basil, Pachomius. As a true Roman, he had the gift of order and organization. He was truly practical. He had common sense and good judgment. He understood the psyche of western man and knew what was doable and what wasn’t. He knew what would endure over the long haul, after the first fervor had worn off. He knew where to be flexible and where not to be.
For many people since then, his Rule has proved to have the perfect balance. He is well-known for the Latin phrase – ora et labora – work and pray. At the time of Cluny, things had become out of balance. There was too much liturgy and not enough manual labor. So our Cistercian Fathers started their reform in 1098.
In studying The Rule of Benedict, one may be struck by his emphasis on humility, or his value for work. But I would like to underline his great care about the liturgy and all the details about how it is carried out. In our liturgical prayer, we are praying in the name of and for the Church. It is our main contribution to the Church and the world. Other Orders, like the Franciscans and the Jesuits, have apostolic duties in which they directly help other people. For a lot of them nowadays, and for many diocesan priests, the main focus is on their ministries, and praying the Liturgy of the Hours is perceived as sort of a burden.
We, on the other hand, though, need to continue Benedict’s great care and reverence for the liturgy. We mustn’t try to slack off or cut corners. I’m glad in our house we have the custom of praying all 150 Psalms in a week. Many other Trappist houses don’t. Benedict had strong words to say on this point. I’m also glad that Fr. Gerard is going to so much effort to make our liturgy beautiful and uplifting, with the new organ, the chant practices, the new music and books by Bill Bertolas.
We have good attendance here at the various offices throughout the day. Our community takes the Hours seriously; we show up conscientiously. I think that’s a sign of a healthy community. The liturgy for us is sort of the glue that holds us together, or the cement that unites all the stones of this church. The family that prays together, stays together.
There’s always room for improvement, though. I, for one, am not very good about keeping my mind united with my voice. Perhaps others have trouble with wandering thoughts too.
So, my brothers, let us rejoice with our monastic brothers and sisters in heaven. And, God willing, some day we will join them.