32nd Wednesday of November
Feast of All the Saints of the Benedictine Family
God never demands the impossible. It is his will that we should become saints, and therefore it is possible for all of us. To all who respond to his grace, he promises a hundredfold now in this time, and in the age to come eternal life. Everyone who hears this promise is capable of responding and becoming a saint: all that is required is the exact fulfillment of our daily duties for the love of God. For those whom God calls to the monastic life, our main duties are to grow in self-knowledge, to live according to the Rule of St Benedict, and to love the community.
In order to respond fully to God’s grace, we have to become more and more familiar with the kind of person we are. Grace perfects our human nature, but in doing so it transforms our natural inclinations.
Sanctity is not a question of getting rid of all our faults and failings, but of turning to God with these very faults and failings, and giving ourselves to him just as we are. All the saints turned to God as they grew in self-knowledge, and that is all we need to become saints: good will and grace (which is God’s good will). Then the soul rejoices in the Lord, for he has clothed her with a robe of salvation, he has perfected her nature by his grace.
For the members of the Benedictine family, the place where grace perfects nature is the monastery. When St Benedict describes the life of a monk in his Rule, he gives us an idea of what kind of person a monastic saint should be. Like anyone who truly seeks God, the monk is someone who is humble, joyful, and prayerful. He has a strong sense of the presence of God as of Someone freeing him from attachments. The monk for his part is full of reverence for God, for his fellow monks, for other people, and even for inanimate things, because everything in creation is a sacrament of the Creator.
Above all, the monk truly seeks God, and God alone, and therefore finds him in everything, first in this life, and then in the life to come. That was the experience of all the saints of the Benedictine family.
Within the Benedictine family, the Cistercian way to God especially emphasizes the community, in which Christ is the vine and we are the branches. The Cistercian saints arrived at union with God by helping the members of their community, supporting them, loving their fellow monks as themselves. For the Cistercian monk, sanctity consists in making it easier for the brothers to lead a life of prayer. Our vocation is not only to become contemplatives ourselves but also to help our brothers reach union with God. In the Cistercian view of things, community life should be a joyful thing that makes prayerfulness easier, and it is up to each of us to make it that way.
If we remain in Christ, with him in us, then we all communicate the Holy Spirit into one another’s hearts by fraternal love. We help keep one another’s hearts free from worldly desires; and God who has called us together here, opens to us the riches of his mercy.
As we receive him who has called us in holy communion, let us pray for the grace to persevere in self knowledge, in living according to the Rule, and in loving the community. By our life in this community, may we be worthy to hear that larger community in heaven say to us, “Come with joy into the presence of the Lord”.