The Rule of Benedict and the Suburban Christian
In my recent post on “The Mob” I tried to bring out the idea that we need to always be aware and thinking thinking critically about our way of life. We need to constantly be allowing God, mostly through the scriptures and through prayer, reorient and reconvert our way of life. I believe this is especially true for those of us who live in Suburban America. We live extremely individualized, consumerized, busy and disconnected lives (just to name a few). Without paying attention to our way of life, we’ll more than likely just go about our culture’s default life without even realizing it.
With this in mind, I’ve been reading around the topic of the Rule of St. Benedict. I’m curious about the connection between a healthy suburban spirituality and the monastic way of life. My big question is, “what would it look like to have a suburban rule of life?”
What I don’t want is a prescriptive list of requirements and duties that someone must perform. This is what frustrates me and most other people about organized religion. Often the word “rule” can be construed in that way. But, really the term “rule” (regula) is more better defined as a “guidepost” or “railing.” What I like about Benedicitine Spirituality is this is the focus. Joan Chittister writes,
“The rule of Benedict is more wisdom than law. The Rule of Benedict is not a list of directives. The Rule of benedict is a way of life. And that’s the key to understanding the Rule. It isn’t one.”
The thing I like about the Rule of Benedict is also that it is not about getting out of the world and isolating yourself from reality so you can focus on God. Rather, it is about living well and aware in the daily.
Chittister writes again in the book Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living the Rule of St. Benedict Today writes,
“Spirituality is the way in which we express a living faith in a real world. Spirituality is the sum total of the attitudes and actions that define our faith” and later she writes, the Rule of St. Benedict is designed for ordinary people who live ordinary lives.”
Later she writes a paragraph that cuts right into the typical suburban christian’s way of life,
“Today, too, people go faithful from church to neighborhood week after week and, then, between times give themselves entirely to making money, and being nationalistic, and having fun. In the meantime, Lazarus again waits hungry for the Christians of this time to notice his deprivation and stoop down to listen to him as the Lazarus of the gospel story waited in vain for help from the wealthy and pious…”
We are all guilty of being so caught up in a default way of life that isn’t out rightly evil, but is destroying our souls and our witness. What we need is to fashion a way of life that is contstantly reminding us to be present to the moment in front of us, be presetn to the person in front of us, remind us that we are part of the People of God who are here as witnesses to a risen Messiah.
I’m finding that the Rule of St. Benedict is a good teacher for me as I seek to live life more aware of my/our calling…
I am reading this book by Chittister (which I highly recommend. On Tim Keel’s recommendation I am also reading a book called A Good Life: Benedict’s Guide to Everyday Joy
by Robert Benson a second time and we’re actually reading this book together at the leadership team retreat we have this weekend. And, finally, I figured I would go to the source and I picked up a copy of Rule of Saint Benedict in English.
Any thoughts on a suburban rule?