In our Catholic homeschool, one of the first things our senior read was The Rule of Saint Benedict as part of his classical education. St. Benedict left quite a legacy in that the monasteries helped preserve culture during those terrible days after the barbarians sacked Rome. Beyond the debt we owe to him in his monasteries of the time, we still have monasteries all over the world today in which God is praised and dedicated men and women live the Rule he established sometime in the early 500s.
The Sanity of Benedict’s approach gives added force to his central vision of the quest. He sees it as an everexpanding, enriching exercise of love. Communal life provides each member with the support and comfort of a family in which monks are brothers, sons with Christ of God, and of the abbot whose name means father.
“For the man of the twentieth century, rootless and isolated, such a vision may need transformation before it can be made real, but its appeal is undeniable. Here is his Father’s house, the center of light and warmth. Here are his brethren, united to each other by love and their quest for the God he seeks, and thus united to him. He may not be able literally to seek their sanctuary and shelter within its walls, but the spirit that guards them, strengthens them and makes them one is his for the asking and receiving.” From the Introduction to The Rule of Saint Benedict.
Last weekend, Larry and I went to the Benedictine Abbey of St. Walburga, where 21 nuns live according to the Rule of St. Benedict. We were there for a Gregorian chant retreat. What we experienced was a piece of Heaven. The accomodations, outside the walls of course, were more than adequate. The retreatants are put up in modulars which used to be the housing for the nuns while the Abbey was being built. We stayed in married housing in a building named “St. Benedict.” The nuns follow the exhortation from the Rule, Chapter 53, that “all guests to the monastery should be welcomed as Christ, because he will say, “I was a stranger, and you took me in. Show them every courtesy, especially servants of God and pilgrims.”
Our first night, we were invited to join the nuns in the singing of Vespers. That was our first glimpse of the Abbey church and our first introduction to the singing of the Liturgy of the Hours. The red square of stained glass above the crucifix represents the blood shed by Christ.
Vespers was sung in simple chant in English, accompanied by the organ. The music was sung beautifully and the gestures of standing, sitting and bowing all contributed to the dignity of the sung prayer.
After Vespers we had dinner and then our first instruction in reading square notes. From there, we went to bed at 8:30 p.m., knowing we would be getting up at 4 for Matins. More about that next time.
One Response »