Wednesday, May 25, 2011

(1) Benedictine Background

Now more than three decades of being interested in the Benedictine
Tradition, I have observed how much I have changed over this long
period of time. Not quite a monastic maverick, nonetheless my views
have shifted from a pietistic level to that which may be called a
universal level when it comes to the contemplation of God, the
Universe, my own life in the cosmos. Basically it gets back to the
age-old questions about Ultimate Reality and my own condition

For a long time I have considered optional ways to live out the
Benedictine Tradition, a lifestyle that is now more than 15 centuries
old. And in this journal I would like to consider some of these
optional ways,

Frankly I cannot remember the specifics as to why I was first
attracted to the Benedictines. Eventually I went to a monastery
where--as a lay person--I began to learn more about their great
monastic tradition. A designated monk provided monthly meetings,
mainly introducing us to the history, tradition, and specific elements
of the Benedictine Order. Most of his presentations were more like
small sermons however, pretty much focused on a specific religious
creed. Additionally we were provided with reading material. First
and foremost we were provided with the RULE OF ST. BENEDICT.
Other literature included little booklets that attempted to trans-
literate this ancient Rule in more modern terms. Also we received
material on "how to live" a Benedictine life in the outside world.
Not surprising, nearly all this literature focused on Christ--and it
was pretty much designed for those who were at the piety level,
spiritually. Beginners start at the beginning.

Yet, even back then, I realized that I need plough far more deeply
into the Benedictine Tradition. Even then I realized that I had
stumbled onto a "treasure" And I wanted to glean as much from
this as I could. This meant moving into my own research, whether
traveling, reading, studying, attending to Benedictine History, its
more than 15 century-old Tradition, and trying more fully to under-
stand the various elements within the Rule and the Tradition.

I guess before I go on, I should try to provide a brief history of the
Benedictine Tradition. It won't be too academic and maybe not
always precise, either; but, generally, I hope my presentation will
be fairly on the mark. To begin--as the Roman Empire started to
crumble, one can imagine the chaos that entered into the situation.
And besides chaos, there was also moral corruption. Civilization is
very fragile. Within this chaos and corruption there stood the future
St. Benedict--a young man, likely classically trained, hailing from an
aristocratic Roman family.