Prologue To the Rule of St. Benedict
Section 10 Verses 49 and 50
For as we advance in this way of life and in faith, our hearts expand and we run the way of God’s commandments with unspeakable sweetness of love. Thus never departing from His school, but persevering in it according to His teaching until death, we may by patience share in the sufferings of Christ and deserve to have a share also in His kingdom.
For as we advance in this way of life and in faith, our hearts expand and we run the way of God’s commandments with unspeakable sweetness of love.
- The only two changes we made to our chosen text occur in the above final section of the Prologue. The first, “this way of life”, we took from another authorised translation.
We take the point St. Benedict is reiterating in his final paragraph — the Christian calling is a serious matter and requires serious planning and discipline to ensure we arrive at our goal — our Heavenly home. Mounting pressures and forces beyond our personal control are making it increasingly more difficult for us to retain anything of our precious traditional heritage. Our hope is to return to the true Gospel teaching of Christ our King and the earnest application of that message as embodied in the teaching of the early Fathers and Sacred Magesterium of the Church.
- St. Bendict has presented in the Prologue to his Rule, a beautiful Biblical vision of the Christian vocation. In his Rule, he goes on to give further guidelines on how members of his “school for the service of the Lord” should organise themselves in close-knit consecrated religious communities.
- The Rule of St. Benedict is a wonderful document, and many lay people read it for their edification. However we will leave off here, thankful that we can share the benefits of his teaching contained in the Prologue and apply it with equal zeal in our own dispersed schola communities.
Thus never departing from His school, but persevering in it according to His teaching until death, we may by patience share in the sufferings of Christ and deserve to have a share also in His kingdom.”
- The only other change we make to St. Benedict’s text is to substitute the words, “the monastery” with “it” which still refers to the “school” and makes it applicable to our context. Actually there are today “schools” as described above which call themselves “monasteries” — meaning communities or urban monasteries — i.e. communities of dispersed members who come together according to an agreed schedule for the activities we have suggested above. However we prefer to leave the term “monastery” for application in the traditional meaning of the term.
- Our use of St. Benedict’s term “schola” is entirely appropriate, and incorporates the understanding that it is in fact, the Church in that locality. To participate in a schola is to take one’s Church membership seriously and apply oneself to living the Christian life as best as practicable given one’s distance from the normal centre of Catholic culture: i.e. the parish church, or as the case may be, a religious community. This actually, is completely consistent with St. Benedict’s concept of the monastery — applied one and a half millennia later in different circumstances.
St. Benedict’s final sentence above, could be more literally translated as, “Never swerving from his instructions, but faithfully observing his teaching…”. This is an unmistakable allusion to St. Luke:
“They devoted themselves to the Apostles’ instruction and the communal life, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2: 42)
This is a miniature cameo of the Jerusalem Community recorded by St. Luke, which became the prototype of Christian religious communities.
- We have therefore taken guidance from St. Benedict as to how we can maintain the beautiful heritage of our Catholic culture in a world which is growing daily more hostile to our values, traditions and religious practice.
We are counselled to remain loyal to our schola, to continue to be guided by “His teaching”, and to persevering in it for the rest of our lives. St. Benedict rounds off with a perfect finale:
We may by patience share in the sufferings of Christ and deserve to have a share also in His Kingdom.
St. Benedict actually concluded his Prologue with the “Amen”. His vision is no less than what God led him to see and write down. It is thus a prayer in which we can all share and help one another to bring to completion. It is a prayer reflecting the love of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for us. St. Benedict calls on us to respond with generosity of heart, mind, body and soul in our prayer and in our work — to the greater glory of God.
28. The “way of life” St. Benedict so skillfully presents in his Prologue (and subsequent chapters) is a brilliant summary of the ideal (yet very achievable) Christian model of living, according to God’s Law.
It takes effort to organise and sustain, and cannot be left to chance or casual attitudes. With sincere and serious attempts to give our Faith this priority in our lives, there is every hope that we will live the way our Lord taught, and we will pass it on to the younger generation.
One of the constant attacks against “tradition” is that it is too overladen with formal prayers, customs and practices. Anyone with any common sense is aware that prayers and traditional practices can be recited or carried out coldly, and without due reverence. Anyone with any common sense is aware that prayers and traditional practices can be recited or carried out coldly, and without due reverence.
It needs to be said that informal (extemporary) prayer can be just as “deadly”, irrelevant and uninspiring. Obvously the leading of prayer and worship, whether in public or in the home, calls for the proper formation of those who lead together with a respect for the religious function being undertaken.
The principle we therefore wish to highlight is that traditional Christians need not be afraid of giving form (if not formality) and good order their proper place in religious performance. Let them not pander to emotionalism and tailoring the Faith according to popular appeal of the day.
29. St. Benedict firmly bases his concept of Christian communities on St. Luke’s summary in
Acts 2: 42. We note the specific reference to three vital elements:
a) the instruction given by the Apostles;
b) the communal life; and
c) the breaking of bread and the prayers. This reference includes:
— the Eucharist
— the daily prayer routine of the faithful which was in place even before Pentecost.
Traditional Christianity has upheld and consistently promoted each of these aspects of the Christian life since the very beginning of our Faith . Those who find themselves isolated from the closer network of traditional parishes and religious communities can, with planning and guidance from appropriate pastors, maintain a rich and vibrant religious life in a schola as described in these pages. Geographical or social isolation need not present an impossible barrier.
30. St. Benedict’s closing words sum up beautifully the purpose of the Christian religious life: that we willingly participate in the Lord’s own Passion and Death that we might also rise with Him and have fullness of Life in His Kingdom. Our modest and little scholas are therefore to be, in so far as human frailty permits, extensions of Christ’s Kingdom on earth. Let them boldly manifest with confidence and certitude: Jesus Christ Reigns!