The Final Word

The Final Word

July 2017

Each 11 July we celebrate the feast of St Benedict.

St Benedict has still much to teach us.

In his early adulthood in Italy, Benedict became so disillusioned and disgusted with the affluence and decadence of his society that he withdrew to an isolated cave to live a solitary life of prayer. Other people soon joined him for many of the same reasons, and a monastic community began to grow.

St Benedict was to become one of the fathers of monasticism, and built small ‘islands of light’, monasteries where communal prayer and scholarship, work and spiritual practice could be preserved.

The early Benedictines set out to establish what St Benedict calls in his Rule a ‘school for the service of the Lord’. All they wanted to do was learn how to live faithfully in community in the time and place and with the challenges they had been given.

That is our challenge today also.

Each monastery was something like an ‘ark’, and, without really knowing what they were doing, they prepared Europe for the rebirth of civilisation.

Not everyone, nowadays, of course, is called to enter a monastery. But we are all indeed called to practise some of the key Benedictine virtues which have contributed so much to our Church.

A very special feature of the witness of Benedictines is their ancient practice of hospitality. Hospitality is at the heart of the gospel and it also central to healthy parish life in our archdiocese.

St Benedict put a high value on hospitality, urging monks and sisters to view strangers as Christ himself coming to stay. ‘Let everyone that comes be received as Christ’ is one of the most familiar and oft-quoted phrases of the Rule.

On the feast of St Benedict this year maybe it is timely for all of us to examine our consciences concerning our practice of hospitality. As Pope Francis also constantly reminds us, we must open our hearts in hospitality to the ‘stranger’.

How well then do we welcome people into our homes, parishes and lives? Let’s accept the challenge of St Benedict and Pope Francis!

Individuals, families and parishes that concentrate only on themselves do not build up the entire human family. Our challenge on the other hand, is to be actually on the lookout for ‘guests’—for their needs and for their wisdom.

Yes, St Benedict has still much to teach us. The Benedictine way reminds us that God is present in everyday life and that God speaks to us, teaches us, and gives us ‘little graces’ as we serve, pray and seek to love the people around us, especially those on the ‘margins’.

We are privileged here in the archdiocese to have the precious witness of various Benedictine communities. The Cistercians at Tarrawarra Abbey and the Good Samaritan Sisters founded by Archbishop Polding share in this charism of St Benedict.

Let’s learn once more from the Benedictine way this Feast day. May we continue to make our parishes and communities hospitable ‘islands of light’ and ‘arks’.

‘Let everyone that comes be received as Christ.’

† Denis J Hart
Archbishop of Melbourne







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