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
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
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
May we continue
to make our parishes and communities hospitable ‘islands
of light’ and ‘arks’.
‘Let everyone that comes be received as
† Denis J Hart
Archbishop of Melbourne