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              Sports fans are aware of the importance of rules in games: how does one play, when does one play, when and how does one get penalized for “bad” play, how does one know when the game is won, etc. There are also officials involved who decide when rules might have been violated. Of course, not everyone trusts these officials as demonstrated by the introduction of video replay – around which there are even more rules! Assumption Abbey is comprised of a group of men who live under a rule, the Rule of St. Benedict. Of course, at 1,500 years the Rule of St. Benedict rather predates those of the NBA or NFL. The Rule of St. Benedict guides us toward our ultimate goal of salvation in Christ and also provides us means by which we can live our earthly lives in faith, virtue, charity and community. Yes, this is more than a game! The Rule consists of a prologue and 73 Chapters. A lot is packed into these chapters, and in this spiritual paper I want to touch upon the first few verses of the Prologue to illustrate how we can profitably use this Rule in our manner of living. The first word in the Rule is Obsculta, which means, ‘listen’. Throughout the Rule, monks are asked to listen to God, to our abbot, and to each other. By listening, we will be able to live the life to which we are called and help make our Abbey a true place of God. It is when we do not listen that we become cut off from God and others and simply live for the gratification of our own desires. Listening and then acting will lead us closer to God rather than us trying to be a god in our own right. Immediately after being told to listen, in verse 2, we are then informed that we are to obey. The word, ‘oboedio’ (obey in Latin) or ‘oboedientia’ (obedience) has the same root as the word obsculta. We cannot obey if we are not able to listen to what we are being told. Benedict uses the term, “labor of obedience” to indicate that this is something we have to really work at. One of the vows we make as Benedictine monks is that of obedience. Similar to listening, we work to be obedient to God, to our abbot and to each other. Monks who have lived this Rule for decades, often say that the most difficult of our vows is that of obedience. The abbot is advised in the Rule not to be capricious, but to make sure that his commands are those which would lead a monk closer to God. In other words, the abbot should not tell his monks to go out and dig a bunch of useless holes because he can do this, but only to have monks do something if it is for their good and the good of others. Monks have to trust their abbot that what they are asked to do under obedience is for their ultimate good, even though it may be hard to see this at first. Benedict next advises us that before beginning any type of work, we should pray to God to help us bring our work to perfection (verse 4). In this simple verse, there are two areas in which we as Benedictine monks spend a lot of our time: prayer and work. Prayer consists of listening to and speaking with God. At Assumption Abbey we gather for our communal prayer five times a day, including Mass. Thus we know that we are all speaking and listening together. Our communal prayer is comprised of the psalms which, it has often been written, encompass our whole human experience: joy, exultation, anger, sadness, lament, praise, etc. We try to bring our entire self and all of our experiences as an offering to God. We also work throughout the day. Granted, much of our work may not be exciting, but our work is geared to making our house a place of God for ourselves and others. Cleaning the kitchen or vacuuming a hallway may not seem like much, but everything contributes to this House of God. Though the desert fathers did not follow the Rule of St. Benedict, they still had a rule to follow. Abba Lot went to Abba Joseph and said to him, “Abba, as far as I can, I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?” Then the old man stood up and stretched out his hands towards heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, “If you will, you can become all flame.” Living the Rule will help us reach that fire of the Spirit. The importance of listening, of being obedient to someone other than ourselves (a spouse or family), praying, and working are not simply actions that only benefit a monk. No matter one’s situation in life, by cultivating these aspects of our Rule, one’s life can be more fulfilled in Christ and others. Take up the Rule and see how you can grow through it.

Keeping A Rule

by Br. Michael Taffe, OSB
Spiritual Reflections
              Sports fans are aware of the importance of rules in games: how does one play, when does one play, when and how does one get penalized for “bad” play, how does one know when the game is won, etc. There are also officials involved who decide when rules might have been violated. Of course, not everyone trusts these officials as demonstrated by the introduction of video replay – around which there are even more rules! Assumption Abbey is comprised of a group of men who live under a rule, the Rule of St. Benedict. Of course, at 1,500 years the Rule of St. Benedict rather predates those of the NBA or NFL. The Rule of St. Benedict guides us toward our ultimate goal of salvation in Christ and also provides us means by which we can live our earthly lives in faith, virtue, charity and community. Yes, this is more than a game! The Rule consists of a prologue and 73 Chapters. A lot is packed into these chapters, and in this spiritual paper I want to touch upon the first few verses of the Prologue to illustrate how we can profitably use this Rule in our manner of living. The first word in the Rule is Obsculta, which means, ‘listen’. Throughout the Rule, monks are asked to listen to God, to our abbot, and to each other. By listening, we will be able to live the life to which we are called and help make our Abbey a true place of God. It is when we do not listen that we become cut off from God and others and simply live for the gratification of our own desires. Listening and then acting will lead us closer to God rather than us trying to be a god in our own right. Immediately after being told to listen, in verse 2, we are then informed that we are to obey. The word, ‘oboedio’ (obey in Latin) or ‘oboedientia (obedience) has the same root as the word obsculta. We cannot obey if we are not able to listen to what we are being told. Benedict uses the term, “labor of obedience” to indicate that this is something we have to really work at. One of the vows we make as Benedictine monks is that of obedience. Similar to listening, we work to be obedient to God, to our abbot and to each other. Monks who have lived this Rule for decades, often say that the most difficult of our vows is that of obedience. The abbot is advised in the Rule not to be capricious, but to make sure that his commands are those which would lead a monk closer to God. In other words, the abbot should not tell his monks to go out and dig a bunch of useless holes because he can do this, but only to have monks do something if it is for their good and the good of others. Monks have to trust their abbot that what they are asked to do under obedience is for their ultimate good, even though it may be hard to see this at first. Benedict next advises us that before beginning any type of work, we should pray to God to help us bring our work to perfection (verse 4). In this simple verse, there are two areas in which we as Benedictine monks spend a lot of our time: prayer and work. Prayer consists of listening to and speaking with God. At Assumption Abbey we gather for our communal prayer five times a day, including Mass. Thus we know that we are all speaking and listening together. Our communal prayer is comprised of the psalms which, it has often been written, encompass our whole human experience: joy, exultation, anger, sadness, lament, praise, etc. We try to bring our entire self and all of our experiences as an offering to God. We also work throughout the day. Granted, much of our work may not be exciting, but our work is geared to making our house a place of God for ourselves and others. Cleaning the kitchen or vacuuming a hallway may not seem like much, but everything contributes to this House of God. Though the desert fathers did not follow the Rule of St. Benedict, they still had a rule to follow. Abba Lot went to Abba Joseph and said to him, “Abba, as far as I can, I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?” Then the old man stood up and stretched out his hands towards heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, “If you will, you can become all flame.” Living the Rule will help us reach that fire of the Spirit. The importance of listening, of being obedient to someone other than ourselves (a spouse or family), praying, and working are not simply actions that only benefit a monk. No matter one’s situation in life, by cultivating these aspects of our Rule, one’s life can be more fulfilled in Christ and others. Take up the Rule and see how you can grow through it.

Keeping A Rule

by Br. Michael Taffe, OSB
Spiritual Reflections
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