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For settlers on the Great Plains of a century and more ago, spring meant many things, but for the entire household, especially the womenfolk, it meant spring housecleaning. Spring comes rather late to the prairies, but in those earliest days when one was sure the winter was over, everything in the sod house or one-room cabin was hauled outside and the place given a thorough going over: things were scrubbed, aired out, straw replaced, vermin hunted down, rugs beaten and everything washed and exposed to wind and sun. Interestingly, the word Lent has evolved from Middle-English and Old High German, and it meant simply springtime. Lent was not just a church season, but a season of the year. As followers of St. Benedict, when we read the Holy Rule we realize just how in touch with nature and the seasons our patron was. The daily schedule was adjusted to the hours of daylight and meals were adjusted to work in the fields. You get the impression that the natural world was a part of life in a very real way. So when we approach the Rule of St. Benedict for a look at the Lenten season, immediately it smacks of the pioneer ritual of cleaning: “We urge the entire community during these days of Lent to keep its manner of life most pure and to wash away in this holy season the negligences of other times” (49.2). There is something common to humanity that approaches the season of spring/Lent with the urge to clean, to purge, to revitalize and to restore whether it be on the physical level or the spiritual one. After a long winter, we recognize our need to open our homes to the fresh air and sunshine. As Christians, we feel the need to open our hearts to the breath of the Spirit and our lives to the light of Christ. When we approach the Rule of St. Benedict, we recognize that he was writing for those living the monastic life, but he also states that his Rule is for beginners, so much of what he says is applicable to all who seek God. The season of Lent was so important for St. Benedict that he devotes an entire chapter to the topic (Chapter 49). Benedict’s list of tasks for spring housecleaning remains very relevant. His first recommendation is to refuse to indulge in evil habits. The list will be different for each of us, but he does list a few of those things we should consider. How about consumption of food or drink? Do we eat too much? Do we drink too much? Too often we approach Lent in a spirit of physical fitness—I intend to lose some weight this Lent. But the purpose of fasting or abstaining is not about getting the body in trim, but lightening the spirit so that it can more readily make room for Christ. Another thing we might consider these days is a topic which has been in the news of late: How much food do we waste? Part of our almsgiving might be keeping a watch on how much we purchase and then how much we discard. When so many people in the world struggle to be fed, we might use the money we save by controlling our intake to offer something to the local food bank or food pantry or another organization that fights hunger, like the annual Rice Bowl Collection. The next item on St. Benedict’s list of items to consider in our spiritual housecleaning is sleep. This item has always seemed a bit odd to me, because in Benedict’s monastery the day is so strictly regimented that it would seem virtually impossible for anyone to find time for extra sleep. I think what Benedict is really getting at is attentiveness and responsibility. Am I doing what I’m supposed to be doing? Am I giving this task at hand my full attention? This duty and attention do not only apply to my job or my work, but to my relationships and my worship as well. Do I let myself drift through the day, through the encounter? Do I give myself over to distractions when I really should be doing something else or listening to someone? Although it is possible to sleep too much, I think what Benedict may be getting at is the propensity to drift, to let the mind wander, to do too much “wool gathering.” Finally, Benedict talks about needless talking and idle jesting as needing examination and curtailment. It must be said that St. Benedict was suspicious of speech, because he felt that “in a flood of words one does not avoid sinning.” However, there is some merit to the notion that what is said is often not necessary, and we all know how easy it is in much talking to slip into banalities, crudeness and, perhaps, malicious speech. In our own day we have something new to contend with: the cell phone and social media. These are really forms of talking, even if the phone is used for texting. It might be good to stop and ask ourselves from time to time how much of this is vital information, how much is necessary? A large part of talking, or communicating in various forms, is one way of gratifying the ego. Benedict is also very suspicious of self-will and asserting oneself in an obstinate way. All this talk and exchange does one thing that is primary for St. Benedict: it reduces silence. Silence is one of the preconditions for hearing the voice of God, for becoming aware of God’s presence in the manifold ways in which he comes to us. The result of all this housecleaning? Well, for the pioneer, it was cleanliness, health, emotional and mental uplift and renewed energy. For St. Benedict what do these Lenten practices lead to? They lead to Easter, the ultimate renewal and revitalization. Easter is the victory of life over death, light over darkness. This spiritual housecleaning brings us new purity of soul and renewed spiritual health, all in the “joy of the Holy Spirit” as St. Benedict instructs us. We attempt to put our life in better order, both its spiritual and actual dimensions, and it doing so, we make more room for Christ, who always wants to abide with us. May God bless you during this Lenten season with zeal and fervor and may you rejoice in the celebration of Easter renewed in heart and in mind.

Lenten Housecleaning

by Br. Alban Petesch, OSB
Spiritual Reflections Spiritual Reflections
For settlers on the Great Plains of a century and more ago, spring meant many things, but for the entire household, especially the womenfolk, it meant spring housecleaning. Spring comes rather late to the prairies, but in those earliest days when one was sure the winter was over, everything in the sod house or one-room cabin was hauled outside and the place given a thorough going over: things were scrubbed, aired out, straw replaced, vermin hunted down, rugs beaten and everything washed and exposed to wind and sun. Interestingly, the word Lent has evolved from Middle-English and Old High German, and it meant simply springtime. Lent was not just a church season, but a season of the year. As followers of St. Benedict, when we read the Holy Rule we realize just how in touch with nature and the seasons our patron was. The daily schedule was adjusted to the hours of daylight and meals were adjusted to work in the fields. You get the impression that the natural world was a part of life in a very real way. So when we approach the Rule of St. Benedict for a look at the Lenten season, immediately it smacks of the pioneer ritual of cleaning: “We urge the entire community during these days of Lent to keep its manner of life most pure and to wash away in this holy season the negligences of other times” (49.2). There is something common to humanity that approaches the season of spring/Lent with the urge to clean, to purge, to revitalize and to restore whether it be on the physical level or the spiritual one. After a long winter, we recognize our need to open our homes to the fresh air and sunshine. As Christians, we feel the need to open our hearts to the breath of the Spirit and our lives to the light of Christ. When we approach the Rule of St. Benedict, we recognize that he was writing for those living the monastic life, but he also states that his Rule is for beginners, so much of what he says is applicable to all who seek God. The season of Lent was so important for St. Benedict that he devotes an entire chapter to the topic (Chapter 49). Benedict’s list of tasks for spring housecleaning remains very relevant. His first recommendation is to refuse to indulge in evil habits. The list will be different for each of us, but he does list a few of those things we should consider. How about consumption of food or drink? Do we eat too much? Do we drink too much? Too often we approach Lent in a spirit of physical fitness—I intend to lose some weight this Lent. But the purpose of fasting or abstaining is not about getting the body in trim, but lightening the spirit so that it can more readily make room for Christ. Another thing we might consider these days is a topic which has been in the news of late: How much food do we waste? Part of our almsgiving might be keeping a watch on how much we purchase and then how much we discard. When so many people in the world struggle to be fed, we might use the money we save by controlling our intake to offer something to the local food bank or food pantry or another organization that fights hunger, like the annual Rice Bowl Collection. The next item on St. Benedict’s list of items to consider in our spiritual housecleaning is sleep. This item has always seemed a bit odd to me, because in Benedict’s monastery the day is so strictly regimented that it would seem virtually impossible for anyone to find time for extra sleep. I think what Benedict is really getting at is attentiveness and responsibility. Am I doing what I’m supposed to be doing? Am I giving this task at hand my full attention? This duty and attention do not only apply to my job or my work, but to my relationships and my worship as well. Do I let myself drift through the day, through the encounter? Do I give myself over to distractions when I really should be doing something else or listening to someone? Although it is possible to sleep too much, I think what Benedict may be getting at is the propensity to drift, to let the mind wander, to do too much “wool gathering.” Finally, Benedict talks about needless talking and idle jesting as needing examination and curtailment. It must be said that St. Benedict was suspicious of speech, because he felt that “in a flood of words one does not avoid sinning.” However, there is some merit to the notion that what is said is often not necessary, and we all know how easy it is in much talking to slip into banalities, crudeness and, perhaps, malicious speech. In our own day we have something new to contend with: the cell phone and social media. These are really forms of talking, even if the phone is used for texting. It might be good to stop and ask ourselves from time to time how much of this is vital information, how much is necessary? A large part of talking, or communicating in various forms, is one way of gratifying the ego. Benedict is also very suspicious of self- will and asserting oneself in an obstinate way. All this talk and exchange does one thing that is primary for St. Benedict: it reduces silence. Silence is one of the preconditions for hearing the voice of God, for becoming aware of God’s presence in the manifold ways in which he comes to us. The result of all this housecleaning? Well, for the pioneer, it was cleanliness, health, emotional and mental uplift and renewed energy. For St. Benedict what do these Lenten practices lead to? They lead to Easter, the ultimate renewal and revitalization. Easter is the victory of life over death, light over darkness. This spiritual housecleaning brings us new purity of soul and renewed spiritual health, all in the “joy of the Holy Spirit” as St. Benedict instructs us. We attempt to put our life in better order, both its spiritual and actual dimensions, and it doing so, we make more room for Christ, who always wants to abide with us. May God bless you during this Lenten season with zeal and fervor and may you rejoice in the celebration of Easter renewed in heart and in mind.

Lenten Housecleaning

by Br. Alban Petesch, OSB
Spiritual Reflections Spiritual Reflections
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Phone (701) 974 3315 Address PO Box A Richardton, ND 58601