Beloved St. John’s community,
Sunday July 11 is the traditional feast day of St. Benedict of Nursia. He founded one of the oldest and most steadfast forms of Western Christian contemplative life, Benedictine monasticism. He was born at about 480 in Italy and was educated in Rome. But Rome was quite a bit past its prime; like a ripe fruit that begins rotting, the Roman empire was disintegrating; Rome itself was overrun by various tribes; there was tremendous political instability, and a general breakdown of morality. In some ways, the Rome of his time might be a dystopian version of what our own society could become. What Benedict saw in his culture greatly disturbed him, so he withdrew to a cave to pray and to seek an entirely different kind of lifestyle, even as the desert fathers and mothers had been withdrawing from “civilized” life in the Roman Empire for several centuries.
Once there, he slowly began to learn a rhythm of life broken down into prayer, work, and study. Each part of the equation was unfulfilled without the other; one could not only withdraw to the library to study or the chapel to pray; one also needed to work, specifically at some kind of manual labor. But one could not work without the sustenance and transformative work of prayer, and the endless generative newness of learning.
I share some of this with you because in our time, perhaps like most others, it is difficult to find a generative balance in life—particularly, a balance centered in the presence and action of God. How do you react to the notion that prayer, learning and work form the basis for a spiritually balanced life? What kind of practices and relationships have helped you find balance and connection with the transformative presence of God?
I myself am headed north for several weeks, for a time of quiet, refreshment, and play with my family. I truly believe this is an essential part of my own life seeking to follow Jesus’ Way of Love. How might the Holy Spirit be inviting you to a rhythm of life that softens you, breaks open your heart, and enables you to sense and listen to the presence of God everywhere?
My prayer for all of us is the even rhythm of spiritual practice in the midst of humdrum everyday life, steady as a heartbeat, attuned to the intimate presence of God. May you sense God’s invitation and follow to surprising joy, light and love.
In Christ’s love,