"Bringing The Rule To Life"
The official blog of the Office of Mission and Ministry, Benedict Rules offers weekly, brief reflections on The Rule of St. Benedict showing its relevance for daily living. The reflections are written by Delbarton faculty and follow the excerpts from The Rule that the school community meditates upon every Monday morning. We encourage all to make use of these reflections for their personal prayer, even praying with the passage from The Rule in Lectio Divina style (click here for a simple resource on Lectio Divina, which is an ancient form of prayerful Scripture reading fundamental to the spiritual heritage of the Benedictines). This blog is a way of sharing our Catholic and Benedictine values with the members of our community and all who seek God with a sincere heart.
April 6, 2020
Idleness is the enemy of the soul. Therefore, the brothers should have specified periods for manual labor as well as for prayerful reading. - RB 48:1
Currently, it feels like we are all in a state of idleness. Many of us cannot go to work, we are not able to meet up with family and friends, and schools are not open. Yet, there is a difference between embracing the quiet, slow moving pace of life right now and being idle. We are at home, but we are not lazy. Personally, I’ve enjoyed taking moments during the day to play with my daughter, ask my students how they are doing, facetiming with my friends from high school, and bingeing a new show with my husband once we put the baby to sleep. Even though during these times I am not working or actively praying, I am also not idle because I am strengthening my relationships. Our Delbarton community has come together to prevent this “enemy of the soul.” We live St. Benedict’s rule by donating to causes, joining one another for morning meetings, reaching out to those in need, applauding essential workers, scheduling online games with our peers, and most importantly, praying. Every day we pray together with Father Michael. It is times like these where we honor the rule of St. Benedict. (Christine Connelly, English Teacher)
february 24, 2020
We absolutely condemn in all places any vulgarity and gossip… we do not permit a disciple to engage in words of that kind. - RB 6:8
St. Benedict’s condemnation of vulgarity and gossip is explicit, there is no wiggle room. And for good reason. Vulgarity and gossip are twin thieves that steal from us our most precious gift, that of self control. The difficulty is that modern culture has made us more accustomed and accepting of vulgar language. We hear it on the street, in the movie theater, on television, on the ball fields - and many other places where it was once frowned upon. Almost always, vulgarity has the effect of cheapening the meaning of what has been said. The people most impressive to me are those who control this impulse in times of stress, anger - or to simply “fit in”. They say what they mean, and mean what they say...and vulgarity would only detract from the power of their words.
Similarly, my mother often reminded me that “if you don’t have anything nice to say about a person, then don’t say anything at all”. That advice always stuck with me, even when I have failed to follow it. So why do we gossip? Once again, it boils down to a lack of self control. When frustrated, angry, jealous or confused, it is very easy to lash out at somebody behind their back. For a quick moment, it even makes us feel better. But that feeling does not last and accomplishes nothing. It is much more productive to confront a person head on. This takes courage, and the person you are confronting may get “their back up” or be defensive. However, in the long run you will be respected as “a straight shooter” - and people will trust you for your integrity. (Brian Bowers, Asst. Athletic Director, Football Coach, History Teacher)
february 10, 2020
It is written "In a flood of words you will not avoid sin" (Prov. 10:19)… Speaking and teaching is the master's task; the disciple is to be silent and listen. - RB 6:4, 6
While in college, the local priest taught us all an important lesson. When angry, you must always “respond rather than react.” Scripture and St. Benedict likewise sees the importance of this teaching when they instruct the monk and the students to remain silent for "in a flood of words you will not avoid sin" (Prov. 10:19). As Fr. Will at IUP taught us, this is one of the most important lessons for the young today. We live in a world that encourages reaction and instant responses, often to the detriment of the speaker. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram all encourage monologue without thought, without dialogue. So if we wish to avoid sin, and looking like a fool for the world to see, we should do our best to avoid the urge to react and the urge to speak without thought and composure. South Park’s advice to “put it [your phone] down while being the Leader of the USA” is not only good advice for those in authority but even better advice for the rest of us. Because ‘in a flood of words, you will not avoid sin" or looking like a fool for the world to see. (Fr. Demetrius Thomas, O.S.B., Theology & History Teacher)
february 3, 2020
Obedience will be acceptable to God and agreeable to men only if compliance with what is commanded is not cringing or sluggish or half-hearted, but free from any grumbling or any reaction of unwillingness. - RB 5:14
How do we obey God's commands without cringing or grumbling, without being sluggish or half hearted? This is accomplished most easily when we understand why God has given us the commands. We have to recognize God's commands as instructions given to us by a loving Father. God's commands are meant to help us live better lives, the same way parents give their children commands to help them live better lives. For example, a parent may tell their children not to play with fire or knives even though that is what the child wants to do. Parents do not give this command to their children to be cruel, to prevent them from enjoying their lives, or as a punishment. They give this command to protect their children, to help them enjoy their lives, and to help them live their best life in the long run. God’s commands are given to us with the same mindset. God wants us to live our best life and to enjoy our life in the long run. If we remember this, we should be able to obey God’s commands without cringing or grumbling, without being sluggish or half hearted. (Matt White, Religious Studies teacher)
january 28, 2020
The first step of humility is unhesitating obedience, which comes naturally to those who cherish Christ above all. - RB 5:1-2
It can be overwhelming to think about a higher power, The Higher Power. Jesus Christ is the perfect model, teaching lesson after lesson about forgiveness, fidelity, sacrifice, and charity. I can understand these lessons and still fail. I can see the example and still blindly veer off the path. When these natural, human setbacks occur, I am humbled and calm. I know that I am fallible and that I have to try harder but I also take comfort that God has a plan for my life. Obedience makes each recovery easier; I believe that humbly elevating and serving others is a way to cherish Christ. (Tom Brady, AP Macroeconomics teacher)
january 13, 2020
Never lose hope in God's mercy. - RB 4:74
Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God, I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Often times when the average person encounters trials and tribulations in their life, it is easy for us to get discouraged and wonder where God is in the midst of it all. About 6 years ago, I didn’t have a job, lost everything and had to move in with my Mom in my late 20’s. Here I am in my late 20’s early 30’s moving back in with my Mom with no job, no money, nothing. I am a believer, I grew up in church and I did all the “right things” as a Christian per the Good Book. In my eyes, I was so discouraged as to how is it that I have done my “Christian duties” yet here I am in this situation. Fast forward 5 years and looking back, God was there the entire time. Throughout that entire dilemma, I found myself back in church. I found myself learning my Bible through a different lens due to hardship. I found myself volunteering at my church as I didn’t have anything else to do. Essentially, I FOUND MYSELF IN GOD. He was there the entire time strengthening me, giving me grace and endurance so I may be here at this very moment being a walking testimony of this scripture. So I no longer fear, I am no longer dismayed, instead I am eternally thankful for God’s amazing grace. (Alecia Ho-Sang, Manager of Housekeeping)
JanUARY 6, 2020
Put your hope in God... devote yourself frequently to prayer - RB 4:41, 57
We put our hope in God because "nothing will be impossible with God" (Lk 1:37). As long as we are working with God, nothing is impossible for us. This is true when we are constant contact with God. God is not a magic genie who is called upon to grant a wish and then is forgotten about until the next wish is desired. God is one with whom we should have a relationship, a friend who we stay in contact with and call upon when we need help. In order to create this friendship with God we need to devote ourselves frequently to prayer. Like all relationships, a friendship with God is strengthened the more we talk to God. Through constant conversation with God you can build a strong relationship with God. Once that strong relationship is built, all things become possible because God is with you. Once all things become possible, we will have no problem putting all of our hope in God. (Matt White, Religious Studies teacher)
December 16, 2019
Do not grumble or speak ill of others… Guard your lips from harmful or deceptive speech.
- RB 4:39-40, 51
One of the defining traits of human beings is our desire, indeed our need to communicate with one another. We derive comfort and support from the experience of fellowship with others; it helps to bind us together in bonds of love, shared purpose, mutual affection, and respect. Often we unburden ourselves to our circle of friends, sharing our frustrations and fears, as well as our joys and experiences. This communion builds a community, as dialogue draws speaker and the listener closer together.
Yet when we use that fellowship to attack others who are not present, we draw a dividing line that slices through that community, separating “us” from “them.” Rather than drawing people together, grumbling and recriminations separate us, wrenching at the threads of shared experience that join us and sustain us. Repeated often enough, those attacks on others create deep, harmful fissures.
It is not easy to follow Benedict’s admonition. Even as I write these lines, I think of the times – all too many - when I have violated this precept in unguarded moments or periods of frustration. Yet these words of Benedict’s rule call us to a deeper appreciation of those around us, fostering community rather than division. When we celebrate the good in others, we celebrate the brotherhood that sustains us when we need it most. (Kevin Conn, History and Modern Language teacher)
December 9, 2019
Your way of acting should be different than the world’s way; the love of Christ must come before all else. –RB 4:20-21
Today the Church confronts its own limitations and failures. Telling the truth is no longer, it seems, a value in leadership. Violence erupts in all corners of the globe. God’s creation isn’t cherished as it should be. Life isn’t held by all as sacred. Being counter-cultural is a daily struggle even for monks. Our way of acting should be different than the world’s way; the love of Christ must come before all else.
Christ loved all, without judgment, qualifications, or compromise: the foreigner, the sinner, the man, woman, child, adulterer, thief, murder, you and me. All he asks of us is love one another, as he has loved us!
So dare to be different! Dare to love the unlovable, including yourself! (Fr. Edward Seton Fittin, O.S.B. '82)
December 2, 2019
Renounce yourself in order to follow Christ (Matt. 16:24; Luke 9:23); discipline your body (1 Cor 9:27); do not pamper yourself, but love fasting. - RB 4:10-13
It is fitting that at the beginning of the Season of Advent that we have a quote about fasting. Fasting is an often misunderstood concept within the Catholic Church. Fasting is a form of spiritual exercise meant to discipline our bodies so that when we are tempted to sin and stray from following Christ, we will have the strength to resist. This concept is very similar to the way an athlete prepares for an upcoming season. In order for an athlete to be at their best for each competition, they subject themselves to sprints, lifting weights, and hours of physically demanding exercise. This is all done so that when the time comes during their competition, they will have the strength to achieve their goal. The season of Advent is a season of preparation for the coming of Christ on Christmas. Let us properly prepare ourselves by spiritually exercising, disciplining our bodies, fasting, and not pampering ourselves. (Matt White, Religious Studies teacher)
november 18, 2019
The brothers, for their part, are to express their opinions with all humility, and not presume to defend their own views obstinately. RB 3:4
It is important to understand that the word humility means to understand that God is God and we are not. God is an all powerful, all perfect being while we are flawed imperfect humans who make mistakes. This is why we should express our own views with humility, knowing that we are flawed and may make mistakes. On the other hand, when we are expressing the views of God and God's teachings, we should defend them obstinately. Even expressing God's opinions with humility dictates this because after all, God is God and we are not. (Matt White, Religious Studies teacher)
november 11, 2019
The Lord often reveals what is better to the younger. - RB 3:3
In a recent heart-to-heart with my pre-teen son, I told him that I would understand if one day he didn't feel comfortable holding my hand or hugging me in public anymore. He responded by reminding me not to worry, because "love is always cool." His words rang out like a radical challenge to me. In a world that seems so divided, angry, and cynical, it can be easy to forget that love is always cool. That my son, at ten, has adopted that mentality, doesn't surprise me. As The Rule of Saint Benedict says, "The Lord often reveals what is better to the younger." I am lucky to have such a brave, brilliant and inspired teacher, one who still cuddles with me before bedtime, reminding me to actively choose love, because it is always cool. (Bridget Keller, Theology Teacher)
November 4, 2019
God shows no partiality among persons (Rom. 2:11). Only in this are we distinguished in his sight: if we are found better than others in good works and in humility. - RB 2:20-21
The Rule teaches us that God views all humans as equals, yet the ones that are humble and serve others, are the ones that can be viewed differently not only by God, but by all human beings. As a society, it is important for all humans to understand people of all diverse backgrounds, and treat them exactly the same. In today's world, men and women pride themselves on affluence, status, and the title of their job. Naturally, by doing so, an individual loses sight of the true meaning of love and happiness, as well as their connection to God. God does not forget about these people or treat them differently, rather he continues to place people of humble nature in front of them so that such humbled individuals can direct those near-sighted people on the path to equity and love for all. (Tony Negrin, English Teacher)
October 28, 2019
The abbot must always remember what he is and remember what he is called, aware that more will be expected from a man to whom more has been entrusted. - RB 2:30
The Rule tells us that "the Abbot is believed to hold the place of Christ in the monastery" (RB 1:2), and so the abbot must always remember what he is to the other members of the community--that is, remember that he images Christ to everyone around him. And while that is true of the abbot and his unique, important role in the monastic community, that is also true of every Christian person. We are called to be Christ to one another, to love one another, to serve one another, to teach one another, to heal one another. It is our obligation to work to ensure that all human beings are treated with dignity and respect, regardless of any difference that might divide us. If we find ourselves advantaged while others are disadvantaged, empowered while others are vulnerable, we are all the more accountable in our sacred, "entrusted", ongoing pursuit of justice and love. (Sarah Loveday, English/Theology Teacher)
October 21, 2019
The Abbot is believed to hold the place of Christ in the monastery - RB 1:2
The gospel narratives’ presentation of the life of Jesus, his teachings and example, his radical self-giving, his life given in solidarity with the whole of humankind and for love’s sake, upends our conventional notions of authority, power and greatness. Genuine, meaningful authority is manifest in service, devotion to and witness of the beautiful dynamism animating every human person; not in aggressive assertions of the will, which usually proceed from fear, not love.
Great leaders stand among those whom they lead, with those who look to them for example. By way of the incarnation - which occurs continually, even now, as surely and concretely as it occurred two millennia ago - God, in and through the person of Jesus, remains continually with us (Emmanuel) and calls us friends, companions. The abbot, the leader, the teacher, any to whom others look for guidance is she or he in whom the self-giving love and solidarity of Christ find expression. (Jonathan Currie, English Teacher)
October 14, 2019
The Abbot must point out to his disciples all that is good and holy more by example than by words. - RB 1:12
It’s easy to think that teaching is basically just talking since that is what is most conspicuous when one walks by a classroom. But teachers would be quick to point out that plenty of what is said goes in one ear and right out the other. Focusing on the noise and show of talking then misses where the real work of teaching occurs, which is in modeling a certain way of living. Under the constant scrutiny of one’s many “disciples,” a teacher needs to be mindful that they convey tremendous amounts of information simply in how they go about doing things. And probably more memorable information than anything they might have said. (Philip Bauchan, Theology Teacher)
october 7, 2019
Do not be daunted immediately by fear and run away from the road that leads to salvation. It is bound to be narrow at the outset. - RB Prologue 48
For me, St. Benedict’s emphasis on the narrowness of the road to salvation is enough of an echo of Jesus’ language from the Sermon on the Mount to seem an extension of that daunting metaphor about the “narrow gate” to salvation. In this way, we might find consolation in Benedict’s promise that the road is only narrow at the outset. Here, the great mind behind The Rule's strategy for achieving the most within the narrowness of each day seems a caring coach cheering on an athlete who is capable of more than he knows. Like elsewhere in The Rule, St. Benedict not only maps the path for us but also shouts words of encouragement—do not be daunted!
For me, Benedict’s map also serves an important exegetical function: to remind us that the purpose of Jesus’ lesson was never to scare us into running away from the hard path and always to give us a sort of pep-talk before the biggest game we’ve ever played. Jesus and Benedict both warn us with images of narrowness because they aim to motivate us to expand our narrow, human vision. Jesus, who loves us, wants to light a fire in our hearts and send us running out onto a field where, with the grace of God, we might achieve victories that we never thought possible. (Philip Schochet, English Teacher)
September 30, 2019
As we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God's commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love. - RB Prologue 49
Let us pause to reflect on what is meant here by “This way of life”. Of course, one might presume that St Benedict is referring to the monastic life - but the rest of the sentence “and in faith” demonstrates that St Benedict intends to address whoever is interested in a life of commitment and service to God and neighbor. As we grow in faith, we achieve both the wisdom and the discipline to be better students, better servants, selfless leaders and loyal friends. The recompense of our efforts to grow in faith and service is a humble and quiet glory: a heart overflowing with delight so great as to be beyond all human expression. A comprehensive reflection of St Benedict’s instruction can also be found in the Prayer of St Francis of Assisi:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen. (Jesse Mazzola, Theology Teacher)
September 23, 2019
"What is not possible to us by nature let us ask the Lord to supply with the help of his grace." - RB Prologue 41
In our everyday life we easily recognize the results of our efforts; good grades, athletic accomplishments, leadership positions, promotions. We work hard, and we play hard to win the prize.
But what happens when we face a difficult situation or a challenge in our life that we alone can not navigate? St. Benedict reminds us that what we can not earn on our own is possible through the best gift we will ever receive, the grace of God. Grace is an undeserved present, we do not need to earn it. God loves us so much that he offers us His grace for the asking. Paul writes : " My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" 2 Corinthians 12:9 (Kelly Gleason, Math Teacher/Guidance)
September 16, 2019
"See how the Lord in his love shows us the way of life." - RB Prologue 20
We find ourselves so easily burdened by work, responsibilities, and obligations. But how many of these things have we put on ourselves, and how many of these things does God actually want for us? When we carefully discern God's will in our lives, what we realize is that God does not want us to be stressed or to worry. He wants us simply to love and trust Him to take care of us. As He says in Matthew, chapter 11, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Elizabeth Mainardi, Science Chair/Campus Ministry)
September 9, 2019
"Let us open our eyes to the light that comes from God, and our ears to the voice from Heaven." Rule of Benedict Prologue 9
"And" is a very important word in this sentence. St. Benedict calls us to open our eyes AND our ears. We are not called to simply look for God or to listen for God. We are called to both look AND listen for God. If we are only using one sense to find God we are going to miss out on many of the opportunities that we have to encounter God each day. This week let us use every sense we have to encounter the goodness of God each day. (Matt White, Religious Studies Teacher)
September 3, 2019
"Listen carefully, my son, to your master's instructions and attend to them with the ear of your heart." Rule of Benedict Prologue 1
As we begin the school year, it is fitting that we reflect on the the beginning of the Rule of St. Benedict. While there is so much to reflect on, I want to focus on the phrase "your master's instructions". It is important for us identify who our "master" is and what the "instructions" that we need to attend to are. There are the obvious "masters" such as teachers, coaches, parents that are easy to identify along with the "instructions" that they give us. What about the not so obvious "masters"? Are we allowing God to be our master? Are we attending to God's instructions? Have we let money, power, the desire "to be cool" become the "master" of our life? This week let us strive to only attend to the "instructions" that bear good fruit rather than bring about harm. (Matt White, Religious Studies Teacher)