Reflections on the Rule of St Benedict: Introduction
(please scroll down for daily reflections)


We wanted the Rule of St Benedict (RB) to pulse through the website as it does through our life, hence the decision that the daily portion of the Rule, read in most Benedictine monasteries and by many individuals, should feature on the Home Page. The version selected is that of Dom Justin McCann of Ampleforth published by the Stanbrook Abbey Press in 1937 and used by kind permission of the Ampleforth Abbey Trust. There are several reasons for this choice: first of all, we feel it still reads as an elegant translation, then we wish to celebrate cooperation between the Ampleforth and Stanbrook communities over many years, and thirdly, perhaps the old-fashioned ‘thees’ and ‘thous’ can actually help us approach the Rule of St Benedict thoughtfully. For all its relevance, RB remains an ancient text which needs careful ‘unpacking’.

To accompany the extracts of the Rule we hope to post regular reflections, from members of the Stanbrook Community and Stanbrook Oblates. These do not aim to be scholarly commentaries of which there are many excellent editions available. Rather, the reflections allow us to re-visit the Rule, to try to listen to its familiar voice anew, and to share thoughts via this forum.

Your comments are welcome via secretary@stanbrookabbey.org.uk



Click here for pdf of whole Rule: RB37





Reflections from Mary Cockroft, Oblate of Stanbrook

May 26     Chapter 7   Humility


Humility is a weirdly old-fashioned kind of virtue, with which we perhaps find it difficult to identify. We live in an age of entitlement. We are members of a society which has considered itself entitled to adopt life-destroying attitudes towards the unborn, the disabled, those suffering long-term illnesses. The human race has lost all sense of humility in its headlong race for “progress”, wealth, possessions. We are waking up rather too late to the damage our sense of entitlement has done to the environment; we have not paused to think about the injustice and exploitation that underpins our standard of life. We grasp greedily and hold firmly onto what we consider “rightfully” ours, like a toddler who won’t let go of the toy snatched from a sibling.


Humility reminds us that we are not the centre of the universe, we cannot behave like toddlers all our life. We need to get to grips with the false self and discover the true self, which is part of something much bigger than my narrow self-focus allows. Humility acknowledges that I need to become spiritually mature, and that Christ-like humility will demand acceptance of the cross. 


 


May 27


Ladders have a purpose – they enable us to reach something we cannot reach by staying with our feet on the ground, and the view from the top will be wider. It pays, generally, to climb a ladder mindfully and to be careful where we place our foot on each step.  


Benedict’s ladder is counter-cultural. This is not a ladder to 21st century worldly success, enabling us to fulfil career ambitions and gain worldly rewards. It is not about treading on everyone else on your way up, gaining prestige and admiration. Even less is it about appearing on The Sunday Times Rich List. This ladder offers a plan for a life lived by very different values. It will enable integration of body and soul, so that we live less fragmented, unfocused lives and achieve a kind of wholeness in aligning ourselves with the dream God has for each of us to become the person he is inviting us to be.


 


May 28


Fear of God is another concept which we may understand negatively rather than positively. If we are only seeking to avoid what we imagine God’s anger will do with us, we will not become spiritually mature. Our motivation needs to be trust that whatever God asks of us, it will be asked out of love.


First and foremost, I am not starting to climb this ladder in some kind of spiritual vacuum. I am seeking a deeper relationship with God and a share of the life that he offers. I believe that God’s gaze is upon me 24/7, and that this gaze is not one of anger, nor of disappointment with where I am up to/not up to. This is the gaze of a God of unconditional compassion and a desire that I find life. I can set my foot on this ladder with total confidence that he is holding me steady on it.  


O search me, God, and know my heart.                                                                                                                       O test me and know my thoughts.                                                                                                                                See that I follow not the wrong path and lead me in the path of life eternal (Psalm 138:23-4)


I am a found sheep. The closer I know myself to be found and held, the more my thoughts will reflect the deepening relationship I have with God and the more I will want to eradicate ways of thinking which run counter to this.  


 


May 29


Doing what I want, with reckless disregard for what God might want, or what might be best for anyone else in my vicinity, is not a recipe for spiritual maturity. It may seem easier to live a life “like everyone else does”, filled with what I want, what I feel I must have to make me happy, ensuring things are how I want them to be. Much of this sort of consumer-driven, self-centred lifestyle may have come to an abrupt halt in the last two months and be leaving many with empty and frustrated lives.


Humility calls me to give at least as much, if not more energy to what will nurture my spiritual life, what will be genuinely life-giving for me, what will enable my truer self to flourish. Be aware that I am God’s ongoing project and that God has certainly not finished with me yet. Acknowledge the talents and character strengths with which he has blessed me, and use them to co-operate with him in the creation of the work of art that is me. If co-operation with God’s will for me is what I desire, then my life will be on the right track. 


 


May 30


Growing in humility by eradicating selfishness and a tendency to sinfulness is not a once-in-a-lifetime job, but a task which is going to demand ongoing effort, a whole lifetime’s perseverance. There will always be something more I could do to become even more loving, more patient, more kind, more generous, more forgiving. There is never, however long I live, going to be a moment for sitting down with a cup of tea and saying to myself: “Done it! Got there! Perfection achieved!”


God sees all the effort. We do not need to worry that he might have overlooked it. He sees it with the anxious concern of a loving parent. He desires our success in the pursuit of peace, of life, of self-giving love, of joy.


You will show me the path of life, 
the fullness of joy in your presence,
at your right hand happiness for ever.   (Psalm 15:11)