dotCommonweal

A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors

.

Benedictus Qui Venit

In the next last chapter of his Rule, St. Benedict, whose feast the Church celebrates today, draws upon and applies to monastic life the "two ways" theme of the biblical tradition:

Just as there is a wicked zeal of bitterness which separates from God and leads to hell, so there is a good zeal which separates from evil and leads to God and everlasting life. This, then, is the good zeal which monks must foster with fervent love: they should each try to be the first to show respect to the other, supporting with the greatest patience one another's weaknesses of body and behavior, and earnestly competing in obedience to one another. No one is to pursue what he judges better for himself, but instead what he judges better for someone else. To their fellow monks they show the pure love of brothers; to God. loving fear; to their abbot, unfeigned and humble love. Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring us all together to everlasting life.

Many fine books, like Dolores Leckey's The Ordinary Way, have shown the applicability of the Rule to family life. One thinks, for example, of the many adult care-givers struggling, with patience and grace, to support the physical and mental infirmities of parents.

On a societal level, one recalls on this feast the now famous peroration penned, twenty five years ago, by Alasdair MacIntyre in After Virtue. Though acknowledging the risk of drawing too facile historical parallels, MacIntyre suggested that we may be entering a new "dark age" of barbarism. And he concludes:

This time however the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another -- doubtless very different -- St. Benedict.

Comments

Commenting Guidelines

So MacIntyre thinks we are waiting for someone who will "try to be the first to show respect to the other, supporting with the greatest patience one another's weaknesses of body and behavior..." Perhaps he should have taken the first step towards that, and refrained from calling others "barbarians"?

Benedict is really special. Alwlays impressive is his dictum to his monks that they should welcome each visitor as God's own. To this day I am not aware that any monastery is as welcoming.Interesting that when it comes to monasticism, it is really a creation of the mediocrity in the Christian community which weighed in strongly in the fourth century.Vatican II had to stress again that all the people were called to holiness. Not just a special group.

The identity and reasons for Godot's anticipated arrival are never shared with the audience. We wait always in anticipation, in darkness; however, by comparative analogy, through our ignorance of their presence and purposes, we empowered the forces that govern our lives. What we wait for now, in our times, is less nebulous. It is explicitly a "rule." The question for us is whether it will be a benevolent rule or something barbaric. What do you say?

Well, we do have Ted Hesburgh. This is an important post because it tells each of us, irrespective of our politics, how much we are lacking. Perhaps a real area where commonground can operate.

Much as I admire MacIntyre, I find his view of "modernity" or the Enlightenment too negative. He has no patience with attempts to promote international justice, among other things. (He once criticized me for being "implacably benevolent." I think that meant I was hopelessly naive.)St. Benedict and those of his contemporary followers that I know something about don't strike me the sorts of people MacIntyre pines for. Thank goodness.