Monday, July 11, 2011

Something Greater Than This World

July 11 is the Feast of St. Benedict.

St. Benedict was a man who went off into the desert in search of God. He sought to dedicate himself to God alone.

He had no project.

He did not plan to establish a monastery.

He did not plan to found a religious order.

He did not plan to lay the foundations for the Christian civilization of the Middle Ages.

He did not plan the preservation of classical learning and culture.

He did not plan to feed the poor, care for the sick, found schools, or become a counselor to the great and powerful.

He sought only to give himself to God. He found God in the desert. He found Him in silence and prayer. He also found Him in obedience, which for Benedict meant responding to the little things that God gave him. It meant loving God in those first followers who sought him out. It meant helping them to live together as brothers. It meant writing his directives down, as a rule "for beginners."

Silence, prayer, obedience, humility, love. These are still the things that really matter. These are the things that build up the heart of the Church. But we must acknowledge all of God's gifts: it is also this radical self-forgetfulness of love for Christ that builds up the world. St. Benedict was not aware of this, but God used him nonetheless, and for centuries in the West he has been known as the "Father of Europe." By seeking God after his example and according to his rule, Benedict's followers would also change the history of the world. Benedictine monasteries rose out of the ruins of the Latin Roman Empire, preserved and fostered all that was good from antiquity, and inspired and helped shape the institutions of the new peoples who built Western Europe's Christian culture.

Our world today may be on the threshold of a new dark age. Are there, even now in our midst, the "St. Benedicts" whose prayer and sacrifice are sowing the seeds of a new Christendom in the future? Or is this not in some way the calling of each of us? We must go into the desert of daily life, in this world which cannot but be a world of sorrows because we are not yet in the embrace of the God for whom we have been made. We must go into the desert of our hearts that are so distracted, and we must cry out for His mercy and healing. We must live in the midst of a world that has tried to make God absent, that has obscured the signs of His presence, and we must seek Him and stand with Him as He unites Himself to humans in their loneliness.

This is what makes the world a better place: knowing that we are made for Something greater than this world, and letting that "Something" touch us in the midst of this world and shape our way of looking at everything.

The Icon of St. Benedict is by Lu Bro: