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Friday, October 18, 2013

The Search Foundation

The Benedictine way is to seek God always. The life style is composed of prayer, of work and of study. Working is seen not as a curse but a blessing. It provides us with our daily needs, saving us from becoming idle. The Franciscan ideal, absolute poverty, living by begging, has much merit. Yet, it can devolve into an adolescent freedom. One who is spiritually immature and chooses to embrace such a life can be a leech, enjoying the fruits of another’s labor. (The truly holy who have renounced possessions are willing to go without for long periods of time to combat this danger.) However, work, too, has its dangers. It can become a replacement for God, consuming our energies and our passions. And work is associated with money: Mammon.

Benedict thought that it was good for the monk to work. It kept him busy. However, the work was not to keep one so busy that there was not time for prayer. Regular hours were set for prayer. If working is something which we understand today, the times for prayer are probably less graspable. In my experience, most Christians have a minimalist approach to prayer. Sunday worship is no longer valued. Few churches have public prayer scheduled during the week. So regular times for daily, communal prayer is foreign to our experience. It could be different, but probably won’t be any time soon. Yet the personal practice of set times for prayer is possible. The use of the psalms in combination with readings from the Ancient and New Covenant can be done. If one chooses, three periods could easily be set aside at the beginning, end and some mid-point of the day. At each time a psalm or two could be prayed with a time for reflective reading on a section of Scripture. It would take about five minutes to do it reflectively, a total of fifteen minutes a day (and easily expanded to more). Benedict gathered his monks more frequently and for a bit longer than that, but the basic model is sound. Add to that a time of actual study each day, or several days each week, and you suddenly have a life style intended to follow Jesus and center on God.

God is every where—veiled by concrete creation. We who seek Him know that an ordered life and structured prayer are ideal for the search! He reveals Himself in the ordinary, but our efforts provide us with keener awareness of the ‘unveilings’ among us.

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