why. are we Benedictine Celestine of the Renewal?. Renewal can include the discipline of keeping a sabbath, cultivating interests that remind us of the presence of God, or taking time to notice beauty and love in our daily life. Renewal is the time to remember that our lives are still centered on the Divine, and that God is the ultimate center of our Rule of Life.
The Rule of Saint Benedict
The Rule of St. Benedict is a timeless document - in so many ways as fresh and relevant as it was when it was written almost fifteen hundred years ago. Although written for monastics, many of the issues addressed in the Rule can be applied to life in the world outside the monastic community. The qualities which make up a valued life - humility, patience, simplicity, solitude, caring for others, and living in community - concern everyone. These specifics of the Rule, and the framework it provides, have great meaning for people who are seeking to live out their faith in the world today.
The Order of Saint Benedict (OSB; Latin: Ordo Sancti Benedicti), also known as the Black Monks – in reference to the colour of its members' habits – is a Catholic religious order of independent monastic communities that observe the Rule of Saint Benedict. Each community (monastery, priory or abbey) within the order maintains its own autonomy, while the order itself represents their mutual interests. The terms "Order of Saint Benedict" and "Benedictine Order" are, however, also used to refer to all Benedictine communities collectively, sometimes giving the incorrect impression that there exists a generalate or motherhouse with jurisdiction over them.
Internationally, the order is governed by the Benedictine Confederation, a body, established in 1883 by Pope Leo XIII's Brief Summum semper, whose head is known as the Abbot Primate. Individuals whose communities are members of the order generally add the initials "OSB" after their names...
The English Benedictine Congregation is the oldest of the nineteen Benedictine congregations. Augustine of Canterbury and his monks established the first English Benedictine monastery at Canterbury soon after their arrival in 597. Other foundations quickly followed. Through the influence of Wilfrid, Benedict Biscop, and Dunstan, the Benedictine Rule spread with extraordinary rapidity, and in the North it was adopted in most of the monasteries that had been founded by the Celtic missionaries from Iona. Many of the episcopal sees of England were founded and governed by the Benedictines, and no fewer than nine of the old cathedrals were served by the black monks of the priories attached to them. Monasteries served as hospitals and places of refuge for the weak and homeless. The monks studied the healing properties of plants and minerals to alleviate the sufferings of the sick.
In the English Reformation, all monasteries were dissolved and their lands confiscated by the Crown, forcing their Catholic members to flee into exile on the Continent. During the 19th century they were able to return to England, including to Selby Abbey in Yorkshire, one of the few great monastic churches to survive the Dissolution.
St. Mildred's Priory, on the Isle of Thanet, Kent, was built in 1027 on the site of an abbey founded in 670 by the daughter of the first Christian King of Kent. Currently the priory is home to a community of Benedictine nuns. Five of the most notable English abbeys are the Basilica of St Gregory the Great at Downside, commonly known as Downside Abbey, The Abbey of St Edmund, King and Martyr commonly known as Douai Abbey in Upper Woolhampton, Reading, Berkshire, Ealing Abbey in Ealing, West London, and Worth Abbey. Prinknash Abbey, used by Henry VIII as a hunting lodge, was officially returned to the Benedictines four hundred years later, in 1928. During the next few years, so-called Prinknash Park was used as a home until it was returned to the order.
St. Lawrence's Abbey in Ampleforth, Yorkshire was founded in 1802. In 1955, Ampleforth set up a daughter house, a priory at St. Louis, Missouri which became independent in 1973 and became Saint Louis Abbey in its own right in 1989.
As of 2015, the English Congregation consists of three abbeys of nuns and ten abbeys of monks. Members of the congregation are found in England, Wales, the United States of America, Peru and Zimbabwe.
Since the Oxford Movement, there has also been a modest flourishing of Benedictine monasticism in the Anglican Church and Protestant Churches. Anglican Benedictine Abbots are invited guests of the Benedictine Abbot Primate in Rome at Abbatial gatherings at Sant'Anselmo. There are an estimated 2,400 celibate Anglican Religious (1,080 men and 1,320 women) in the Anglican Communion as a whole, some of whom have adopted the Rule of St. Benedict
Monasteries were among the institutions of the Catholic Church swept away during the French Revolution. Monasteries were again allowed to form in the 19th century under the Bourbon Restoration. Later that century, under the Third French Republic, laws were enacted preventing religious teaching. The original intent was to allow secular schools. Thus in 1880 and 1882, Benedictine teaching monks were effectively exiled; this was not completed until 1901
The Rule of Benedict (RB) constitutes a basic guide for living the Christian life and continues to be followed by every Benedictine monastery and convent in the world today. Just the idea that a guide for living could not only last 1500 years, but continue to be followed by thousands of people makes its study valuable for monks and nuns as well as laypeople..
The forty-eighth rule of Saint Benedict prescribes extensive and habitual "holy reading" for the brethren. Three primary types of reading were done by the monks during this time. Monks would read privately during their personal time, as well as publicly during services and at meal times. In addition to these three mentioned in the Rule, monks would also read in the infirmary.
However, Benedictine monks were disallowed worldly possessions, thus necessitating the preservation and collection of sacred texts in monastic libraries for communal use. For the sake of convenience, the books in the monastery were housed in a few different places, namely the sacristy, which contained books for the choir and other liturgical books, the rectory, which housed books for public reading such as sermons and lives of the saints, and the library, which contained the largest collection of books and was typically in the cloister.
The first record of a monastic library in England is in Canterbury. To assist with Augustine of Canterbury's English mission, Pope Gregory the Great gave him nine books which included the Gregorian Bible in two volumes, the Psalter of Augustine, two copies of the Gospels, two martyrologies, an Exposition of the Gospels and Epistles, and a Psalter. Theodore of Tarsus brought Greek books to Canterbury more than seventy years later, when he founded a school for the study of Greek
The sense of community was a defining characteristic of the order since the beginning.] Section 17 in chapter 58 of the Rule of Saint Benedict states the solemn promise candidates for reception into a Benedictine community are required to make: a promise of stability (i.e. to remain in the same community), conversatio morum (an idiomatic Latin phrase suggesting "conversion of manners"; see below) and obedience to the community's superior. This solemn commitment tends to be referred to as the "Benedictine vow" and is the Benedictine antecedent and equivalent of the evangelical counsels professed by candidates for reception into a religious order.
Much scholarship over the last fifty years has been dedicated to the translation and interpretation of "conversatio morum". The older translation "conversion of life" has generally been replaced with phrases such as "[conversion to] a monastic manner of life", drawing from the Vulgate's use of conversatio as a translation of "citizenship" or "homeland" in Philippians 3:20. Some scholars have claimed that the vow formula of the Rule is best translated as "to live in this place as a monk, in obedience to its rule and abbot."
Benedictine abbots and abbesses have full jurisdiction of their abbey and thus absolute authority over the monks or nuns who are resident. This authority includes the power to assign duties, to decide which books may or may not be read, to regulate comings and goings, and to punish and to excommunicate, in the sense of an enforced isolation from the monastic community.
A tight communal timetable – the horarium – is meant to ensure that the time given by God is not wasted but used in God's service, whether for prayer, work, meals, spiritual reading or sleep.
Although Benedictines do not take a vow of silence, hours of strict silence are set, and at other times silence is maintained as much as is practically possible. Social conversations tend to be limited to communal recreation times. But such details, like the many other details of the daily routine of a Benedictine house that the Rule of St Benedict leaves to the discretion of the superior, are set out in its 'customary'. A ' customary' is the code adopted by a particular Benedictine house, adapting the Rule to local conditions.
In the Roman Catholic Church, according to the norms of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, a Benedictine abbey is a "religious institute" and its members are therefore members of the consecrated life. While Canon Law 588 §1 explains that Benedictine monks are "neither clerical nor lay", they can, however, be ordained.
Some monasteries adopt a more active ministry in living the monastic life, running schools or parishes; others are more focused on contemplation, with more of an emphasis on prayer and work within the confines of the cloister.
The Rule of Saint Benedict is also used by a number of religious orders that began as reforms of the Benedictine tradition such as the Cistercians and Trappists. These groups are separate congregations and not members of the Benedictine Confederation.
Although Benedictines traditionally refer to Catholics, there are also some within the Anglican Communion and occasionally within other Christian denominations as well, for example, within the Lutheran Church, that claim adherence to the Rule of Saint Benedict. There are also some Eastern Orthodox Benedictines.
Benedictine monasticism is fundamentally different from other Western religious orders insofar as its individual communities are not part of a religious order with "Generalates" and "Superiors General". Each Benedictine house is independent and governed by an Abbot.
In modern times, the various groups of autonomous houses (national, reform, etc.) have formed themselves loosely into congregations (for example, Cassinese, English, Solesmes, Subiaco, Camaldolese, Sylvestrines). There are twenty Congregations within the Benedictine Confederation. These, in turn, are represented in the Benedictine Confederation that came into existence through Pope Leo XIII's Apostolic Brief "Summum semper" on 12 July 1883. This organization facilitates dialogue of Benedictine communities with each other and the relationship between Benedictine communities and other religious orders and the church at large. The Abbot Primate resides at the Monastery of Sant’ Anselmo in Rome.
In 1313 Bernardo Tolomei established the Order of Our Lady of Mount Olivet. The community adopted the Rule of St. Benedict and received canonical approval in 1344. The Olivetans are part of the Benedictine Confederation.
Stability refers to the importance of community and commitment in life. For a monk or nun it refers directly to a commitment to the monastery where they will live for the rest of their life. While we all may not be a member of a monastic order, we can make our vow of stability to our families, to our faith communities, to our local and global communities, and to our fellow pilgrims along the journey of faith. The vow of stability also speaks to our current environmental crisis—for when we remain committed to the earth we learn how to be good stewards of that which God has given us.
Conversion is not confined to a one time experience. To a monk or nun, conversion of life reminds them that everything they do is from, for, and with God and that God converts us continually. The vow tells the monastic they are to acknowledge that conversion and be open to it. For those of us not in the monastery conversion is an ongoing process as well, one that helps us walk continually in the presence of God. In order to open our ears to God’s voice and our eyes to God’s presence among us, Benedict tells us we must keep our hearts and our minds open to the ways that God is moving us. When we block the transformation that God is working within us, then we are not living into the Benedictine Way. An open heart is one that allows balanced practices of prayer, work, study, hospitality, and renewal to illuminate the ways that God is working within us and within the world.
Obedience comes from the Latin word for "listen". The practice of attentive listening is foundational to the Benedictine Rule of Life. Benedict wrote that everyone in the community needed to listen to one another, and that sometimes God speaks through the youngest person in the community. Nonetheless, it is the Abbot who needs to make the decisions in end, and each member of the community must obey him. Obedience can be a heavy word for us today. Yet a healthy, balanced view of obedience - as a way of cultivating a disciplined, intentional life that is yearning to be obedient to God - is a desire that many people in today’s world have and this makes the vow of obedience relevant. Obedience can entail a healthy sense of humility (self-knowledge) and of respecting and following the guides, leaders, teachers, and fellow travelers who are guiding you on your path towards God.
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