The Feast of St. Benedict

BY Doug Jones

July 12, 2012


This week (July 11) the Church remembers the life, ministry, and death of St. Benedict.  Why would a protestant, and somewhat conservative one at that, observe the day of a Catholic Saint?

My fascination with Benedict began with regular visits to a retreat that was maintained by some wonderful Benedictine Sisters.  Once a month for a few years I would spend a day at their Monastery in Linton Hall, VA.  On one of my stays I became curious about the sisters and through some questions and reading and “connecting of dots” I began to piece together an understanding and admiration for the Benedictine tradition.

This admiration began with the founder, Benedict of Nursia (AD 480-543).  Benedict left the church a great gift in his Rule of Life.  This amazing short document provides a guide to living in a community that desires to follow in the way of the Gospels.  But this begs the original question, why would a protestant gain a hearing from a Catholic Saint?

1. Benedict was a layman writing to the whole church, calling them to reform and a radical way of life during a time when the church had become a tool of the state.

2. Benedict was writing to regular folks – not exclusively to monks, priest, or vocational ministers.  He was writing to offer basic teachings, “a school for beginners.”

3. The time of Benedict’s writing was a time when there was ONE Church and we gain great perspective from his insight, practices, values and priorities (many of which we have lost since the Great Schism [1054] and the Protestant Reformation).

4. Once we begin reading Benedict’s rule, his writing demands our attention.  It is a short message, filled with Scripture, and is a wonderful blend of scholarship and devotional writing that has inspired a countless number of movements throughout the church since. In short, Benedict’s writing stands the test of time.

This, among many other reasons, is why this reluctant evangelical protestant is proud that one of my spiritual fathers is St. Benedict of Nursia.

Who are some of your spiritual heroes?  Have you stumbled onto Benedict’s Rule?  Is there a place for Christian Tradition and History in informing our present Spiritual Formation?

Weigh-in below in the comments.

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