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Benedictine Spirituality

Benedictine spirituality is not a spiritual practice that waxes and wanes, comes and goes, as we grow and change and mature in the spiritual life. It is a way of life, a free-standing and stable model of the God-seeking human enterprise that is based on age-old traditions and ancient wisdom.

Nor is it a goal unto itself. It is, as the Rule says so directly and simply, “written for beginners.” This is the life that introduces us to a lifestyle, not to a set of prayer practices or even any defined ministry.

It is not a work that can be accomplished in any given period and then forgotten. It is the work of a lifetime. It roots us in the scriptures and prayer. It immerses us in the work of co-creation. It stresses justice as the way to peace. It does away with classism, racism, sexism, and ethnocentrism. It sees differences as the enrichment of any community rather than a threat to society. It urges us to immersion in the Word of God, respect for study and reflection, and regularity at prayer.

And yet, Benedictine spirituality calls for “nothing harsh, nothing burdensome.”

It leaves to each of us, as individuals and groups, the task of determining in every community, of every era, what is necessary to fulfill these values and attain the riches of this life. It calls us always to the more of life: to more peace, more humility, more serenity, more study, more prayer, more openness, more service of the other, more community of heart, more richness of soul, more immersion in the tradition and the wisdom it has handed on to us.

It invites us to come to learn, too, how less is also more: how less competition means more peace, less jealousy means more contentment, less need for things means more satisfaction, less self-centeredness means more happiness, and less corrosive personal ambition leaves more room for the loving presence of God.

—Joan Chittister in The Monastery of the Heart