After missing the last sessions due to work and illness it was nice to reconnect with the men at TMIY this morning. As always, I found the group discussion inspiring but I also thought the introductory lecture was helpful as it set the stage for the content for the remainder of the year. Over the next week, I will summarize the highpoints of the lecture with some additional references.
The initial discussion was on St. Benedict. St. Benedict lived in Benedict of Nursia (c. 480 – c. 547) and became known as the Father of Western monasticism. St. Benedict had a huge influence in his own time and in succeeding centuries. His monks were a source of stability in the highly disordered state of Europe following the collapse of the Roman Empire and the invasions of the northern tribes (Vandals, Huns, etc.) and laid the ground for the emergence of the cultural wealth of the Renaissance from the 12th century onwards. St. Benedict created the Rule of St. Benedict, which formed the basis of governing the monasteries after the fall of the Roman Empire. These monasteries preserved the knowledge of the Roman Empire at a time during the centuries there was very little formal education in Europe.
The Rule of St. Benedict was designed to create a simple, balanced and flexible pathway to God. Steve Bollman summarized the Rule of St. Benedict as follows:
A Practical Way of Life
• Balance: “There ought to be due proportion between the seriousness of a fault and the measure of discipline.”
• Flexibility: “If people find this distribution of the psalms unsatisfactory, they should arrange whatever they judge better.”
• Practical: “Provide all the tables with two kinds of cooked foods … In this way, the person who may not be able to eat one kind of food may partake of the other.”
• Reasonable: “After lunch, they may rest on their beds in complete silence; should any wish to read privately, let them do so.”