For one of my classes about Christian Spirituality, we were assigned readings about some of the great men and women of the faith. Monks, nuns, preachers, and theologians were all introduced to us and their spiritual practices were explained. While all were very impressive and they challenged me to take my faith more seriously, one of the men in the book stuck out to me. St Benedict of Nursia was a monk who created a monastic order that was centered around discipline and rules. Benedict saw the disorderly conduct of those within monasteries and tried to bring some order to the situation. Instead of allowing the monks to live disorderly lives , he wanted to cultivate a community centered around order and discipline through, what is now called, the Rule of St Benedict.
The rules promoted a balanced life, one that is centered around prayer, work, meditative reading of Scripture, and community. Benedict understood that we are creatures of habit and that if everyone (including himself and future leaders of the monastery) lived under these rules, then they could encounter God more distinctly.
The idea of discipline and balance could be used today. What is nice about Benedict was that he sought to help forge a path for many people to be more intentional in their spiritual growth. For me, I must set up a rhythm where I do certain things at certain times. Being disorderly and random when it comes to creating good habits (secular or sacred) rarely works. In fact, it is the purposeful choices that I make that will shape me to become a better person. Just as going to the gym is tough the initial few weeks, the more one does that act, the easier it will become since it is transformed into a routine. This routine and focus will help quiet those obstacles that frequently drown our dreams and goals for a more balanced, spiritual life. As Henri Nouwen called our minds a “banana tree full of screaming monkeys” when it came to silence and discipline, these disciplines will help overcome those unruly pests with the sustaining power of the Holy Spirit.
*A word of warning: Routines can become stale. But more on that in next week’s post.