This year marks my 5th year in seminary formation. I have been spent three of those five years at a seminary established and maintained for decades by Benedictine monks. This Lent, I find myself studying at St. Meinrad Archabbey in southern Indiana. Being surrounded by holy men of the black cloth, I decided to ask one of the monks for some guidance on Lent this year: “Father, what is the Benedictine tradition for the observance of Lent?” I asked. The monk replied, “St. Benedict tells us in his Rule for monastic life (The Rule of St. Benedict). I’ll find the passage and send it along so you can see for yourself.” A few days passed and I had forgotten the brief conversation we had had over lunch. But the monk had not forgotten his promise. I opened my mailbox one day to find a nice card and print out from him which had the small section on Lent from St. Benedict’s Rule. You can read for yourself this helpful text concerning Lent – here it is:
“The life of a monk ought to be a continuous Lent. Since few, however, have the strength for this, we urge the entire community during these days of Lent to keep its manner of life most pure and to wash away in this holy season the negligences of other times. This we can do in a fitting manner by refusing to indulge evil habits and by devoting ourselves to prayer with tears, to reading, to compunction of heart and self-denial. During these days, therefore, we will add to the usual measure of our service something by way of private prayer and abstinence from food or drink, so that each of us will have something above the assigned measure to offer God of his own will with the joy of the Holy Spirit (1 Thess 1:6). In other words, let each one deny himself some food, drink, sleep, needless talking and idle jesting, and look forward to holy Easter with joy and spiritual longing.”
I imagine most of us are familiar with the three pillars of Lenten observance: Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving. Here, in this ancient Rule (6th century), we can see all three represented and admonished for living a holy and pure life. What words struck you? What practice could you increase to help you be a little more “monkish” during this holy season of Lent?
May this Lent be an experience of conversion for us; a turning back to the Lord with all our heart, mind, and body. Just as St. Benedict would have us do… if we were monks. Even so, his advice is something we could all use a little more of this Lent – monk or not.