This Saturday, we celebrate the Feast of the founder of Western Monasticism. Benedict of Nursia was born in about AD 480 and died in about AD 543. Sent to Rome to study, he found life there abhorrent, and retreated to the countryside. There, he became a hermit, known for his miracles and good works. The monastic community near his hermitage begged him to become their abbot. That community became the Benedictine Monastery in Monte Cassio, Italy.
There he developed the Holy Rule of St. Benedict. Based on Ora et Labora (Pray and Work), it prescribed eight hours a day for prayer, eight hours a day for work and eight hours a day for sleep.
Today, 1500 years later, his Rules are still used in Benedictine monasteries and convents around the world. Benedictine communities base their collective lives on prayer, work, study, hospitality and renewal.
But the Rules are not just for clergy.
Benedictine groups around the country offer retreats, annual symposia and Benedictine Way Groups. Lay people can immerse themselves in simple rhythms of living that follow the Benedictine rules.
Ora et Labora – good principles to inform our lives today.
The Rev. Charles Hoffacker is a retired priest of the Diocese of Washington