The 12 Steps of Humility :: LISTEN MORE THAN TALK

IN THE 12 STEPS OF HUMILITY WE ARE CLIMBING SAINT BENEDICT’S LADDER OF HUMILITY.  WITH EACH RUNG WE COME CLOSER TO THE PERFECT LOVE OF GOD.

 

The ladder is our life on earth, if we humble our heart God will raise it to heaven. ~ St. Benedict 
 

THE NINTH STEP OF HUMILITY: A monk restrains [her] speech, not speaking until an answer is required.

Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut. ~ Proverbs 10-19 (MSG)

 






In a culture big on watching most of us don’t really know how to listen. Do you find yourself listening to friends or loved ones with virtually no eye contact or verbal responses while surfing email or social media on your smartphone? 

Turn listening into a living response rather than a cerebral activity. That means we may have to listen when we don’t want to. If we pick and choose we may miss an important message God is trying to bring us. Besides that, it all comes back to honoring Christ in the other. It’s basic Golden Rule behavior really.

To listen closely, with every fibre of our being, at every moment of the day, is one of the most difficult things in the world, and yet it is essential if we mean to find the God whom we are seeking.*


Benedictine spirituality calls us to listen to four things:

  • The Gospels.
  • The Rule.
  • Each other.
  • Life around us.


We won’t hear God through any of these unless we stop talking, typing or texting!

If we want to grow in grace, we must learn to talk less and listen more.** 

 
RESOURCES:
Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living the Rule of St. Benedict Today by Joan Chittister
Twelve Steps to Inner Freedom: Humility Revisited by Joan Chittister
A Guide to Living in the Truth: Saint Benedict’s Teaching on Humility by Michael Casey
Saint Benedict’s Toolbox: The Nuts and Bolts of Everyday Benedictine Living by Jane Tomaine
The Rule of Saint Benedict edited by Timothy Fry

Monk Habits for Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants by Dennis Okholm**

Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict by Esther de Waal*
 

Image credit: tuk69tuk / 123RF Stock Photo

09.03.14

A Monk in the World

SILENCE

EACH MONTH IN MONK IN THE WORLD WE ARE LEARNING THE PRINCIPLES OF CHRISTIAN MONASTICISM AND HOW WE CAN APPLY THEM TO OUR LIVES OUTSIDE THE MONASTERY WALLS.

 

There are times when good words are to be left unsaid out of esteem for silence. ~ The Rule of Benedict

I kept quiet, not saying a word, not even about anything good! ~ Psalm 39:2 (GNT) 

Words, words, words… They are everywhere! Billboards, sides of buildings, flashing street signs, bumper stickers in traffic, even the sky isn’t immune with its skywriters and planes tugging advertisement banners. The plethora of words in our world dilute their meaning to the point of overload and burnout!

Where in the world can one go to find silence?

Even if we find a place with the precious quiet we’re craving we still have the noise in our mind to deal with. We must somehow change the internal noise into a gentler sound.

The one who sits in solitude and quiet has escaped from three wars: hearing, speaking, and seeing; yet against one thing shall he continually battle: that is his own heart. ~ Anthony of Egypt*

As our body needs rest, our spirit needs silence for our inner life to grow. When we keep out the weeds (noise) the garden of our soul can flourish. Too many words can hinder our relationship with God, preventing us from hearing the most important Word of all!  

Spiritual growth requires insights that only solitude and silence can provide. No one can do this work for us. We must be intentional to build times of silence into our day. It won’t happen otherwise.  

In Buddhist countries children routinely spend time with monks and are taught to sit in the lotus position and learn to meditate. Quaker communities also have silence as a regular part of their daily routine. 

Who is teaching us or our children how to sit in silence? Instead of hiding away in our prayer closet we must include our children and grand children in our practice of silence. They will learn best by watching our example.

If you are unaccustomed to silence (I was and most people are) begin with a simple plan. You may choose an activity that can be done in quiet: gardening, painting, walking or cooking. You may just want to sit. Either way start out small. If you want five minutes of silence, give yourself ten minutes. You will need the buffer time to get settled in. Gradually you will add more time. Before you know it you will prefer the silence!

Silence is an indispensable discipline in the spiritual life. It is our portable monastic cell that we take with us into the world to minister to others. 

RESOURCES:
The Way of the Heart: Connecting with God Through Prayer, Wisdom, and Silence by Henri J.M. Nouwen
Finding Sanctuary: Monastic Steps for Everyday Life by Abbot Christopher Jamison*
The Path of Life by Cyprian Smith OSB
The Rule of Benedict Edited by Timothy Fry, OSB
The Oblate Life Edited by Gervase Holdaway OSB
Originally published September 10, 2014

BOOK REVIEW

Chanting the Psalms by Cynthia Bourgeault


CHANTING THE PSALMS

by

Cynthia Bourgeault

 

 

 

As my monastic spiritual quest unfolds God continues to put amazing books in my path. Each leads to another and on and on they go. My Amazon account is grateful to be sure!

In early 2014 when I was looking for books to use with my Lectio Divina and Liturgy of the Hours practices, I started reading Phyllis Tickle’s book series The Divine Hours.  She spoke about the history of The Hours and how years ago monks (and some still today) would chant the Liturgy vs. speaking it.

A light bulb moment hit and I began looking for a book on chanting. Then voila’! I discovered Cynthia Bourgault’s book Chanting the Psalms.  The perfect answer to my search.

Not only is this book an incredible history of chanting but it is a beautiful teaching tool of music and worship. The best part is the instructional CD that is included to help you learn the chants.

Don’t worry if you’re not a musician or a singer. Cynthia has all that covered. She does an awesome job putting us at ease with our uncertainties and inexperience. As a novice with chanting I need lots of practice. But that’s where our spiritual growth comes through our practice.

I am so excited about Chanting the Psalms by Cynthia Bourgeault and plan to use it for many years to come. I hope you will consider it as an addition to your prayer and personal worship experience.

 

Originally published November 26, 2014

BOOK REVIEW

St. Benedict's Toolbox: The Nuts and Bolts of Everyday Benedictine Living by Jane Tomaine

 

St. Benedict’s Toolbox: The Nuts and Bolts of Everyday Benedictine Living
by
Jane Tomaine

 

Readers who have been following my blog will be familiar with the title of this book. It has been listed as a resource for many of my columns.


As the title suggests St. Benedict’s Toolbox is just that… an excellent tool for applying The Rule of Saint Benedict to lives outside the monastery wall.

Jane Tomaine does a incredible job laying out the chapters in a user friendly fashion with ideas and resources that will blend with your personal lifestyle and faith practice.

If you were to buy only one book to help you begin applying The Rule you must buy St. Benedict’s Toolbox: The Nuts and Bolts of Everyday Benedictine Living by Jane Tomaine!

I’m crazy about Jane’s book and plan to use it for years to come! Every time I open it I get more excited about putting it into practice. Thanks Jane!

 

Originally published Aug 27, 2014

BOOK REVIEW

The Benedictine Handbook and The Oblate Life

by Anthony Marrett-Crosby (Editor)

2003 Canterbury Press Norwich

The Oblate Life

by Gervase Holdaway OSB (Editor)

2008 Canterbury Press Norwich

 

To finish out this year I have chosen to review the two best resources I’ve found for becoming a Benedictine Oblate. Both books are beautifully bound with durable hardcovers designed for years of use. They are similar in style and format with topical essays in easy to read chapters written by excellent contributing authors.

 
The Benedictine Handbook begins with a brief introduction to Saint Benedict and his Rule followed by the tools for Benedictine spirituality and how to practice them in our every day lives whether we live in a community or as a solitary. The Benedictine Handbook is an excellent resource to help you understand the basics of the Benedictine lifestyle and the foundation of this type of spiritual walk. 
 
The Oblate Life though very similar in style and format regarding Benedictine history and spirituality, it focuses mostly on what it means to live as a Benedictine oblate. Whether married with a family or single, in our community or the church, the essays cover all areas and seasons of life. The bibliography in The Oblate Life is an excellent list of resources to help us delve deeper into all things Benedictine.
 
If you feel called to the Benedictine spiritual walk both of these books are a must have for your library.  The Benedictine Handbook and The Oblate Life both serve as a great introductions to many of the best Benedictine authors in the market today. I have thoroughly enjoyed studying both books and will continue to for years to come.
 

A Monk in the World :: BALANCE

IN MONK IN THE WORLD WE ARE LEARNING THE PRINCIPLES OF CHRISTIAN MONASTICISM AND HOW WE CAN APPLY THEM TO OUR LIVES OUTSIDE THE MONASTERY WALLS.  THIS MONTH’S TOPIC IS BALANCE.

 

Balance

bal·ance noun

: the state of having your weight spread equally so that you do not fall

: the ability to move or to remain in a position without losing control or falling

: a state in which different things occur in equal or proper amounts or have an equal or proper amount of importance

If there is one thing we all have trouble with it’s balance; between our daily schedule, priorities, money, food, exercise, media, rest, work, play, etc…


Just as King Solomon said there’s nothing new under the sun. And the challenge of balance isn’t new for sure! Saint Benedict of Nursia knew this well and it was a priority in his Rule for the monks under his charge.

Balance is a running theme in Saint Benedict’s Rule. It’s easy to romanticize the idea of being behind a monastery wall thinking that once away from all the worldly influences and distractions we could actually achieve balance in our lives.

Even in Benedict’s day the monks struggled in this area, so they were given strict guidelines to follow. Yet with almost every rule exceptions were made. Benedict not only accepted humanness but gave grace for it.

KEYS TO FINDING BALANCE: 

  • Create a daily routine: Write out what your perfect day or week would look like and plan toward it. Give yourself grace when life shows up with a kink in your plan.
  • Use timers: Use your smart phone for more than games or FaceBook. Timers or calendar reminders are critical to keep me on my schedule.
  • Be flexible: There are exceptions to all our plans. Just when I think I’ve got the perfect plan, God shows up with something better!

I quickly admit that I don’t have this balance thing figured out. Some days and weeks I do really well, then life shows up and there goes my perfectly planned schedule. The best thing I can do then is start again.  Recognition that there is need for balance is the beginning of actual change. I believe moderation brings about balance. So my life motto today is:

MODERATION IN ALL THINGS INCLUDING MODERATION!


RESOURCES:

Spirituality For Everyday Living: An Adaptation of the Rule of St. Benedict by Brian C. Taylor
Monk Habits for Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants by Dennis Okholm
Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict by Esther de Waal

 



*Definition courtesy Mirriam-Webster.com
Image credit: paktaotik2 / 123RF Stock Photo

The 12 Steps of Humility

BE CENTERED AND SERENE

EACH MONTH IN THE 12 STEPS OF HUMILITY WE ARE CLIMBING SAINT BENEDICT’S LADDER OF HUMILITY.  WITH EACH RUNG WE COME CLOSER TO THE PERFECT LOVE OF GOD.

 

THE LADDER IS OUR LIFE ON EARTH, IF WE HUMBLE OUR HEART GOD WILL RAISE IT TO HEAVEN. ~ ST. BENEDICT 

 

 

 THE TWELFTH STEP OF HUMILITY
A monk always manifests humility to those around [her]. ~ The Rule of Benedict

I am bowed down and humbled in every way. ~ Psalm 38:6

 

Whatever our influences are they will show themselves in our attitudes and actions toward others. If we are careful to keep our hearts and minds on God’s way that will come through to those in our path.

Humility connects us to the world… calms us and it calms others. It inspires and it assures; it enriches and it enables. Humility gifts us with happiness and graces the world with peace. ~Joan Chittister*


Saint Benedict’s 12 Steps of Humility are a difficult list of expectations. Certainly they are demands that one cannot attain without consistent help from the Divine. 

Thankfully God knows our heart and gifts us with the strength and abilities we need to press into His presence and begin the transformation process. 

But it’s up to us to take the first step with intention. By recognizing God’s presence, accepting His will and the spiritual leadership He puts before us, we can persevereacknowledge our faults, live contently and honestly, restrain our mouth and laughter so we can listen and learn from others

Hopefully at some point we will be centered and serene enough that others will see in us the humility that we are trying to achieve.

 

RESOURCES:
The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century by Joan Chittister
Twelve Steps to Inner Freedom: Humility Revisited by Joan Chitister*
The Twelve Steps of Humility and Pride by Bernard of Clairvaux
St. Benedicts’s Toolbox: The Nuts and Bolts of Everyday Benedictine Living by Jane Tomaine
The Rule of Saint Benedict Edited by Timothy Fry


Image credit: nicholashan / 123RF Stock Photo

A MONK IN THE WORLD

The Liturgy of the Hours

IN MONK IN THE WORLD WE ARE LEARNING THE PRINCIPLES OF CHRISTIAN MONASTICISM AND HOW WE CAN APPLY THEM TO OUR LIVES OUTSIDE THE MONASTERY WALLS.  

 

THIS MONTH’S TOPIC IS THE LITURGY OF THE HOURS.

 

One thing that attracted me most to Benedictine spirituality is the custom of praying The Liturgy of the Hours.  Fixed-hour prayer has its origins in Judaism from which Christianity came and is still widely used today. The connection to this ancient practice is fascinating to me and draws me in with an incredible sense of unity to my spiritual family.

In a previous blog I wrote a book review on The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle.  Ms. Tickle has done a marvelous job compiling scripture and prayers for daily use built around the seasons of the year. If you are just learning about this type of prayer routine Phyllis Tickle’s books are an excellent place to start.

By far my favorite way to pray the hours is with my iPhone app The Divine Office.  This wonderful ministry has developed beautiful productions of worship experiences and brought them to us via technology.  Not to worry, if you don’t have a smart phone you can still participate through their website.

What an incredible experience to join the live recording and gather with a world-wide community who are praying together. This takes Christian community worship to a whole different level!  As the earth rotates and each time slot changes we pass on the prayers like a baton to the next time zone.  I find this such a sweet thing to imagine. I’ve been using The Divine Office app for 2 years and look forward to hearing the now familiar voices each day.

As a recovering addict this prayer routine has been a great tool especially in rough times. When I can rotate my day around praying the Psalms it helps to push out things of the world by keeping my heart and mind focused on transformation.

I encourage you to consider praying the Liturgy of the Hours.  I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.  It has given my prayer life new direction, energy and purpose.


RESOURCES: 
The Benedictine Handbook Liturgical Press 2003
The Divine Hours: A Manual for Prayer by Phyllis Tickle
Benedict’s Way: An Ancient Monks Insights for a Balanced Life by Lonni Pratt and Fr. Daniel Homan
How to be a Monastic and Not Leave Your Day Job: An Invitation to Oblate Life by Benet Tvedten
Monk Habits for Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants by Dennis Okholm
St. Benedict’s Toolbox: The Nuts and Bolts of Everyday Benedictine Living by Jane Tomaine**
Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict by Esther de Waal

The 12 Steps of Humility

RESTRAIN SPEECH

EACH MONTH IN THE 12 STEPS OF HUMILITY WE ARE CLIMBING SAINT BENEDICT’S LADDER OF HUMILITY.  WITH EACH RUNG WE COME CLOSER TO THE PERFECT LOVE OF GOD.

 

The ladder is our life on earth, if we humble our heart God will raise it to heaven. ~ St. Benedict 

 

zipped lips

THE ELEVENTH STEP OF HUMILITY:  

A monk speaks gently, without laughter, with modesty, briefly and reasonably without raising [her] voice. ~The Rule of Saint Benedict

Speak concisely, say much in few words; be as one who knows and yet holds [her] tongue.~Sirach 32:8

This is the third step where Benedict addresses communication. Step Nine calls us to listen more than we speak, followed by Step Ten which asks us not to be excessive in our laughter.  Today we are encouraged to be brief and gentle when we speak. 

 
When I grew up we were taught “If you don’t have something nice to say don’t say anything at all.”  This might be considered a modern version of St. Benedict’s 11th Step of Humility.
 
By restraining our speech we are putting others before ourselves, allowing them to share something of themselves, honoring them with our attentiveness.
 

Much of the time when someone is talking to us we are too busy in our mind crafting our fabulous response. St. Benedict asks us to restrain our speech with a humble, honoring attitude toward others.

Having listened attentively to the other we can now have our say. We aren’t to be boisterous, bragging or loud. The best rule of thumb might be to remember to respond vs. react.

When we are reactive we are being led by our emotions. But by responding we have given more thought to the words we will say.

This is often difficult and must be practiced consistently for it to become a natural habit, especially with those we are closest to.

Again Saint Benedict comes to us with words of wisdom from an ancient time that are vital to our lives today!

 
 
RESOURCES:
The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century by Joan Chittister
Twelve Steps to Inner Freedom: Humility Revisited by Joan Chitister
The Twelve Steps of Humility and Pride by Bernard of Clairvaux
St. Benedicts’s Toolbox: The Nuts and Bolts of Everyday Benedictine Living by Jane Tomaine
The Rule of Saint Benedict Edited by Timothy Fry
 

Image credit: dervish37 / 123RF Stock Photo

BOOK REVIEW

Monk Habits for Everyday People by Dennis Okholm

Monk Habits for Everyday People: 

Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants


by 

Dennis Okholm

 
 
 
 
 
Benedictine spirituality is unfamiliar to Protestants and Catholics alike. For this reason we must equally welcome Dennis Okholm’s wonderful book Monk Habits for Everyday People.

As a Protestant pastor and Professor of Theology, Dennis Okholm helps to bridge the gap with excellent historical background. He unreservedly gives reasoning behind why Saint Benedict’s rule is vitally important to our modern world.

When I first began to explore the roots of contemporary Benedictine monasticism, it dawned on me that in one sense Benedict belongs to Roman Catholics no more than he does to Protestants. His life preceded the Reformation by a millennium, and the same Protestants who revere and learn from Augustine (b.354) may just as legitimately, and without feelings of betrayal and guilt, appeal to Benedict (b.480).


In Monk Habits for Everyday People Dennis shares stories of his retreats to monasteries.  He digs deep into the basic tenants of Benedictine spirituality: Listening, Poverty, Obedience, Humility, Hospitality, Stability, and Balance while giving practical application to all.

If you are at all curious about Benedictine monastic practices I highly recommend this resource. Monk Habits for Everyday People is a great beginning place for anyone interested in learning Benedictine ways. One of my favorite things in this book is the list of simple suggestions that help us begin practicing Benedictine spirituality in our every day lives.