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

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.
 

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

HOSPITALITY

 

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. Our focus this month is on Hospitality.

 

All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for He Himself will say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me.  (Matt 25:35; The Rule of Benedict 53:1)

Much of our entertaining today is focused on impressing others. Fearfully, we work ourselves into a frenzy cleaning, decorating, buying this and that, and creating extravagant recipes, all in the hopes of being approved by our guests.

…only those who are truly at home in themselves can offer genuine hospitality, which is not controlling or manipulative, but welcomes us as we are. ~ Kathleen Norris*

Benedictine hospitality has two simple goals: 

Did they see Christ in me? Did I see Christ in them?

  • Benedictine hospitality is about others, not us.
  • Benedictine hospitality calls for balance and self-care. 
  • Benedictine hospitality includes the forgotten and poor in our world.
  • Benedictine hospitality means caring for the earth God has given us.

Sometimes hospitality shows up at inconvenient times. Without hostility, we must see the interruption as a call to serve others and our world lovingly.  This is our chance to practice obedience in responding to God’s call.

Welcome one another just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. ~ Rom 15:7

Hospitality is an incredible gift that we can give one another.  It all begins when we can be truly present to another person. When we are present, focusing on the person before us or acknowledging the need of people who live far from us, we become channels for the Spirit of Christ. ~ Jane Tomaine**

When we are struggling with our own problems and drowning in our own negativity one of the best things we can do is take our mind off our self. We need to lean back and make a space for hospitality. By keeping our eyes, ears and hearts open we will be ready for what God leads us to do.

RESOURCES: 
The Benedictine Handbook Liturgical Press 2003*
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

Image credit: yencha / 123RF Stock Photo

12 Steps of Humility

Avoid Excessive Laughter


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 TENTH STEP OF HUMILITY: 

A monk is not given to ready laughter.

A fool raises [her] voice when [she] laughs. ~ Sirach 21:20

Today’s humor leaves much to be desired. The stand-up comic routines and movie humor are often sarcastic, mean and usually at the expense of others. This is what Saint Benedict is referring to when he asks us to avoid excessive laughter.

Humor allows us to see life from the lighter side. Laughter on the other hand is an emotional expression which, for many years, was looked down upon in the upper classes of society. It was considered to be a lack of self-control and vulgar.

The prideful use this negative, hurtful humor to hide their weaknesses. Avoiding their own internal pain, they use arrogant jokes to make themselves look better than others.

In the Tenth Step of Humility, Saint Benedict encourages us to take our humor very seriously. We must guard our laughter taking care not to use it in a hurtful way. 

The humble person cultivates a soul in which everyone is safe. ~ Joan Chittister*

 
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

A Monk in the World :: COMMUNITY

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.




com·mu·ni·ty   

a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common culture and historical heritage.


The idea of community is basically lost in our American culture. We may be a community by shared location or government but most of us know few of our neighbors. If we have any type of community relationships it’s probably with co-workers or classmates. 


Sadly, we are locked in our gated subdivisions refusing to make room or time for others. We sit behind our smartphones and computers surfing social media, believing we are in a “community” of live people. But is anyone actually looking at, talking to or physically touching us?

This, then, is the good zeal which monastics must foster with fervent love: “They should each try to be the first to show respect to the other”: (Rom. 12:10), supporting with the greatest patience one another’s weakness of body or behavior, and earnestly competing in obedience to one another. No one is to pursue what is judged better for self, but instead what is judged better for someone else. To their companions they show the pure love of sisters or brothers; to God, loving fear; to their abbot, unfeigned and humble love. Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may Christ bring us all together to everlasting life. ~ The Rule of Benedict 72:3-11

Saint Benedict’s community of monks lived in small dormitories, eating, sleeping and praying together. Their days began in the dark hours of the morning with prayer, followed by alternating work, study and more prayer, retiring again at dark. 

…simply living with people does not itself create community. People live together in armies, prisons, college dorms, and hospitals, but they are not communities unless they live out of the same reservoir of values and the same center of love… We have to share a common vision… to want good for one another… to be able to draw from the same well together. ~ Joan Chittister*

It’s easy to zoom in on myself and hide in my books and writing. I feel most loved when someone reaches out to me, takes time to look into my eyes and really hear what I have to say. I crave that and so do others. 


The call is to zoom out and broaden my community reach in a physical way. 

How can I be an active monastic outside the walls of my cozy office? 


RESOURCES:
Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living the Rule of St. Benedict Today by Joan Chittister, OSB*
Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict by Esther de Waal
Spirituality For Everyday Living: An Adaptation of the Rule of St. Benedict by Brian C. Taylor
St. Benedict’s Toolbox: The Nuts and Bolts of Everyday Benedictine Living by Jane Tomaine

Image credit: deepgreen / 123RF Stock Photo

12 Steps of Humility :: LEARN FROM OTHERS

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 EIGHTH STEP OF HUMILITY: The monk does only what is endorsed by the common rule of the monastery and the example set by [her] superiors.


Without good direction, people lose their way; the more wise counsel you follow, the better your chances. ~ Proverbs 11:14 (MSG)

It’s difficult to find young people who respect, listen and learn from adults.  In the 1970’s, my generation of youth, no one over the age of 40 was to be trusted much less respected.

We can’t just pick on the young, many adults are hesitant to learn from others. We think we’ve got life all figured out and don’t need advice from anyone. 

The ability to learn from others is a sign that we are at ease with ourselves. If we’ve worked The Seventh Step of Humility, found and accepted our own weaknesses, then we are well positioned to learn from those around us. 

The eighth degree of humility brings us to such respect for others that we can follow the great rather than get lost making the path as we go. ~ Joan Chittister*

Those who are unteachable are usually not concerned with their spiritual growth.  That’s why I must regularly examine the “pride” barometer of my heart. 

Am I blindly walking the same path over and over again? 

Am I willing to asks others for direction?



RESOURCES:
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


Image credit: andresr / 123RF Stock Photo

12 Steps of Humility :: RADICAL SELF-EXAMINATION

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 SEVENTH STEP OF HUMILITY:
A monk not only admits with [her] tongue but believes in [her] heart that others are better than she is.



It is good for me that I was humbled so that I might learn your statutes. ~ Psalm 119:71

Again the ancient language of Saint Benedict goes against our grain and everything we are taught today. But without a doubt the Rule is Biblical!


This radical self-examination, seeing ourselves as inferior to others is not to be done in a self-deprecating, undervalued way. 

When we can find joy in seeing the value of others over ourselves we allow ourselves to be teachable.

“Once we stop pretending to be what we know we are not, we are free to except ourselves and except others as well…  In this acceptance of our own meager virtues and our own massive failures, we have a chance to understand the failures of others.  We have the opportunity to become kind.” ~ Joan Chittister*


The seventh step on Benedict’s ladder of humility is asking us to make room for personal growth. 



RESOURCES:
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

Image credit: ximagination / 123RF Stock Photo

A Monk in the World :: KINSHIP WITH CREATION

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

Let [her] look on all the utensils and goods of the monastery as sacred vessels of the altar.**


The “Green” movement may seem like a recent development. But the care of creation is a Biblical and monastic value. 


Creation was our first gift from God and the care of creation His first command. 

We must not take it lightly.

No matter the differences in faith, there is only one planet. 

We have common ground with equal responsible.

Whether plants, animals or possessions made from materials from the earth…

We are called to reverentially care for them all. 

Repurposing, recycling, not being wasteful with food and natural resources are all ways we can exercise kin-ship with creation. 


By doing so we honor God and what He has lovingly given us.

**Rule of Benedict 31:10

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