Tag Archives: Saint Benedict

12 December: What are you Hearing?

Advent is a time of watching and waiting: Sister Johanna invites us to listen to the Word of God and accept the challenges it confronts us with.

My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice (Lk 8:21).

Do I want to be part of Jesus’ family, his mother and brother and sister? Oh, yes. Absolutely. Then, the question to ask myself, and with some rigour, is: What are you hearing? Hearing the Word of God and putting it into practice is the prerequisite for being a mother and brother of Jesus. Well, am I hearing the word of God? Really?

What we hope to hear often affects what we are able to hear. Identifying my hopes tells me what I will be listening for. Ok. Be honest. Don’t I hope (at least with a tiny part of myself) to hear someone who teaches that the ‘wide way’ is the true way? That if something ‘sincerely’ seems good to me then it is good in itself (‘sincerity’ being the only test for ethical uprightness)? That good and evil are empty constructs, man-made, politically or sociologically engineered to foster a culture of guilt and unhealthy self-criticism? Or, if I can honestly say that I have no such hopes, isn’t it still true that I wish I could hear someone telling me that I am doing just fine, and don’t need to work too hard to get on the right track?

Hearing the Word of God demands something different of me. Such hearing requires some preparation, some awareness of the human tendency to evade the truth, to want things to be easy. To hear the Word of God means putting the false self elsewhere – the self that is focused on its outward appearance and that wants to impress others and be important. Those desires need to be seen for what they are: vain, addictive, and ultimately unfulfilling. The words these desires speak to our mind are not God’s Word, and they get in the way of hearing it.

I am a Benedictine nun, and strive to live by the teaching of the Rule of St Benedict, a profound spiritual document written in the sixth century for people searching for God in every century. Its very first word is the command to listen. How to listen better, more deeply, more honestly, without self-seeking: this is the crucial question.

The second half of the statement from the gospel of Luke is “…and put it into practice.” I suppose it is possible to listen and then carry on as before, without changing anything or correcting anything – possible, but I don’t know how. If one is really listening rightly, deeply, unselfishly, if one is really hungry for the Word of God, then the Word does what food does: it makes action possible, it strengthens us for the right kind action. The two – the hearing and the acting – are completed as one thing. The Word, if truly heard, results in a desire and ability to put it into practice. But truly hearing the Word is required first. What are you hearing?

Sister Johanna Caton

Leave a comment

Filed under Advent and Christmas, Daily Reflections, Justice and Peace

July 11: Saint Benedict, ‘Listen and attend with the ear of your heart.’

benedict .ch.smaller.png

Today the 11th of July, we celebrate the feast of St Benedict, Abbot. In the reading of today from the book of Proverbs,(2: 1- 9) God is telling us to take his word to heart, learn His commandments, and apply our heart to the truth. We can rest assured that God will keep watch over us. St Benedict left everything and followed Christ. Today am I setting my heart on His words asking Him to teach me? Am I turning my ear to His wisdom? St. Benedict advised:

Whenever you begin any good work you should first of all make a most pressing appeal to Christ our Lord to bring it to perfection.’

When I am faced with difficulties, where do I turn? St Benedict lived a life of solitude and prayer. How often do I take my time to listen to God talking to me in the busy world of today? Do I hear God calling me to bless His name at all times? Do I hear the invitation of God to taste and see the Lord is good (Psalm 33: 2-11)? As Benedict’s Rule advises, ‘Listen carefully to the Master’s instructions and attend to them with the ear of your heart.’

St Benedict discovered the love of God and left everything and followed Him. I pray that each day, I also may hear God talking to me through His creation and have the grace to respond wholeheartedly. Amen.

 

FMSL 

St Benedict at Einsiedeln Abbey, Switzerland by Roland Zh

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

10 February: The Lord hears and answers

friday-10mountain-cloud-640x464

Today is Friday in the Fifth week in Ordinary time. It is also the memorial of Saint Scholastica, Virgin.
In the Gospel of today, Saint Mark 7: 31- 37, Christ healed a man with an impediment in his speech. He also had ear problems. Jesus took him aside in private, then He looked up to heaven and sighed. What does this sigh mean to you? He turned to God with a heavy heart. He made a request from God the Father Who looked into His heart and answered Him – the man’s ears opened and he began to speak clearly.
Saint Scholastica, who was consecrated to God as a virgin, went to visit her brother Saint Benedict, as she usually did once a year.  She went on this very day and as her brother wanted to leave her, she asked him to stay but he refused. Scholastica turned to God in silence and with a heavy heart, and God answered her with a very heavy rain, so that her brother could not leave her again that night.
How often do you turn to God for your problems with a heavy heart? Christ turned to God the Father with a sigh for someone who was sick to be healed and God the Father answered him. Saint Scholastica turned to God and God answered her. What is it that you are struggling with today; is it sickness, lack of a job, no promotion, failure, lack of faith, lack of identity? Please do turn to God today just the way that you are feeling right now and He will answer you. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. God never changes.

FMSL

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

August 5: The Psalms as Personal Prayer VI.

Westminster_Psalter_David

I’d like to say a few words about singing the psalms.  In the fifth century text I quoted above from John Cassian, he refers to singing the psalms, indicating that this was already an accepted practice in the Church.  Again, from my personal perspective as an ex-ballet dancer, music is highly important to me, and I am so grateful that this long tradition of singing prayer exists.  The psalms were first used in Jewish worship, and they were composed to be sung there; the poets intended this when they wrote them.  The link-up between music and meaning is extremely close in the psalms, then; music wasn’t an afterthought.

We are fortunate in having a poet in our monastic community.  Most of her poems are composed to be simply read, but at least one of her poems was composed as a piece to be sung.  There is a recording of it, and it is very beautiful.  But, take away the musical accompaniment and read the poem alone, and the experience of its beauty diminishes somewhat.  That’s because the words and the music are bound up together to work their artistic magic.  In the same way, it’s arguable that the psalms come alive most fully when the words are integrated with music, because that is the way they were composed.

There are other reasons, too for singing the psalms.  St. Benedict says, “Let us stand to sing the psalms in such a way that our minds are in harmony with our voices.”  He’s talking about the power of music to keep us focused and recollected.  Singing integrates more of the body into the act of worship than is enlisted in reading silently.  In singing you involve the eyes, the ears and the voice most obviously.  Less obviously, you have the effect of musical rhythm.  Even if one is singing while standing or sitting still, this rhythm is felt by the whole body.  I’ve never forgotten what I was once told by the daughter of a deaf woman.  She said that her mother loved coming to the monastery church because she liked the music.  Although her mother couldn’t hear or sing, she felt the rhythmic vibrations of the simple chants we used for the liturgy, and found it prayerful.  Those able to hear fully might not be so conscious of feeling the vibrations of the music, but we do feel them nonetheless, and they help us to pray, also.

Music also elicits a response from the emotions – beauty and pathos can be expressed even in a simple, repetitive melody.  Song, further, is an aid to memory.  A snatch of a verse from a psalm may return to me later in the day because melody has a way of coming back and back.  This is how it works for me.  And I am so grateful that music and psalms have been partners in my vocation for nearly 40 years.

SJC

Here is the choir and congregation of St Peter’s, Colombia, South Carolina, singing the Gelineau version of Psalm 23.

 

SJC


Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Laudato si', poetry

Interruption: from the Rule of Saint Benedict

image by Fra Angelico

Today is the Feast of Saint Benedict, patron of Europe and one of the founders of Western Monasticism.

Here is an extract from his rule. Let my introduction be very short, for I do not claim to be inspired by divine grace, and Happy Feast to our Benedictine friends at Minster Abbey, Sisters Johanna and Mary Stephen!

Chapter 20: On Reverence in Prayer

When we wish to suggest our wants to persons of high station, 

we do not presume to do so
except with humility and reverence.
How much the more, then,
are complete humility and pure devotion necessary
in supplication of the Lord who is God of the universe!
And let us be assured
that it is not in saying a great deal that we shall be heard (Matthew 6:7),
but in purity of heart and in tears of compunction.
Our prayer, therefore, ought to be short and pure,
unless it happens to be prolonged
by an inspiration of divine grace.
In community, however, let prayer be very short,
and when the Superior gives the signal let all rise together.

Rule of St Benedict Ch XX

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections