Monastery bell tower, fall trees and far horizon

St Benedict’s survival kit

Joanne Kollasch, OSB Rule of Benedict, Spirituality Articles 1 Comment

Monastery bell tower, fall trees and far horizon

The following reflections were shared by Sister Joanne Kollasch at a recent Benedictine Women of Madison Board of Directors meeting, part of the ongoing opportunities for our board to become more deeply rooted in the Benedictine tradition and values at Holy Wisdom Monastery.


I continue to reflect on what’s happening in our country after the recent political election. The post-election turmoil is raised in many conversations I’m part of. So, what is my response?

I found this quotation from Thomas Merton and a beginning answer to my question:

“To say that I am made in the image of God is to say that love is the reason for my existence, for God is love. Love is my true identity. Selflessness is my true self. Love is my true character. Love is my name.        — Thomas Merton

And Tuesday, a week ago, I got a blog from Chuck Pfeifer: When Love is Not Enough.

As Paz says: “Oh, Oh.”

I turned my attention to other times of history when people had perhaps the same emotions of fear, anger, confusion, sadness, which led me to St. Benedict.

A first recounting of history in Benedict’s time tells of the Goths—barbarian invaders sacking Rome. The invaders began to dismember the Roman Empire already weakened from within by misgovernment, oppressive taxation and scourged by pestilence.

Through the sixth century ecclesial society was almost as troubled as its civil counterpart. Into this scene comes Benedict who wrote a rule for monks.

“The Rule, a document whose brevity and simplicity belie its wisdom. …he saw that a new beginning had to be made to meet the need of the times. His moderation, his emphasis upon a stable community life in opposition to individualism, and his encouragement of civilizing work ensure that the institute he founded would become a powerful force in Christian Europe out of the ruins of the barbarian invasion.”  — RB 1980, Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, p. 70

Which leads us to Benedict’s survival kit:

  1. Receive all guests as Christ: is there a border? a frontier? a boundary? a threshold? to keep the guest out?
  1. Seek God in prayer and worship, listening to God’s word in Scripture.
  1. Respect the dignity of human work and its integration with the life of the individual and the human community.
  1. Organizing human families where the healing love of Christ may be shared, where persons matter.
  1. Regain a Christian and human relationship to the earth.
  1. Collegial action as normative and ordinary in community affairs.
  1. Respect for authority, responsibility, obedience and true freedom with a humble spirit and conscience.

The English Benedictine, Cardinal Basil Hume, a former archbishop of Westminster, says the search for solutions and balance is of vital import to our society, both in its sickness and hopes:

If national and international society is to be healthy, human life must be sound and good at its roots. The church must preach good news by many forms of contact and exchange with persons of all beliefs and cultures. A monastery may be a place where such exchange regularly occurs.

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