He does this is two basic ways. He establishes a regular rhythm to each day through his careful arrangement of the times for prayer, work, eating, and sleeping. But he also recognizes the rhythms coming from outside his ability to arrange things. So, for example, he says that when the crops are ripe, the monks should occupy themselves with the harvest and know that "when they live by the labor of their hands ... then they are really monks (Chapter 48:8). He recognizes that the daily schedule of the monastery has to change with the seasons, since the monks of his day depended on sunlight and not the local power company!
St. Benedict's openness to the different rhythms of life reveals his mind and how it undertsood that God makes himself known to us in these rhythms. The emphasis on rhythm offers lessons of patience, of trust, of courage, and of discernment, all of which affect the quality of one's life.
The attention to rhythms of life has struck a chord in many people who, while not professing vows in a monastery, nevertheless find in the Rule a voice that speaks to their hearts and a set of practices that pave the avenue for their return to God. St. Benedict recognized the need for a way of life that responded to the deeper desires of the human heart.
It's not uncommon for us to have a sense of something missing in our lives, a blank spot for something more, despite the many blessings that we do enjoy. There is a deeper desire for something to come along and transform us beyond our present problems and struggles. But we so often settle for far less than what God wants to give us.
The search for God does not necessarily mean living an extraordinary life; it does mean living an ordinary life in an extraordinary way. The practices of monastic life are not so differerent from the everyday tasks of ordinary people. Those who find a kindred spirit in St. Benedict through his Rule strive to share his mind on God, the world, and themselves. And they find in the practices he gave to his monks a way of living their lives in accordance with the spirit of his Rule. Those practices put into action the way we understand God, the world, and ourselves.
We do not have to choose between being spiritual and being religious. A life where desire and practice are inseparably linked in faith is a mindful living in God's presence, embodied in practices. Anyone in any walk of life can step into the rhythms of God and walk toward that joy for which we have all been made--here and now, yes, but also for the life to come.
Archabbot Justin DuVall, O.S.B.
Saint Meinrad Archabbey
from the Introduction to the new book