The Path of Life

The Path of Life

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Rock and Rule

He set my feet upon a rock
and made my footsteps firm.
Psalm 39

The monastery of Sacro Speco (Sacred Cave) in Italy,
built over the cave where it all began for St. Benedict and his

Today we celebrate the memorial of St. Benedict, the founder of western monasticism whose "little rule for beginners" has inspired millions of Christian disciples for over 1,500 years.

In a way, St. Benedict has two feast days during the liturgical year. Up until 1962, it was March 21 (the date of his death in 547 A.D.) in the old Roman calendar. It was moved to July 11 (the date of the transfer of his relics) to free the early part of the year up for the Lenten observance. Much of the Church observes the feast day now as a memorial on July 11, though a number of Benedictine foundations still reserve March 21 to honor the saint. Here at Saint Meinrad, we observe March 21 as a Solemnity and July 11 as simply a feast day. Many other monasteries celebrate on July 11, but doing so here would not be as feasible because it's during the summer when all the seminarians and students are away and many monks are off on summer assignments or vacation.

From a personal standpoint, I will always be partial to July 11, because that is the day my house sold in 2006, freeing me up to quit my job and come to the monastery a few months later. It was an enormously trying period for me because I still had not heard back about whether or not my application to the monastery had been officially accepted, and yet I had to get the house on the market and sell it if I was going to have any reasonable chance to be here for the beginning of candidacy that fall. And I could not quit my job until the house sold. It was not a good time to be selling houses in the area where I lived, so I was taking an enormous leap of faith all around, and I felt very overwhelmed.

It still makes me smile as I recall that I received not one but THREE offers for the house on July 11, when my house had only been on the market for 10 days and other nearby homes in my price range had been sitting idle for months. I was amazed and very fortunate. Needless to day, it was a huge consolation and confirmation that I was on the right track, and everything quickly fell into place after that.

In any event, now that I'm here, I honor the memory of St. Benedict on March 21 along with the rest of the monastic community at Saint Meinrad Archabbey. On July 11, I fondly recall the events described above, as well as my brief stay at Sacro Speco (Sacred Cave) in Italy in the summer of 2010. The monastery at Sacro Speco (about an hour east of Rome) is well over 1,000 years old, and is carved into the side of a mountain. It was constructed over the cave where a young St. Benedict lived as a hermit for three years before he began establishing monastic communities as they have come to be known. It was from this rock-hewn cradle that the Benedictine Order was born. It is a beautiful place, and I feel a very special affinity for it in my heart--perhaps because it was carved out of rock and because my baptismal name (Craig) is Gaelic for "rock."

May St. Benedict continue to blesss and guide us as we all seek to prefer nothing to Christ.

God our Father,
you made St. Benedict an outstanding guide
to teach us how to live in your service.
Grant that by preferring your love
to everything else, we may walk
in the way of your commandments.

Stir up, O Lord, in your Church, the spirit
with which St. Benedict was animated,
that filled with the same spirit,
we may learn to love
what he loved
and practice
what he taught.
Through Christ our Lord.

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