The Rule of Benedict--An Introduction--Week 2

Week Two-- Humility

It should be the work of Christians who believe in the Paschal mystery to help people when they are being led into the darkness and the void. The believer has to tell those in pain that this is not forever; there is light and you will see it. This isn't all there is. Trust. Don't try to rush through it; we can't leap over our grief work. Nor can we skip over our despair work. We have to feel it. That means that in our life we will have some blue days or dark days. Historic cultures saw grief as a time of incubation, transformation, and necessary hibernation. Yet this sacred space is the very space we avoid. When we avoid darkness, we avoid tension, spiritual creativity, and finally transformation. We avoid God, who works in the darkness-- where we are not in control. Maybe that is the secret: relinquishing control.~~Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs.

1. How was humility defined in the video? What does it mean to be “at the center” of the Rule? What models of humility do we celebrate?

2. Does humility have a relationship with vulnerability? What does Rohr mean when he says that God “works in the darkness?”

3. In Chapter 7 of the Rule, Benedict outlines what he means by humility. In the process of salvation, which could also be called liberation, humility plays a crucial role. But it isn't in the sense of which we ordinarily think of humility-- "although it may indeed manifest itself in a manner that is self-deprecating, it does not do so out of a sense of low self-esteem. Rather, it is a simple recognition of the reality of one's limitations, especially in relation to God. To be humble is to be realistic about what one can or cannot achieve by personal effort. It is opposed, not to self-esteem, but to the illusion of personal autonomy." (Dumm, 2008) Why might we refer to this understanding of the process of salvation as liberation instead?

4. As Jonathan mentions in the film, Benedict wrote the rule specifically for beginners. It is always for beginners, and for no other level, because Benedict believed that there was no other level. People who have been monastics for 30 years, or 60 years, or two days, still remain novices. Every day, and always, we began again in our spiritual life. As Rohr says, we are not born again-- we are born again and again and again. Derske explains it this way: "With Benedict, there is only one level: the level of the beginner, and there's only a slow tempo: the level of the beginner: the one from day to day where we practice piecemeal spiritual improvement management, which is called in Latin conversatio morum (one of the three vows which the monk makes). Do you find this to be disappointing? Why or why not?


It is important to become aware of where we are in our journey. We need to understand what we bring of ourselves and our history to the exploration of the rule of Benedict. As Tomaine says, "What we bring to an experience greatly impacts what we take from that experience." As recently as a few weeks ago, Cherie Collins asked me to critique her performance at the Arts Center as she was releasing her new CD. I mentioned to her that I found her stories enchanting, but in a wistful sort of way, bordering on stereotype. She was quite surprised-- she said that she didn't think it was that way at all, but it was just an honest look at the lives of people in the mountains. I explained to her that I had read a great deal of Appalachian literature, and was most acquainted with the sorrows and struggles of mountain people, as well as with their joys. I told her that these things color my perspective of mountain people and so I will see things differently than someone who has no knowledge of mountain people at all. Had she asked each person in the audience to critique her performance, she would've gotten many different views, each colored by that person's own experience. Take a few moments to identify three things that you are bringing to the study of Benedict and his Rule by answering three questions:

Who am I? (Answer whatever comes first for you-- there is no need to make it extensive or Freudian).

What is going on in my life? (The key things that are happening in your life right now).

What is the desire of my heart for this study? (What would you most like to experience or achieve? Of course, if you have no desire in your heart for this study, that is important to know too).

Since everyone is in a different place in their lives, the Rule will touch everyone differently. It all depends on your personal characteristics, the events in your life both in the past and presently, and the desires that you hold. While you are studying the rule, keep all of these things in your mind, and try to apply what you learn of the rule to your own life.