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On July the 11th the Church celebrates the feast of St. Benedict of Nursia, the gentle founder of the Benedictine order and by extension the father of Monasticism. A moderate and modest man he would have been astonished to learn that his ‘simple school for prayer, ’his ‘modest rule for beginners’ led to the foundation of communities which kept the Christian flame alight through dark ages, preserved not only Christian faith, scripture, and culture,but also the best of Classical Pagan learning and culture, fed the poor, transformed societies, promoted learning and scholarship, and today provides solace, grounding, perspective and retreat not only to monks and nuns but to millions of lay people around the world.

Here is my sonnet for Benedict, drawing largely on phrases from the Rule, I dedicate it to the sisters at Turvey Abbey. It appears in my second book with Canterbury Press, The Singing Bowl.

“Benedict”

You sought to start a simple school of prayer,
A modest, gentle, moderate attempt,
With nothing made too harsh or hard to bear,
No treating or retreating with contempt,
A little rule, a small obedience
That sets aside, and tills the chosen ground,
Fruitful humility, chosen innocence,
A binding by which freedom might be found

You call us all to live, and see good days,
Centre in Christ and enter in his peace,
To seek his Way amidst our many ways,
Find blessedness in blessing, peace in praise,
To clear and keep for Love a sacred space
That we might be beginners in God’s grace.

Books by Malcolm Guite may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore. Republished with Mr. Guite’s permission from  his websiteThe Imaginative Conservative applies the principle of appreciation to the discussion of culture and politics—we approach dialogue with magnanimity rather than with mere civility. Will you help us remain a refreshing oasis in the increasingly contentious arena of modern discourse? Please consider donating now.

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2 replies to this post
  1. St. Benedict’s influence is more far-reaching than anyone gives him credit for. He is certainly not a figure of importance in any history course but is likely more important than anyone in shaping western civilization (apart from Christ)

    Reading atheist technological history guru Lewis Mumford brought this home to me.

    “one is not straining the facts when one suggests that the monasteries — at one time there were forty thousand under the Benedictine rule — helped to give human enterprise the regular collective beat and rhythm of the machine; for the clock is not merely a means of keeping track of the hours, but of synchronizing the actions of men.”

    The mechanical clock was eventually developed for the purpose of regulating monastic life, however eventually, “Time-keeping passed into time-serving and time-accounting and time-rationing,” Mumford writes. “As this took place, Eternity ceased gradually to serve as the measure and focus of human actions.”

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