Wednesday, August 18, 2010


(image obtained from
Once again, I have started working through this wonderful book, Benedict's Way: an ancient monk's insights for a balanced life, by Lonni Collins Pratt and Father Daniel Homan, OSB, published by Loyola Press in 2000. This thoughtful writing brings the Rule of St. Benedict into the normal everyday humdrum life that most of us live.

The book has 30 sections, each of which is a reflection on an aspect of the Rule; things such as listening, prayer, hospitality, service, wisdom, conflict. Benedict, so wisely, considered each of these -- and many more -- in his Rule.

For several days now, I have been resting on the first word of the first section which is also the first word of the Rule -- "listen." In Hebrew, the word is "shema". It is the first word of the great commandment found in Deuteronomy 6:4 -- Hear O Israel : The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

I have learned that verbs in Hebrew are seldom understood to involve simply passive reflection. So, it seems to me that "listening" to music, for example, would likely involve picking up an instrument and playing along with it or would lead to getting up and dancing. So the notion of "listening" or "hearing" carries with it some compelling action -- listen and do something about what you hear.

But one must listen. That is to say, I must listen. And in order to do that, I must choose what it is and to whom it is that I will listen. My resting in this first word of the St. Benedict's Rule has led me to understand that I must filter what it is that I listen to; even seemingly "good" voices assault me with yet more to do and deprive me of the simple joy of God's grace to me. I am learning to "listen" to my very self -- to hear my impatience, my clenched jaw, my reach for aspirin for the second day in a row.

And besides using aspirin, I speak to those who are most trusted among my friends and loved ones, those who really know me best. And then I listen again, with as much of my "self" as I can muster. And through all of this, I strain to hear the Word of the Lord -- how is it that God is speaking to me.

Then, of course, I must think about how it is that I listen to others -- does my listening compel me to action?  What is the most grace-full thing that I can do?
So, my friends, how do you "listen"? What do you turn down so that you can hear? What do you do with what you hear from others?


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