Monday, 26 March 2007

Small Groups Benedict: Thoughts on Listening, Prayer and Stability

Thanks to the vision of two women in our parish, we now have several small groups operating at St Barnabas using Benedict's Way: an Ancient Monk's Insights for a Balanced Life (Chicago: Loyola Press, 2000), by Lonni Collins Pratt and Father Daniel Homan, OSB.

Years ago I heard Canon Doug Skoyles speak on Anglicanism. Benedictine, he said, is our primary flavour. The Prayer book is nothing but a Benedictine book. Anglicanism is Benedictinism for parishes. Our pastoral norm as Anglicans is the Benedictine idea that human beings are more important than law—people come first. This, unfortunately, he said, is often mistaken for wishy-washyness. I am surprised and delighted with how right the Benedictine thing seems to be for us.

For a time my Cursillo Group Reunion is using Benedict's Way as a focus as we share and hold each other accountable for our piety, study and action.

So far we've covered Listening, Prayer, Work and Stability. Chastitiy is next. Some bits from the book that dinged for me:

Listening to God is "inclining the ear of the heart." What a lovely phrase. Listening requires effort, the book tells us:
Haul yourself before God no matter what.
I like how the book makes prayer accessable. "Start small" it says, but start. Commit to a few minutes morning and evening. Add some simple things and grow.
It takes twenty-one days to form a habit.
...and from the Rule of St Benedict:
Prayer should therefore be short and pure, unless perhaps it is prolonged under the inspiration of divine grace. In community, however, prayer should always be brief.
On Stability, Lonni Collins Pratt writes:
Sacred redundancy morning upon morning. Our culture doesn't put much value on the familiar. Those who hold to routines, who go to the same job year after year and stay married to the same person for a lifetime - well, they aren't the stuff that movies are made about.

Stability calls us to remain in difficult situations but not in destructive ones.

You could call it holy stubbornness.
Good stuff.