One of Benedict’s great contributions to Western monasticism, and Western Christianity for that matter, was the Benedictine Rule. In it, he crafted a way of life together that shaped not only his monasteries, but Christians and communities all over the world, for a millennia and a half.
Spiritual formation educator Ruth Haley Barton, writes: ‘A rule of life is a way of ordering our life around the values, practices and relationships that keep us open and available to God for the work of spiritual transformation that only God can bring about.’**
The word ‘rule’ comes from the Latin word regulus, and one of the meanings of this word is ‘trellis’. In the same way that a trellis gives a plant structure and support for its flourishing, so also a rule of life can provide that for individuals and for communities.
The Benedictine Rule, roughly broken down, gives instructions that bring shape and support to four areas of life in community: prayer, work, relationships and rest. Their desire was to make room for God, and make room for love.
* Benedict XVI, ‘Saint Benedict of Norcia’ Homily given to a general audience at St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday, 9 April 2008. Retrieved 4 August 2010.
** Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation (Transforming Resources) InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition, p. 14