Saints Benedict and Paul
This Solemnity of Our Father Saint Benedict, falling in the Pauline Year, invites us — I want to say, compels us — to reflect on the relationship between the Apostle of the Nations and the Patriarch of Monks. Saint Benedict was imbued with the Epistles of Saint Paul; he quotes the Apostle 23 times in the Holy Rule.
Saint Benedict’s choice of Pauline texts reveals a knowledge of the Apostle that could only have come from years of assiduous lectio divina: the words of the Apostle heard, repeated, prayed, and held in the heart. One finds a similar knowledge of Saint Paul in the writings of Blessed Columba Marmion. The author of Christ the Life of the Soul, Christ in His Mysteries, Christ the Ideal of the Monk, and Christ the Ideal of the Priest was steeped in the writings of the Apostle.
This Year’s Lectio Continua
The Pauline Year offers each of us a unique opportunity to become, like Saint Benedict, imbued with the message of the Apostle Paul. This is the year to let Saint Paul make a difference in your life. This is the year to hear his message with the ear of the heart as if for the first time. This is the year to undertake a lectio continua of his thirteen Epistles, adding for good measure the Letter to the Hebrews, which by an ancient ecclesiastical and liturgical tradition, was also attributed to the Apostle.
Begin with the Letter to the Romans and make your way through the Apostle’s writings. It is better to read several short passages a day, and one before falling asleep. You may want to read a passage before or after each of the Hours of the Divine Office. Find the system that works best for you, but do not let this Pauline Year pass you by without receiving the grace it offers you.
Saint Paul in the Rule of Saint Benedict
1. Romans 13:11 And that knowing the season; that it is now the hour for us to rise from sleep. For now our salvation is nearer than when we believed. 12 The night is passed, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light.
2. 1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God, I am what I am; and his grace in me hath not been void, but I have laboured more abundantly than all they: yet not I, but the grace of God with me.
3. 2 Corinthians 10:17 But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
4. Romans 2:4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness, and patience, and longsuffering? Knowest thou not, that the benignity of God leadeth thee to penance?
Chapter 2: What Kind of Man the Abbot Should Be
5. Romans 8:15 For you have not received the spirit of bondage again in fear; but you have received the spirit of adoption of sons, whereby we cry: Abba (Father).
6. Romans 2:11 For there is no respect of persons with God.
7. 2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season: reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine.
Chapter 4: The Tools of Good Works
8. 1 Corinthians 2:9 But, as it is written: That eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love him.
Chapter 5: Obedience
9. 2 Corinthians 9:7 Every one as he hath determined in his heart, not with sadness, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.
Chapter 7: Humility
10. Philippians 2:8 He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross.
11. Romans 8:36 As it is written: For thy sake we are put to death all the day long. We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
12. 1 Corinthians 4:12 And we labour, working with our own hands: we are reviled, and we bless; we are persecuted, and we suffer it.
Chapter 25: Very Serious Faults
13. 1 Corinthians 5:5 To deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Chapter 27: The Concern the Abbot Must Have for the Excommunicated
14. 2 Corinthians 2:7 So that on the contrary, you should rather forgive him and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.
Chapter 28: The Incorrigible
15. 1 Corinthians 5:13 Put away the evil one from among yourselves.
16. 1 Corinthians 7:15 But if the unbeliever depart, let him depart. For a brother or sister is not under servitude in such cases. But God hath called us in peace.
Chapter 31: What Kind of Man the Cellarer of the Monastery Should Be
17. 1 Timothy 3:13 For they that have ministered well, shall purchase to themselves a good degree, and much confidence in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.
Chapter 40: The Measure of Drink
18. 1 Corinthians 7:7 For I would that all men were even as myself: but every one hath his proper gift from God; one after this manner, and another after that.
Chapter 49: The Observance of Lent
19. Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but justice, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
Chapter 53: The Reception of Guests
20. Galatians 6:10 Therefore, whilst we have time, let us work good to all men, but especially to those who are of the household of the faith.
Chapter 63: The Order of the Community
21. Romans 12:10 Loving one another with the charity of brotherhood, with honour preventing one another.
Chapter 70: That No May Hit One Another
22. 1 Timothy 5:20 Them that sin reprove before all: that the rest also may have fear.
Chapter 72: On the Good Zeal Which Monks Ought to Have
23. Romans 12:10 Loving one another with the charity of brotherhood, with honour preventing one another.
The Experience of Being Loved by Christ
What exactly do Saint Paul and Saint Benedict have in common? A personal experience of the love of Jesus Christ. The Apostle himself could have counseled his spiritual children to “set nothing before the love of Christ” (RB 4:21). He could have instructed his disciples “to prefer nothing whatever to Christ” (RB 72:11). Saint Benedict, for his part, surely said with Paul, “I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal 2:20).
The apostolic vocation of Saint Paul and the monastic vocation of Saint Benedict spring from the same experience of the love of Christ. Allow me, then, to borrow from the Holy Father’s homily for the opening of the Pauline Year, modifying it to bring home my point:
“In the Letter to the Galatians, Saint Paul gives a very personal profession of faith in which he opens his heart to readers of all times and reveals what was the most intimate drive of his life. “I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2: 20). All Paul’s actions and all Benedict’s begin from this centre. Their faith is the experience of being loved by Jesus Christ in a very personal way. It is awareness of the fact that Christ did not face death for something anonymous but rather for love of him – of Paul, and of Benedict – and that, as the Risen One, he still loves Paul and still loves Benedict; in other words, Christ gave himself for each of them. Paul’s faith, Benedict’s faith is being struck by the love of Jesus Christ, a love that overwhelms them to their depths and transforms them. The faith of the Apostle, like the faith of our glorious Patriarch, is not a theory, an opinion about God and the world. Their faith is the impact of God’s love in their hearts.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Homily at Vespers for the Opening of the Pauline Year, Saturday, 28 June 2008)
The Most Holy Eucharist
Through the adorable Sacrament of Our Lord’s Most Holy Body and Blood, may it be given each of us to participate today in the experience of Saint Paul and of Saint Benedict. It is in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that Jesus Christ loves us still, and gives Himself anew, inviting us, inciting us to set nothing before His love.