St. Benedict – Model of Stewardship



July 11 is the memorial of St. Benedict, the father of western monasticism and the patron saint of Europe. He is a giant in the history of the Church, upon whose shoulders his spirituality is practiced by people around the world. Even though St. Benedict lived in the late 5th and early 6th centuries, even today his book, “The Rule of St. Benedict,” is studied by the followers of Benedictine spirituality every day. He is also a model of stewardship.

Our diocese has always had a deep relationship with Benedictines. The rector of St. Benedict Cathedral, Benedictine Father Godfrey Mullen, is a monk of Saint Meinrad Archabbey in St Meinrad. Before him was a long line of Benedictines who acted as rectors of the cathedral. They all came from the Benedictine monastery of St. Meinrad, which is in Spencer County and was established in 1854.

When looking at the history of Southern Indiana, it is easy to see that St. Benedict has had a profound influence here.

In his “Rule,” St. Benedict laid a foundation of justice and fairness for his monks to follow. Many European monasteries were not exactly places of great holiness at the time, and the need for reform was great. Benedict had, for three years, been living life as a hermit in the mountains above Subiaco in eastern Italy when he was called out by monks seeking his guidance in reforming and rejuvenating their monasteries. He reluctantly agreed and left the cave to lead the monks closer to the Lord. His “Rule” was written get them onto the straight and narrow, and keep them there.

Much of the “Rule” spells out specifically what is expected of his monks and what is to be done when those expectations are not met. Other parts of it tell his followers what they are to wear and when; which psalms shall be prayed at what time and in what sequence; and how prayer times should be adjusted due to the seasonal changes in the hours of daylight and darkness. It is an immensely practical and beautiful book, and its relevance for today – 1,400 years later – is unquestionable.

Yet the rule is neither a statutory document nor a laundry list of crimes and punishments. It is filled with opportunities for repentance for those monks who have sinned against God and broken their agreements with the Lord and their order.

Even though much of the “Rule” was written to provide monks with direction specifically during his lifetime, St. Benedict wisely wrote the “Rule” for the future as well as his present. He knew that for the order to grow, he had to prepare others to become abbots and run monasteries in his place.

The second chapter of the “Rule” is called “What Kind of Man the Abbot Ought to Be.” An abbot should be firm but kind, noting that when he is called home to God he will have to give an accounting of his actions. Benedict tells us, “And let the Abbot know that whatever lack of profit the master of the house shall find in the sheep, will be laid to the blame of the shepherd.”

That, my friends, is stewardship. We are all to be held accountable for what we have done with the gifts given to us. St. Benedict, pray for us.

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(Quotes taken from The Rule of St. Benedict. PlanetMonk Books. Kindle Edition.)