For 15 centuries, the Rule of St. Benedict, with its 73 chapters, has guided the lives of tens of thousands of men and women in hundreds of communities around the world. We could safely consider it a proven formula for living as a Christian community.
What if we tried to apply it to family life in the 21st century? Christian families nowadays are called to be like the monasteries of the 5th century: islands of peace, love, and respect for God, in a hostile, barbarous, and impious environment that thrives on destruction and exploitation.
Such is the thesis of a book published some years ago by Benedictine priest Massimo Lapponi, titled “The Rule of Saint Benedict for Family Life Today” (St. Pauls Publishing).
He explains that applying the Benedictine Rule to our family life would result in changes in these 6 areas:
1) Changes to the way we work
It would be clear that work shouldn’t be given priority over family life. But, as in a Benedictine monastery—with their motto ora et labora, “pray and work”—everyone would help with household chores as an accepted part of self-sacrifice at the service of others.
2) Changes to the way we rest
We would enjoy and share movies and games together, not in solitude. There would be times for recreation and playing together after family dinners, slowing down the rhythm of the day to spend time with each other and relax. “Rest is a time of communion with God and with others, and of the joy born of being in communion,” the author writes.
No shopping or housework on Sunday? Sign me up!
3) Changes to the way we eat
We would pray before all our meals. We would eat together with the other members of our family, not at different times and places. It would be a time for conversation, for sharing ideas and experiences, and for enjoying each other’s company. Being together for meals is good for families, and it’s not just the Benedictines who say so; many sociological studies have proven it to be true. For this reason, the television and the phone should be turned off during meals.
4) Changes to the way we consume
A “Benedictine style” family would avoid luxury and superficiality. We wouldn’t fill the children’s rooms with too many toys and other extraneous things. We’d establish austere rules for the use of electronic devices, as much for parents as for children: limited “screen time,” with specific times throughout the day when our screens would be turned off, etc. We would try to dedicate personal and family electronics for shared use: It’s better to watch a movie together than for each person to play a different game on his or her own exclusive device. Reducing the number of screens in the house would also encourage reading and conversation.
5) Changes to our prayer life
There would be a place and time for prayer—if possible, at a small family altar for prayer together. We would protect our home and prayer time from worldly distractions and criteria, creating an atmosphere in which parents and children could spend time with God every day.
A “Little Oratory” Can Build a Big Habit of Prayer
6) Changes to our charity and solidarity
Our family would seek to avoid being self-centered or closed in on itself: It would be welcoming, trying to alleviate the suffering of others as much as possible, and we would put our children in contact with the most disadvantaged.
Massimo Lapponi encourages us to implement these measures, with the following words: “The families of today are called to be luminous islands of faith, education, and culture in the midst of their neighborhoods—at school, at the park, with friends … The goal is to build a future that seeks to follow God, as did the spiritual children of Saint Benedict.”
The author introduces the book with a quote from Saint Cyprian: “We do not talk about great things; we do them.”
Article originally published by Religión en Libertad.
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