The Eternal Stability of the Benedictine Tradition
written by Teri Rose, OblSB
Transitions are remarkable spiritual practices. They lure us away from what is familiar to stand, with toes dangerously dangling over, uncomfortable edges. But it’s right here at this growth edge that beauty, faith, and hope emerge. If we let them.
The Benedictine Tradition is beginning its next transition. As the number of worldwide oblates grow they will be called to expanding roles in carrying forth the Benedictine mission, what could this mean for our future? How will we navigate the upcoming uncertainty? So many what-ifs to lure us onto that dangerous edge.
Despite all that has happened over the past 1500 years of human history (and not just my small what-ifs but known tragedies like war, famine, genocides, and other heartbreaking inhumanities) the Rule and the Benedictine Tradition have moved with, through, and on. The beautiful and natural aging of monks or shifts in their numbers wasn’t paused during these viciously uncertain times. And yet, as hoped, the Rule is still here. I, 1500 years later, am still able to rely on it in my spiritual formation. It is still here to encourage me to go through the “narrow gate” and point me to my relationship with God.
I could allow my thinking to go down the line of what-ifs, or I can choose to glance back to the very Rule I’m nervous about losing for the answers. I can practice my beloved Benedictine value of Stability of Heart. To me, this means staying committed to just this moment. The only moment there is. It is here that God creates through us, where he meets us, talks to us, and directs us. When we are tethered to this moment, here with our God who is always holding us, ensuring that we have the resources we need, ensuring that “the words will come when needed," and ensuring that our “foundation is made of stone,” I am able to feel the assurance that the Rule and our beloved Benedictine Tradition will continue to move with, through, and on.
There is a gifted fruit of the Holy Spirit that most influences my success at this Stability of Heart. It is patience. Benedict sets expectations right in the prologue that patience will not be optional or comfortable. He states “we share through patience in the sufferings of Christ” (RB Prologue 50). Nothing can stress the stability of the heart more than the emptiness patience demands we stand in. This void between what we knew - what is taken away through loss and grief or what is different from what we had hoped - this void, between what we knew and what is being created, feels dark and isolating- uncomfortable. Our hearts feel restless and nervous in this new space UNTIL we remember that it isn’t emptiness, it is openness and space, the space needed for us to welcome and recognize God in this moment. And in this moment of recognition, as the beauty feels bigger than what we can bear, we can hear him say, “Don’t be afraid”.