Monday, March 7, 2011

The Benedictine Rule and the Family

I have some news. HB has a tooth erupted. It's oddly a top tooth. I imagine the other top tooth will erupt soon too as well as the two bottom ones that are bothering him. Poor thing. It explains why the last few days he's been having weird sleeping patterns.

Speaking of family, let's talk about the Benedictine Rule or the Rule of St. Benedict. Some facts first. The Benedictine Rule is a set of rules or codes that some monastic orders such as the Trappists (whom the famous Thomas Merton was a part of) follow. A notable characteristic of the Benedictine Rule is the use of an abbot or abbess. Previously, most monks or cloistered nuns were independent and virtually hermits. In the Benedictine Rule, a father or mother figure runs the monastery or cloister. The monks or nuns act as brother or sisters working together. The model for this is founded in....the family. Thus the concept of ora et labora, prayer and labor, a Benedictine motto came into practice. Again modeling the family, Benedictine monks and nuns are responsible for the well being of the sick and aged within their order. They don't live exclusively in silence. They speak when it is necessary.

Also important is how a Benedictine organizes their day. During the course of a monk or nun's day, there is time set aside for sleeping, eating, communal prayer, private prayer, spiritual reading, and of course work.

How does all this translate to the family? Well, the Benedictine Rule is modeled after the family so it is easy especially with Lent approaching (approached) to apply the same concepts to family life.

Families can organize their day with prayer being the main focus of it. Benedictines follow the Office of the Readings or the eight canonical hours (Martin, Laudes, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline). Some Anglicans have special services for some of these major hours such as Martin or Vespers. Catholics can also seek out a service of this type, attend daily Mass, or follow the Liturgy of the Hours as well. You don't have to pray all of the hours but generally it's important to pray the three main hours: Martins, Lauds, and Vespers.

Also attitude is important. Caring for the sick or elderly is an important part of Benedictine life as well as family life. Work can also be seen as "prayer" to God. St. Frances of Rome is quoted as saying, "It is most laudible in a married woman to be devout, but she must never forget that she is a housewife and sometimes must leave God at the altar to find him in housekeeping." Thus working brings a different dimension to the Biblical passage of "pray without ceasing."

The Benedictine model shows that one does not have to "forget" God in the chaos of family life. Rather making God the center and focus of a family can help ease the family through the most stormiest of times. As one Third Order Carmelite blogger put it, "Life is going to get crazy and you're going to fall off the Liturgy prayer schedule. We are not in a convent. We have messy, needy, unpredictable people in our lives. Be gentle with yourself and remember this prayer schedule is "optional for lay people." At the same time, when my life was REALLY falling apart I clung to this prayer routine. It's a solid rock under your feet in times of sickness, stress or fear."

Hope you enjoyed. I may be able to churn out one last post before shutting down for Lent. I'll still blog at the family's blog and I'll still check my e-mail, but I won't be blogging here or looking at anyone else's blog. I'll have to have people tell me what's been going on at Easter. Until then!


  1. I love the idea of the family being it's own form of monastic life. I was drawn to monastic life a few years ago for this reason. I love living in families, and I want my own family to be based on the centrality of God, prayer, and a rhythm of ora et labora et playtime!

  2. I wish I could say my family was like that, but I try. I find you have to fit prayer in the most odd ways. I like to sing prayers as lullabys to HB. My big goal this Lent is to start spoken prayer and especially the sign of the cross because he understands baby signs. It's something I never grew up with despite being a cradle Catholic so I imagine it's going to be awkward for me like it would for someone who as virtually an atheist before converting. I've read some good posts recently about working with your kids during Lent. It's been helpful to know that I'm not alone.


I love to read your thoughts. Thanks for sharing!