I read an article this morning from and on-line website called, Truth and Charity Forum. As a Benedictine Oblate, I was moved by the Author’s insights into The Rule of St. Benedict regarding Peace. Everything about the Rule speaks to Peace and a harmonious way of life for everyone who resides in the Monastery. But for those of us following the Rule while still living in the world, sometimes the stability and regular rhythms of the Monastery can be lacking in our less than consistent daily routines. So, I thought to re-copy the article’s most relevant points for finding Peace in our lives and post it here for all of us to consider, if we are so inclined. I hope it speaks kindly and gently to our hearts…
2014 Rule of Peace By Mitchell Kalpakgian, Ph.D.
Christopher Derrick’s The Rule of Peace draws from the wisdom of St. Benedict’s famous Rule for monastic life to teach the art of how to be at peace in the world as well as in the monastery. According to St. Benedict, four steps are needed to master the art of peace. First, a person must learn to be peace with his environment and learn to be at home in that part of the country or world where he lives and works; second, a person needs to be at peace with himself with his particular strengths and weaknesses; third, everyone must strive to be at peace with his neighbor. One cannot love God without first loving one’s neighbor. All of these forms of peace, then, prepare a person to be at peace with God. To be at peace with God, however, is not the world’s idea of living without difficulty or stress.
To be peace with one’s environment means, according to Derrick, “living gently and at peace with one’s natural surroundings” in the way a monk resigns himself to a life of stability instead of constant travel. Also, the monk who lives in tune with nature lives simply and economically. This Benedictine way of life opposes
the restlessness of wanderlust and the quest for ceaseless diversion. St. Benedict’s Rule teaches the art of staying at home and finding contentment in the regularity and rhythm of daily life with its balance of work and rest, the active life and the contemplative life. To enjoy being at home and enjoying one’s surroundings instead of always seeking new places and thrills develops a sense of belonging or rootedness essential for happiness. For many, however, the environment in which they are born, live, and work is not entirely in their control. But to be at peace, a person cannot be daydreaming or fantasizing about new sensations or faraway places that he imagines to be more perfect.
To be at peace with one’s self means to accept one’s male or female nature, one’s unique temperament and individuality, and one’s particular gifts and inclinations as God-given. It means acquiescence to one’s ethnic identity, family background, and history. A person at peace with himself is not jealous of another person’s good fortune or special talents. Every person must accept his lot and the crosses of his life rather than making invidious comparisons with others who appear more prosperous or gifted. A true monk, in Derrick’s words, is filled with an “inner serenity and joy” because he accepts sufferings and difficulties as a fact of human life and learns to overcome anxiety and fear by an abandonment to God’s Providence. The monk knows that Christ’s words “Peace be with you” mean that man needs to live without anxiety, trust in God, and not be ruled by tension and stress—one of the reasons God created the Sabbath as a day of rest. This peace with one’s self never requires drugs, alcohol, or escape from life’s duties.
To be at peace with one’s neighbor also requires the same effort and skill as learning to accept one’s environment and one’s human nature because a person does not always choose his relatives, neighbors, or colleagues, but simply finds them present by accident. This aspect of peace demands patience, forbearance, forgiveness, and charity. Monks do not shout, slam doors, welcome loud noise, or speak with loose tongues, always practicing the virtue of courtesy because “ceremony is the friend of peace.” Monks know that the Devil wants persons to have arguments, lose their tempers, and not live in friendship and charity. Monastic life “includes all the family virtues of love and loyalty known to the ancient Romans as piety.” Just as the abbot rules in the monastery with both authority and gentleness—not as a autocrat—parents too must govern their families with both justice and mercy and children honor their parents with respect. With gentle authority and glad obedience men can live together in peace and avoid the many useless, trivial arguments produced by prideful egotism. Monastic life teaches the discipline of the tongue and recognizes that “too much talk is the enemy of the soul.” So often peace with one’s neighbor is destroyed “when somebody said something which never really needed to be said”— insensitive, offensive, or tactless words.
All the various kinds of restlessness—the pursuit of excitement, novelty, or diversion in the form of entertainment, travel, and endless change– result from failure to live in tune with the environment, family, and person that God created. To be at peace according to the Rule of Saint Benedict is to be centered and have a still point rather than being fragmented and divided by the centrifugal forces of the world that rend asunder the unity that dwells in the soul that knows peace. The Benedictine vow of stability centers a monk in the one place he will live and reside for a lifetime. The home centers a person in the society of the family he is bound to for life. The vocation a person chooses gives special priority to this one form of service that shapes the future.