The following article appeared on Catholic Exchange on July 9, 2020, in preparation for the feast day of St. Benedict on July 11. I am grateful to CE for publishing my work!
Each and every one of us is called to holiness, and answering that call requires growth and strength in spiritual practices, like prayer, study, and works of mercy. Yet, as average lay people living in the world, working jobs, paying bills, and raising families, it is easy to let spiritual growth, thriving in the spiritual life, fall further down our list of priorities. Here, I want to provide small nuggets of wisdom from religious orders that have impacted the Church and the world over the centuries. Hopefully, these small, simple steps will help lay people make the arduous journey to holiness with more energy, stamina, and success than ever before.
What a coincidence that two venerable religious communities will celebrate their most important feasts in the coming days. We will look first at the Benedictines, who celebrate the feast day of their founder on July 11. A few days following, we will deal with the Carmelites, whose patronal feast day is celebrated on July 16. These summer days make a great time to re-evaluate, recommit, and begin some new spiritual practices that will aid our growth.
Benedictine Lifestyle & Spirituality for the Laity
St. Benedict founded the Benedictine order several years after he took up a life of seclusion and prayer in the hill country outside of Rome. He had been deeply scandalized by the excessive sensuality, heavy drinking and sexual license particularly, that he witnessed in the Eternal City as a young man. So, he withdrew to a cave in the mountains and he prayed.
Eventually, others began coming to him, asking to imitate his choice and his example. Then, those who took up his practiced asked him to form them more specifically into a community. As this community took shape, Benedict wrote his Rule for the monks. The Rule of St. Benedict is one of the most well-known and most important texts in all of Christian history and culture. Still, many laity don’t realize that there is much contained in the Rule that they can practice, and from which they can benefit, too.
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