Queen's counsel XXXII

April 2004

Going on retreat enables us to step out of our everyday situation and contemplate it from afar. The Spirit may lead us into new life, just as at Easter Christ emerged triumphant over death. Earlier this year, I took part in a retreat at Douai Abbey guided by a Benedictine monk and was welcomed, along with 10 others, into the community for a weekend. It was a truly rewarding time.

Benedictine life is structured around the pattern of prayer and worship that consists at Douai of five services a day. It seemed to enfold the rest of our time in a spirit of peace and purposefulness and it was a delight to join the monks in worship. Their Abbey Church, apart from being a beautiful and inspiring sacred space, was endowed with an acoustic that gave their voices flight, surrounding us all with the purity of their singing. Their chanting of the psalms in Latin, thankfully translated alongside, had a magical and healing quality.

The balance of life in a Benedictine community is captured in the Rule that Benedict wrote 15 centuries ago and it is good to experience it working effectively so long afterwards. In essence, he talks firstly of Opus Dei, the work of God, being attentive to the divine offices and encouraging "prayer without ceasing". Secondly, he talks of Lectio Divina, which is holy reading and allowing Scripture to inform our lives. Thirdly, he talks of manual work and of all being responsible for the smooth running of the community and their contribution to society.

Benedictine hospitality is well known and is part of their manual work; we were certainly made very welcome and enjoyed good food. Our study, and that of the monk who was leading us, took us into "Spirituality in the Workplace" and we explored together relationships at work and how we could understand ourselves and other people better; the insights that Benedict wrote down in his Rule are still extremely relevant and helpful today.

It is good to discover that the Industrial Christian Fellowship (ICF) is encouraging the churches to re-establish Industrial Sunday at the end of April. It certainly reflects Benedict's balance where the work of God informs our work in the world and vice versa. Here are some words from the Prologue to the Rule of St. Benedict that underpin that life:

Hear and heed the master's teaching
and bow the ear of your heart
with insistent prayer, beg that
[the Lord] would bring to completion
every good that you set out to do.

This site was developed to contain work by Mike Fox relating to the WMMTC course
This page was last updated on 2004-01-29

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