One Tiny Flame

One Tiny Flame

Solemnity of St Benedict

Our Blessed Lord tells us that the servant is not above his master nor the disciple above his teacher, but that on the contrary the quality of the disciple depends on his following his teacher. On this day we honour our founder, St Benedict, and so it is good to reflect upon some of the aspects of his life that we should strive to imitate. I propose three.

First, St Benedict flees the world in order to save the world. We already see here what we can call his down to earth realism. Even though he is constantly urging us towards the stars, St Benedict remains squarely on the earth, conscious of the dangers surrounding us and assiduous at protecting ourselves from them. He was still a teenager when he understood that he was no match for the corruption of the world that was all too evident in Rome, and so he made his way out to the solitude of Subiaco where he will remain for three years, undergoing intense purification that will allow him to become the father of countless souls through the order he founded.

Second, we can consider how within the structure of the monasteries he founded that same realism is evident on every page. A deep understanding of human nature, of its weaknesses, but also its capacities when formed with loving, persevering care. Every detail of the monastic life is provided for by one who seeks to impose nothing too hard or difficult, but who also knows that there is no progress without effort. From the various officers he appoints to share his responsibility, he expects the same attentiveness to detail, an identical love for each person, the zeal for helping each one leave behind the old man and be transformed in the newness of an intense passion for God and for holiness.

Third, along with an intense love for God that shines through in his spirit of prayer and mortification, he is a model of fraternal love for each of the brothers, and also for whomever might knock at the door of the monastery. A fire was kindled in the heart of the young Benedict that never was put out, but which only grew over time. We see it in his zeal for the sick, the poor, the young, the elderly, the pilgrims, and more generally for any guest. Christ is there in every person in need of assistance, be it through some advice or simply the requirements of nature.

As we seek to continue this adventure of founding a Benedictine monastery here in Tasmania, let us ask our holy Father on this day to share with us these three qualities of soul. Let us ever maintain in our minds and hearts the spirit of flight from the world. Even when we have to travel, a monk should never feel at home in the world. He is not. He can only be at home in the Sacred Heart, for whom he has left all things.

Let us strive to bring to perfection the structures of the conventual life that he outlines so painstakingly in the Holy Rule, with each monk faithfully fulfilling his role in his place for the common good, with respect for the roles of others. A fecund monastery is like a beehive in which each one contributes to the good of the whole, for each role is indispensable to the goal of the whole.

Let each of us, above all, seek to progress in the love of the God who made as, as the book of Ecclesiasticus says of King David, a text that is quoted in the Matins readings for this feast. May each of us cultive the fire of that love in our hearts, and may it help all those who come to the monastery catch fire in turn. If the image of keeping a small flame burning in the midst of a snowstorm does seem to capture the role of communities in the spiritual ice age we are going through, it is also true that it only takes that one tiny flame to set the world ablaze. If only each one is faithful to the fire of the love of the Holy Spirit, God alone knows what may come of it.

And so, Holy Father St Benedict, though we acknowledge our unworthiness to be here in this community, we ask you to watch over us, to obtain for us the grace to listen to the wisdom of our Master, putting it into practice each day, loving the brethren and all those in need, singing the praises of God with all our heart, so that God may be glorified in all things, that no one may be saddened or troubled in the House of God and that Christ Our Lord may lead us all one day to life everlasting. Amen.