Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Way of St. Benedict is structured around three vows and three tools. The vows are the principles and aims of the Benedictine spiritual life. The tools are the means to accomplish it. While these vows and tools make up the whole of the monastic life, we can learn from them and apply them in our life because they are so basic and adaptable.
The first of the Benedictine vows is obedience. The monks make a vow of complete obedience to the abbot—the head of the monastery. They do so with the mindset of a soldier. Indeed, Benedict says in his rule that he is training soldiers for the Lord’s army. The vow of obedience is crucial because through obedience our self-centered human will is broken, and once we learn the habit of obedience God can begin to do his work in our lives.
The root of the word “obedience” is the Latin word “obedire” which means to listen. The first word of Benedict’s rule is “listen” He writes, “Listen My Son to the Words of the Master.” In calling us to listen, Benedict wants us to listen not only to those in rightful authority over us, but to listen to the Lord speaking through Scripture, through the church, and though the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Listening is also one of the reasons monks value silence. How can you listen to one another and to God is you are talking all the time and your world is cluttered with worldly music, noise and chatter?
If our parish were filled with the spirit of obedience, we would all be listening carefully to the voice of the Lord, but we would also be listening to one another. We would be listening not only to what people say, but what they don’t say. Finally, if we listen to the voice of the Lord in our lives and obey that voice each one of us will be working as a team…because the Lord says the same thing to all of us.