BENEDICT’s Rule, written in the sixth century and described by Arnold Toynbee as the “mustard seed from which the great tree of Western civilisation has sprung”, had an enormous impact on the development of the Church of England and continues to be a source of inspired wisdom for people in our own times.
In this book, Richard Frost, a Reader, retreat-giver, and (Anglican) Benedictine Oblate of Alton Abbey, provides short, simple reflections on each of its 73 chapters, which, he says, provide a “whole-life balance”. The Rule is formulated so that a portion is read daily over a four-month period, repeated three times during the year, and the version that he uses is an inclusive-language translation by the Benedictine Sisters of Erie. Each reflection is followed by a suggested psalm and ejaculatory prayer.
The Rule is an extended commentary on how Benedict’s monks are to live in this “school for God’s service” (Prologue) in which they are to “prefer nothing whatever to Christ”. Its observance “can show that we have some degree of virtue and the beginnings of monastic life . . . which will lead . . . to the very heights of perfection”. The author compares it to a “toolbox” from which we chose the tool, taking up one and then another, practising our skills with them, and not worrying if we make mistakes, provided we confess our faults: “It is love that impels them to pursue everlasting life.”
His thoughtful reflections on each chapter, concluding with a suggested framework to develop a personal Rule of Life, will help anyone who wants help on the journey of faith. Although there are a couple of spelling mistakes and a somewhat contentious reference to James as being the “son” of Mary and Joseph, Frost’s style is direct and simple, inviting his readers to consider how Benedict’s words address their condition.
The Revd John-Francis Friendship is a senior team member at the London Centre for Spiritual Direction. He is the author of Enfolded in Christ (Canterbury Press, 2018).
Life with St Benedict: The Rule reimagined for everyday living
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