Shaping the heart

Daily Reading for July 9

Benedictines frame their day with times of public prayer and private prayer. Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours may be celebrated two or three times daily, or upwards of seven times per day. Benedict advised his followers on how he recommended the day be framed, then encouraged his followers to do what they deem best for their communities. The point is not how monastic communities gather for the Divine Office, but that the community gathers daily with forethought and prayerful consideration. The Divine Office supports the communal and individual search for God. Like water slowly dropping on rock until that rock’s shape has changed, the daily mundane task of chanting the Divine Office slowly works on an individual’s heart, shaping the person into the image of Christ. . . .

Benedictines seek to balance, however imperfectly, silence and solitude with the common life and healthy communication. Work, creative endeavors, and holy leisure also support and build the foundation of Benedictine spirituality. Today most Benedictines are aware that an ascetical practice is a response to the gift of asceticism we receive. In order to cultivate compassion towards ourselves and others, it is necessary to say no to some of the demands made by others seeking our time and talents. Being able to love others because we remove ourselves when appropriate is the way we practice modern asceticism. In an age that craves more and more, interior simplicity reveals a mature heart.

From The Benedictine Tradition: Spirituality in History, edited and introduced by Laura Swan, a volume in the Spirituality in History Series (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 2007).

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