SAINT BENEDICT AND TIME-TESTED WISDOM
Brothers and Sisters,
Saint Benedict lived in fifth and sixth centuries – nearly 1,500 years ago. He lived during a monumental turning point in Church history: the legalization of Christianity. It was a more difficult time that one might think. On the surface, one might assume that when Christianity became legal, the Church would bloom – true enough. The issue became that many people began to treat Christianity as a club or hobby to be participated in casually – the was further exacerbated by the fact that, for a time, the Holy Faith became the so-called official religion on the Empire.
All of these and multiple further factors made Christianity unchallenged as the largest religion in Europe and Asia Minor. Though it certainly is a great thing to see the Holy Faith spread, there was no challenge to being a Christian. Nearly everyone was a tacit Christian – that is, a member of the Church in name only but not in action. People were baptized but not at Mass, prayer, or attentive to good works, Bible study, and the sacramentals.
Saint Benedict came of age during this time. He knew the value of the Holy Faith but saw it floundering at the hands of those who called themselves Christian but didn’t “do” the Faith. Saint Benedict was not expecting himself to be the best Christian in the world, he moreso wanted to find a way to be a strong Christian in a culture that does not support or value the Holy Faith.
To figure out how to start, Saint Benedict went away from society – he essentially went on a long retreat. In prayer and lots of thought he found many ways to bring the Holy Faith back to the value that it deserves.
His big principle: remember your death. When death is something that is far distant, pushed off, or even just ignored, the Holy Faith becomes nothing more than one of many ornaments our Christmas Tree (cf. Pope Francis); it is as if the Holy Faith is no more important than anything else in our life; for example, we may value our hobbies, we may love our job, we hang out with our friends – each of these may easily become more influential on our lives than the Holy Faith.
Saint Benedict did not use the inevitability of death as a threat to people. Instead, Saint Benedict simply reminds us that we all have a final destination, a final cause. Saint Benedict simply brings our attention to the fact that Earth will not last forever (Matthew 24:35). Our hobbies, our jobs, our lives will not last forever, so let’s not get lost in the busyness of our hobbies, jobs, and lives.
While the non-Christian will certainly acknowledge that we all will die, the Christian has a much greater urgency. For the Christian, we know that death will be our judgement day but Christ may come back to Earth at any time. For that reason Saint Benedict says: remember your death.
God be near,