October 27, 2006


Benedictines are stewards of the mysteries of God


In his holy rule, St. Benedict tells his monks that they should treat the goods of the monastery (tools, furniture, clothing, etc.) with the same reverence and respect that they show the sacred vessels of the altar.

The monastery proper is called a cloister, a place set apart, and while guests are always welcomed as Christ, only those who have been consecrated for the monastic witness of poverty, chastity, obedience and ongoing conversion of life may enter the sacred precincts of the monastery.

In a very special way, Benedictine monks are stewards of the sacred mysteries of God. As the American bishops tell us in their pastoral letter, Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response, all baptized Christians are called to follow Jesus without counting the cost.

Benedictine monasticism models the way of life that we call stewardship in a particularly powerful way. We can learn a lot from Benedictines about the countercultural dimensions of stewardship, and about a form of spirituality especially suited to Christians living and working “in the world.”

Here are a few Benedictine principles that are instructive for “mature disciples” who seek to be faithful stewards of all God’s gifts.

• Prayer and work are the twin pillars of monastic life. The balance that is sought between a contemplative openness to God and the active pursuit of our daily work is a profound expression of the stewardship of time. The gift of time is especially precious because each moment is unique and unrepeatable. How we use our time, and especially how we balance the many demands placed on us by family obligations and work responsibilities, is a clear indication of what’s most important to us. The monks’ commitment to order their day around the prayer of the Church is a powerful reminder that we need to make time every day to connect ourselves with the divine master whose stewards we are.

• Hospitality, treating all guests as Christ, gives witness to the generosity that is expected of all Christian disciples. As stewards, we are called to be the grateful recipients of the abundant gifts we have received from God. We will be held accountable for how we have developed and shared our gifts, and the Lord has been very clear about what he expects of us: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me” (Mt 25:34-40). Monastic life witnesses to this fundamental principle of Christian stewardship: All that we have, and all that we are, comes to us from a loving God who refuses to hold back, and who invites us to imitate his generous hospitality.

• Benedictine monks are consecrated to the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience. The challenge to live simply, to be pure in body, mind and spirit, and to be open to hearing and doing God’s will is addressed to all disciples of Jesus Christ. The followers of St. Benedict wholeheartedly embrace these hallmarks of Christian spirituality and add to them another sacred vow: to dedicate themselves to the continuing conversion of life.

In a very real way, this fourth vow is a commitment to grow as stewards and to maintain a radical openness to changing their lives in conformity with God’s will.

This Benedictine vow of continuing conversion of life (conversatio morum) is essentially what the American bishops mean when they tell us that stewardship is a lifelong journey that demands our willingness to grow and change continuously. None of us is a perfect steward. We can grow and develop as faithful stewards, but the journey will only end when we reach our heavenly home.

Pope Benedict XVI chose the name of the father of western monasticism because he believes that this fifth-century holy man has something important to say to 21st-century Christians.

Our archdiocese is blessed by the Benedictine witness of the sisters of Our Lady of Grace Monastery and the monks of Saint Meinrad Archabbey. A careful reading of the Benedictine rule, and a careful observation of the way these contemporary men and women live this ancient way of life, can help us better understand how we are called to live as disciples of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.

That in all things God may be glorified.

— Daniel Conway

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