THE BLOG
04/18/2011 07:54 pm ET Updated Jun 18, 2011

Benedictine Spirituality: Peace in the Monastery of the Heart

"Turn away from evil and do good; let peace be your quest and aim."

Over the archway of medieval monasteries were commonly carved the wordsPax Intrantibus, "Peace to those who enter here."

These words were both a hope and a promise.

Benedict's vision of the peaceable kingdom was a real one. In a society struggling with social chaos, awash in the evils of classism, prey to foreign encroachment on all sides, and at the mercy of wave after wave of warring forces, highway piracy, and the wide-spread social disorganization and moral deterioration that came with the fall of the superpower Rome, Benedict sketched out a blueprint for world peace.

He laid a foundation for a new way of life, the ripples of which stretched far beyond the first monastery gates to every culture and continent, from one generation to another, from that era to this one, from his time and now to ours. To us.

Peace is our legacy, our mandate, our mission, as alive today as ever, more in need today -- in a nuclear world, a world of starving peoples -- than ever.

Benedictine peace, however, is not simply the absence of war. It is a lifestyle that makes war unacceptable and violence unnecessary.

It is not a lifestyle dominated by control and a plethora of rules. It is a lifestyle that foregoes violence on every level, for any reason.

Most of all, this lifestyle is a simple one. It is basic in its elements, not difficult to achieve, simple to sustain. It nurtures neither ambition nor greed.

It is straightforward in its values, without being either esoteric or convoluted. These values are clear ones: community, prayer, stewardship, equality, stability, conversion, peace -- all make for communities of love.

It is a lifestyle committed to its ideals before all else, and intent on opening its arms and taking the world into its Monastery of the Heart.

It is, then, an oasis of human peace in a striving, searing, simmering world.

Benedictine spirituality is a counterculture that calls for a rhythm of life that honors and enables, stretches and challenges, every dimension of human development.

It creates community out of a collection of strangers -- a slice of life that crosses age levels, economic backgrounds, and ethnicities -- to where differences can be honored, and differences can be broached, and peace can come to both the person and to an entire population at the same time.

Benedictine spirituality is a life that honors the earth and cultivates the planet for the sake of the all the people of the earth. It is a holy life. It passes on to the next generation a society and a globe that is in better condition than it was -- because people with a Benedictine heart have taken their responsibility to protect it for the future.

It allows no waste but provides for the needs of all. It allows no class distinctions but thrives on the exceptions that the human condition demands.

It aims for the highest standards of personal behavior and, at the same time, understands and supports those for whom growth is a struggle and the social standards of life seem always to be a work in progress.

Finally, Benedictine spirituality requires of us all the humility that allows us no room to make gods of ourselves, to impose ourselves on the rest of the universe,
to develop the hubris that leads to the oppression of others, that justifies force
as the sign of our superiority, that enthrones the arrogance in us over the holiness and wholeness of others, that smothers the awareness in a person of their small and proper place in the universe.

It is humility that makes us happy with what we have, willing to have less, kind to all, simple in our bearing, and serene within ourselves.

It teaches us that they who have themselves for God have a very small god indeed. Benedictine spirituality is a recipe for peace and a prescription for a life lived well on every level.

And now, in our Monastery of the Heart, it is ours to shape and to preserve, to share and to promote, to model and to make real in our own time.

Pax Intrantibus. Peace to those who enter here.