Parish of St Benedict Ealing Abbey

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From the Rule of St Benedict

The Monastery > St Benedict

Benedict was born in about A.D. 480 and after the break up of the Roman Empire he led the way in an important development in monasticism he founded monasteries near Rome at Subiaco and Monte Cassino. His Rule envisaged the monk as a brother in a family devoted to the service of God under the leadership of an Abbot.

Benedict was just one monastic leader among many at that time, but he has had such a great influence that he has come to be recognised as the Patriarch of Western Monasticism because, without realising it, he founded an Order. His Rule for Monasteries came to be the one which was most widely kept throughout Christendom for several centuries after his death in about 547. Then as now, when monks "make their profession" they take three vows. These vows are: obedience; conversion of manners, which includes personal poverty and chastity, and can be interpreted as re-ordering one's priorities so as to live the monastic life in its fullness; and stability, the most distinctive of the Benedictine vows, which commits the monk to remain in the monastic family which has accepted him

The Rule of St Benedict

St Benedict wrote his Rule for Monasteries at Monte Cassino in the early 6th century. The very first word is LISTEN which sets the whole tone of the work and its spirituality: we are to listen to our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.

The Rule consists of 73 short chapters and an introduction. First there is a Prologue, then 7 chapters of spiritual doctrine (on listening to each other, on the tools of good works, and on obedience, silence and humility). This is followed by 13 chapters concerning things liturgical. The remainder of the Rule covers practical arrangements for living in community, and the community life. Finally the Rule returns to its beginning emphasising the importance of zeal for God and that the Rule is only the beginning of perfection.

There are certain dominant themes throughout the Rule, and hence throughout Benedictine spirituality: theme of searching for God, of listening to his voice in the everyday experiences, of the balance necessary between prayer and work, and the three vows of obedience, stability and daily conversion. Then there is the emphasis on silence (in order to truly listen) and on humility; on peace within oneself and around one, and the monk as a means of peace. The theme of glorifying God in all things. Prayer is dominant as listening to God and in glorifying God. Prayer as the Divine Office (praying together, mainly the psalms), prayer as one's own private prayer, prayer as meditative reading, contemplating and "ruminating on Scripture".

St Benedict's Rule and Ealing

All Christians are committed to seeking full height and depth of God's love, but this cannot be a selfish pursuit which is carried out alone, because our realisation of God's love for us at once uncovers our need to love others and to join together in our common search for God. A monastic community is a group of men who are convinced that they are called by God to make that journey in company with each other and to witness by their lives to his call to all mankind. In writing his Rule, Benedict's aim was to establish a "school of the Lord's service", an environment in which monks could grow in spiritual maturity through prayer, mutual love and acceptance, patience and hard work, and by striving to put nothing before Christ so that he might "bring all together to life eternal".

The actual location of a monastery is largely irrelevant except that different settings bring different opportunities. In Ealing the monks are in close and daily contact with all kinds of people and have the chance to be available for them in many ways and at different levels in their lives. The fact that monks do not move from one monastic community to another gives permanence to our relationships, not only with each other but also with the people whom we try to serve, as we work with individuals, or with groups of fellow Christians over, say, local social problems or in education or in seeking to preserve standards in society at large. The monks of Ealing draw great richness from being surrounded by a warm and vital Christian community which acts as an inspiration for us, just as much as it may itself be helped by the presence of the monastery.





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The Trust of St Benedict’s Abbey, Ealing’ is a registered charity no 242715