Benedict and Change
Book vendors and websites are loaded with titles touting self-help themes of all kinds. Our current culture seems to be one that wants a different shape, a different nose, a different attitude, or a different belief. So, no matter what kind of change one is seeking, there is an author who has come up with ten easy steps (and a few bottle caps) to achieve the desired change.
There is one major flaw with 99.9% of these self-help books. Most authors stipulate that the power comes from one’s own self-discipline. One must work hard, stay the course and then all will be well. The flaw enters in because very few humans are wired for that kind of discipline. The Apostle Paul states it well in Romans 7: 18, “I obviously need help! I realize that I do not have what it takes. I can will it but I can’t do it” (Eugene Peterson, The Message).
Paul expresses what many of us feel. I, myself, could literally write books about diet and exercise. I could plan healthy meals that would contribute to good health, reduced weight and provide higher energy. I KNOW what to do. And then I see a potato chip and it is all over.
The Rule of St. Benedict speaks to this issue of personal change as well. In RB 58, Benedict speaks of ongoing conversion, which is another way to speak of deep, personal, transformational change. Transformational change only happens when one experiences transformation at the core as one grows into Christ-likeness.
For Benedict, daily conversion happens through the practice of lectio divina. It is through lectio divina that God sets the agenda, and it is through the Word of God used in lectio divina that God grants the power to change. Change is God’s action, not ours. Transformational change happens through the grace of God working through the Word and through the Eucharist that leads one to new ways of being and doing.
Learn more about core Benedictine values.
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