Rector's Reflections - 22 April

Rector’s Reflections 

Monday 22nd April 2024

A Benedictine Approach to Well-Being

It’s been a while since I have written about Benedictine Spirituality, and I thought it would be good to return to the topic. We can learn so much from the Benedictine tradition, and Benedictine insights can be applied in a wide range of situations.

 In the current series of reflections, I thought I would focus on the subject of  Well-Being.  People seem to be increasingly interested in Well-Being, and many employers are now providing Well-Being services for their staff.  As a phrase, “Well-Being” seems to have become popular only over the last few years. But as a concept, it has always been important. Human beings have always  wanted to lead happy and fulfilled lives. But of course the challenge is how we can achieve this in the particular circumstances of our own lives. What do we need to do to flourish in our relationships and in our workplaces? 

Benedictine spirituality is very much about promoting approaches and practices which help us to flourish as human beings, and so we can expect that it will have something helpful to say on the topic of Well-Being. We will look at this in more detail in the days ahead. But I thought it might be helpful for a brief summary of what I mean when I use the word “Benedictine” or the phrase “Benedictine Spirituality”.

Benedictine Spirituality derives from the life and teaching of an Italian Christian called St Benedict of Nursia, who lived back in the 5th and 6th Centuries AD.  He is called St Benedict of Nursia to distinguish him from other Saints who share the same first name, such as St Benedict of Aniane. However, for simplicity’s sake, I shall simply call him St Benedict, as in this context it will be clear which St Benedict I am referring to.

St Benedict established a religious community and wrote a book of rules and spiritual advice called the Rule of St .Benedict. Over the years, many communities of monks and nuns have adopted the Rule of St Benedict and such communities are referred to as Benedictine, because they derive their spiritual inspiration from the teaching of St Benedict.   Benedictine communities are still found today – for example, there is a Benedictine monastery for men only a few miles away, at Douai near Woolhampton.

Down the centuries, Benedictines have often reflected on what is most important to their tradition, and sometimes this has led monasteries to change their own particular priorities. One of the most important of these reform movements began back in the 12th century, and was associated with the monastery of Citeaux in France;  monasteries which  have adopted these reforms are known as Cisterican monasteries.  However, for present purposes I shall use the term Benedictine to cover both the traditional Benedictine communities and those communities which have chosen to follow the Cistercian reform.

Although most Benedictines belong to the Roman Catholic Church, they are usually very welcoming indeed to non-Roman Catholics, and it is perfectly possible to follow the teachings of St Benedict as a Protestant, or as a Christian of no particular denomination.

I should also add that you don’t have to be a full time monk or nun in order to try and apply Benedictine teachings to your everyday life. You can have a “normal” life with home, family and a job, and still follow the teaching of St Benedict. And if you choose, you can belong to a particular monastery on a part-time basis- this is called being an “oblate”.   The word “oblate” comes from a Latin word for someone whose life has been offered to God – their life is an “oblation” to God, hence “oblate”. 

Enough  by way of background. What might Benedictines have to say on the subject of Well-Being?  We will start to look at this in tomorrow’s reflections.

Powered by Church Edit