Discernment Retreat Week Four
A senior chosen for his skill in winning souls should be appointed to look after them with careful attention. The concern must be whether the novice truly seeks God and whether he shows eagerness for the Work of God, for obedience and for trials. The novice should be clearly told all the hardships and difficulties that will lead him to God.The Procedure for Receiving Brothers, Ch 58
For many people their first contact with Benedictine Spirituality is through Esther De Waal’s book, Seeking God. Her title highlights one of the defining characteristics of St Benedict’s Rule.
Nowadays we speak of society as ‘post Christian’ and in some senses ‘post truth’. For many the formal paths of religion seem meaningless. While this may be true on one level, there is perhaps another way of seeing our human condition: might it be that every human heart searches for something and has a desire to be connected to something greater than itself?
A person can have a desire to enter a monastery for many different reasons. This desire might have grown since childhood; a quiet, insistent voice that won’t go away. Or sometimes this desire can be prompted by a particular set of circumstances; a chance meeting, a retreat, a book, a film or a person. Many different experiences can lead a person to enter a monastery, but once there ‘the concern is whether or not the person truly seeks God.’
The Benedictine path offers the opportunity to search for God and to follow the deepest longings of our hearts. This search for meaning in life is something which binds all of humanity, whether they express it in formal religion or not.
Seeking God in a monastic context means being aware of God through your experience of the Rule of St Benedict, the teaching of your Prioress and the example of your sisters. The monastic path is a particular way of focussing your search for God. For the monastic the search is ‘in this place, with these people.’
Scriptural Perspectives on Seeking for God
But you will seek Yahweh your God from there, and if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul, you shall find him.Deuteronomy 4:29-30
Seek the Lord and his strength, seek his face untiringly; remember the marvels he has done, his wonders, the judgements from his mouth.1 Chronicles 16:11
So now devote heart and soul to search for the Lord your God. Set to it and build the sanctuary of the Lord your God, so that you can bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord and the holy things of God to the house that is built for the name of the Lord.1 Chronicles 22:19
Look, now I am going to send my messenger to prepare a way before me. And the Lord you are seeking will suddenly enter his Temple; and the angel of the covenant whom you are longing for, yes, he is coming, says the Lord Sabaoth.Malachi 3:1
So, I say to you: Ask and it shall be given to you, search and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who searches always finds; and the one who knocks will always have the door opened to him.Luke 11:9-10
- Use the quotation from the Rule and the Scripture texts to reflect on your own search for God.
- Have there been people or places that have been significant in your search for God?
- Have you ever been aware of God in surprising places?
- St Benedict understands the search for God in a monastic context to involve ‘eagerness for the Work of God, for obedience and for trials.’ Praying the Office alone isn’t always easy. What have you found helpful over the years? Has your experience of praying the Office changed at all during the Corona Virus?
- When St Benedict speaks of ‘eagerness for obedience’ how does this strike you? Can you bring to mind experiences in your life where obedience seems straight forward? Can you bring to mind experiences in your life where obedience is a challenge?
- ‘Eagerness for trials’ can seem a rather difficult idea. St Benedict wants to be quite sure that a person is serious about their desire for monastic life. How do you hear St Benedict’s words? How do you respond when trials come? Is there anything that you will do differently as a result of what you have learnt during the Corona Virus?
- In your search for God do you have a sense of your hopes and dreams?
Rule of St Benedict: ©1981 by Order of Saint Benedict. Published by Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota. Used with permission.
Scriptural quotations from THE JERUSALEM BIBLE, ©1966 by Darton, Longman & Todd, Ltd. and Doubleday, a division of Random House/ Penguin, Inc. Reprinted by Permission.