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PURSUIT OF GOD – BENEDICTINE WAY OF LIFE
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PURSUIT OF GOD – BENEDICTINE WAY OF LIFE

Benedictine purposely align their lives acc. to the gospel and in so doing, rely upon three texts to provide structure to their communal life: the Holy Scriptures, the Rule of St. Benedict, and the congregation's statutes associated with every monastery.

Devoted to the Rule while open to the signs of the times

The daily routine within the monastery is determined by the rhythm of communal prayer, by religious readings from the Bible or theological or spiritual writings, and by individual work.

The Benedictines have always associated their devotion to the Rule with a watchful eye toward the signs of the times in which they live. In this way, they were able to retain their spiritual and intellectual strength and presence over the centuries. This spiritual vigor made it possible for them not only to minister to the spread of the gospel across Europe, but in addition, to influence the  European cultural landscape in a meaningful way.

During the Middle Ages, the Benedictines ranked among the most important theological and cultural teachers of the Western world. Their monasteries did not only constitute sites for prayer and a way of living dedicated to God, but were also focal points for science and art. By translating and copying philosophical and scientific texts from Antiquity, for example, the Benedictines preserved this knowledge for future development across Western Europe. Within their monasteries, the art of book printing and binding was preserved. Many technical innovations, such as the invention of the clock mechanism at the beginning of the 11th century, trace back to the Benedictines and other monks. Moreover, the modern-day office, whose existence has become a fundamental characteristic of the contemporary workplace, had its origins in the monks' scriptorium.


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Today, a confederation incorporates approximately 8,000 monks across nearly 300 independent monasteries worldwide, all of which observe the Benedictine way of life. This confederation is subdivided into 21 congregations. The monastery at Andechs belongs to St. Boniface Abbey of the Bavarian Benedictine Congregation.

Vows

He who decides to enter a monastery in order to undertake the collective pursuit of God, must take vows. By doing so, he openly promises to lead the life of a monk. In accordance with these vows, life within the monastery is a conscious confraternity, one which refers to the fellowship in the collective path toward God.

Within the three vows of the ritual profession, the monk pledges:

1. stabilitas: This refers to the permanence and loyalty to the Benedictine way of life and perseverance within the monastic community that the individual has pledged his commitment.

2. conversatio morum: The adaptation of the monastic life requires full concentration upon the essential elements of life and ongoing efforts regarding conversion, personal lack of possessions, and celibacy.

3. oboedientia: The cornerstone of Benedictine conduct is obedience: the act of listening. For Benedict, to be a monk means to hear and to respond to God's call. The act of listening is understood as an awareness of God and man. Reciprocal listening and mutual esteem, as well as humility, are crucial elements of the search for God among the brothers of the monastic community.

Service of the Abbot

The leadership of a Benedictine monastery lies within the hands of the abbot.   As understood by the Rule, the abbot is to be referred to as “Lord” and "Abbot"  (RB 63,13) and acts as placeholder for Christ (RB 2,2) for his monastery. The abbot serves to preserve the unification and concord of the monastic community.
High expectations are placed upon the service of the abbot. St. Benedict states the criteria for candidates worthy of the position as follows:

  • The Test of Life  (RB 64,2):
    The abbot should be selected on the basis of his actions, “though he be the last in the community.”
  • Compassion (RB 64):
    “Let him be convinced that it becometh him better to serve than to rule” and “let him aim to be loved rather than feared”
  • Wisdom in Teaching (RB 2):
    “Therefore the abbot should never teach, prescribe, or command ... anything contrary to the laws of the Lord.”

A decisive leadership quality is the ability to make prudent distinctions, i.e.,  “discretio” - the mother of all virtues. On the one hand, the abbot must consider the monks as distinct personalities and meet their needs and wishes (RB 64,19). On the other hand, he needs to respect the well-being of the monastic community as a whole and ensure that the unique abilities and talents of the monks contribute to this end.