Dom Delatte on St. Benedict

Dom Delatte on St. Benedict
“that you may return to Him by the labor of obedience”

In anticipation of the visits of F. R. Hittinger, my brother, speaking on St Benedict and the dark ages and Abbot Philip Anderson, meditating on the Beatitudes, I secured a copy of the great Dom Paul Delatte’s Commentary on the Rule of (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Limited, 1921). It is an unassuming book, a bit worn and scuffed, but still in good shape. I opened it up and a slip of paper fell out containing a little note scrawled by Brother Vitus, OSB, dated 1944, on the importance of spiritual reading. A message from the past delivered to my lap: “Nemo dat quod non ‘hat'” Brother Vitus wrote to himself (“We cannot give what we do not have”); he wrote further — if we stop spiritual reading  we will become but “dry professors.” I hear you, O quiet monk, down the corridor of time.

So I open the book, and get to page 3 on the prologue to the Rule and find this commentary by — “For our business is not to live many years, and to become learned, or to make a name in the world, but to walk to God, to get near to Him, to unite ourselves to Him.” Could plainer, truer words be written?

Dom Delatte continues: “This manner of conceiving the spiritual life as a fearless walking to God is a favorite one with St. Benedict . . .Since the Fall, man has only one way in which to separate himself from God, and that is the way of the old Adam, disobedience; and he has, too, but one way to return and that is by obedience, with the new Adam. (Rom 5:19) We pride ourselves on our disobedience, as giving proof of energy and vigorous personality; but St. Benedict declares that it is merely cowardice and sloth; and if he speaks of the contrary attitude of mind as ‘labor’ he will presently tell us of its solid fruitfulness and incomparable dignity: “To you therefore, my words are now addressed, whoever you are, that renouncing your own will, you do take up that strong and bright weapons of obedience, in order to fight for the Lord Christ, our true King.”

So St. Benedict founds a school, the monastery. In my next post, I shall allow my brother to explain what manner of curriculum we may find in the school of St. Benedict..

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