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Beyond Inner Stillness: Justice as Benedictine Vocation

"Listen carefully, my son, to the master's instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart" (RB Prologue:1). While best known for fostering peace, this core Benedictine teaching also demands that we listen to the cries of the world with justice echoing in our hearts.  The two aren't separate ideals, but interconnected. Like a house built on solid ground, Benedict understood that without justice, true peace is unattainable.

Guided by Christ's example, we're called to dismantle systems of inequality - racial, economic, and otherwise. We must work for a world where all share equal opportunity and resources. Justice requires both immediate action ("relieve the poor" RB. 4:15) and addressing root causes that leave individuals and communities marginalized.

Guided by Christ's example, we're called to dismantle systems of inequality - racial, economic, and otherwise.

But what does the pursuit of justice look like in a Benedictine monastery? At St. Bernard

Abbey, our educational mission at St. Bernard Preparatory School is one vital way. Equity in our policies, vigilant opposition to discrimination, and mindful consumption are part of our daily lived witness. It's not just what is taught in the classroom, but the values shaping our community that foster student awareness and cultivate future leaders committed to building a just society.

St. Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179): This multifaceted Benedictine abbess was a visionary, mystic, composer, and a strong advocate for justice. She used her voice to challenge corruption within the Church and political powers, speaking truth to power fearlessly.

However, true justice cannot be pursued without the unwavering light of truth. This informs both our liturgical life and our mission in the classroom. In an age of misinformation and division, critical thinking and open dialogue are vital tools to fight deception. To that end, we equip our students to dissect information, spot bias, and discern what is truly just. We empower them to champion Truth, essential for both personal liberation and shaping society.

true justice cannot be pursued without the unwavering light of truth.

Each step towards justice brings us closer to God's intended peace on earth. May we all strive to become its champions!

God in the Other: Benedictine Spirituality Informs DEIJ

Benedictine spirituality offers a unique and valuable lens for addressing issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ). Principles like hospitality, community, and accountability can create a foundation for honest conversations, genuine connection, and transformative change. Panelists shared examples of how these values guide their work, challenging intolerance, prioritizing relationships, and focusing on restorative practices. If you're interested in exploring how Benedictine spirituality can inform your own DEIJ efforts, watch the video of this panel discussion to delve deeper into the wisdom and potential of the Benedictine justice principle.

Here are a few practical tips for practicing Benedictine justice, drawing directly on the wisdom of the Rule of St. Benedict:

Tip 1: Listen Deeply to Those on the Margins

  • Benedictine Wisdom: “Listen, my son, to your master’s precepts, and incline the ear of your heart.” (Prologue)

  • Practical Application: Go beyond assumptions. Seek out and truly listen to voices of those experiencing injustice. Learn firsthand about challenges faced by marginalized communities, whether through volunteering, respectful dialogue, or careful reading of diverse perspectives.

Tip 2: Cultivate Empathy and Compassion

  • Benedictine Wisdom: “Prefer nothing whatever to Christ. And may He bring us all together to life everlasting!” (RB 72)

  • Practical Application: Challenge ingrained biases. Look beyond labels or statistics and strive to see the inherent dignity of each person. Remember that we are all images of God. Allow room in your heart for empathy with experiences distinct from your own.

Tip 3: Act in Solidarity and Support

  • Benedictine Wisdom: "Thus they should anticipate one another in honor; most patiently endure one another’s infirmities, whether of body or of character." (RB 72)

  • Practical Application: Offer practical help when possible – to neighbors in need, organizations engaged in justice work, or those facing oppression. Advocate for policies that address inequality and support leaders committed to just change.

Tip 4: Challenge Systems of Injustice

  • Benedictine Wisdom: “Tools for good works…to relieve the poor, to clothe the naked, to visit the sick…” (RB 4 )

  • Practical Application: Examine your own life and spheres of influence for areas where inequity persists. Use your voice and actions to dismantle oppressive structures, policies, or behaviors within your workplace, community, or other spaces.

Tip 5: Live in Integrity and Truth

  • Benedictine Wisdom: “Keep death daily before one’s eyes.” (RB 4)

  • Practical Application: Regularly examine your choices and lifestyle. Are they contributing to injustice or hindering equity? Choose fair trade, reduce harmful consumption, and live consciously to minimize your negative impact on the marginalized.

Called to become a Benedictine monk?

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