An old friend of mine, a family man, once told me that he had picked up two books in his life that immediately impressed him. These two books, he said, offer practical, kind-hearted, fatherly wisdom on every page. He read them both cover-to-cover, and could hardly put them down, because they made so much sense. He wanted to drink in the calm and realistic Christian spirit that these two books possess.
This friend of mine has had a successful professional career. He has a lovely, musical wife and charming children, who are now young adults. You couldn’t pick this man out of a line-up of Washington lawyers, consultants, and defense contractors. Perfectly ‘normal’ guy. His two favorite books ever are: 1) The Code of Canon Law, and 2) The Rule of St. Benedict.
Our Holy Father the Pope obviously holds St. Benedict in the highest esteem. He explained why he chose Benedict’s name. For one thing: the humble, thoughtful, diligent way of life which St. Benedict taught made Europe Europe. Countless people living the Benedictine way built our civilization with their quiet lives.
And for another thing: St. Benedict’s Rule offers a simple precept by which a person may always guide his or her life: Prefer nothing to the love of Christ. Prefer nothing to the love of Christ.
Commentators agree that the Rule of St. Benedict has two particularly notable qualities. First: the Rule establishes the monks as a family—living, praying, and working together. A monk, by definition, seeks God in solitude. But St. Benedict grasped that one best succeeds in doing that by submitting yourself to the family life of a monastery.
The second distinctive quality of the Rule is its legendary emphasis on welcoming guests. St. Benedict does not stipulate that the guest-master must put little chocolate mints on the pillows in all the guestrooms. But the saint does command that all visitors must be treated as if Christ Himself had just walked in out of the rain.
My old friend knew real wisdom when he found it. May we learn to prefer nothing to the love of Christ, with St. Benedict helping us from heaven to live lives of humble, diligent, daily service of God and neighbor.