Customary for the New Benedictine Community

“Run while you have the light of life.” RSB

A Customary for the New Benedictine Community

Introduction: 

A monastic customary is a directory of customs regulating the daily organization of the monastery and liturgical practice. In our case, as a dispersed community, it is our adaptation of the Rule of St Benedict to our situation and circumstances — A communal rule. 

The purpose of this customary is to give guidance to community members as they form their personal “rule of life” within the community. It takes into account individual likes, interests, states of life, and personal circumstances. It is not intended to be restrictive. We hope its supportive structure frees each of us to live fully into the monastic vocation as we are called to inhabit, individually and collectively. 

Our constitution defines the three “legs” of our community lifeas prayer, service, and community. These are the essentials, this is who we are as a dispersed Benedictine community. Our daily expression is lived-out in these three monastic and Christian principles. 

Prayer: Christians are called to be people of prayer. Prayer is at the heart of the monastic vocation. It is how we purify our hearts and lift up our souls in the presence of God. 

The Oratory/Cell: Each member of the community is called tocreate a space dedicated to this life of prayer. Since we do not live in community we do not have the luxury of a communal chapel or church. Our monastic place for daily prayer and meditation is within our own homes, in an Oratory or Sacred Corner, according to circumstances and availability. 

Our Community Icon is some form of Rublev’s The Holy Trinity. We each should own a copy for our personal devotions and sacred space.

If possible, it is advisable to seek out a local Monastic Community for retreats and shared prayer and worship. This is not a requirement for participation in New Benedictine Community, but it is highly recommended. Gathering with like-minded monastics or religious provides ongoing guidance and support, and the stability of physical community.

The Opus Dei:  The Opus Dei is the monastic round of daily prayers, broken into offices of Vigils, Lauds, Nones, Vespers and Compline. These are the sacred hours kept by monastic communities around the world, with recitation of psalms, canticles, and readings from sacred scriptures, sometimesfollowed by intercessory prayer. These are prayed daily, without exception, at morning, midday, evening, and night. As Benedictines we are each expected to keep some form of this Monastic Office, optimally praying each day at least one longer office (Lauds and Vespers) and one shorter office (Vigils, Nones, and Compline.) It is highly recommended to keep as many of the hours as possible, especially on Feast Days, Sundays, and Sacred Seasons. 

Our community uses two official prayer books, the Benedictine Short Breviary and the Northumbrian Community Celtic Prayer book. The Book of Common Prayer, or other popular or monastic Breviaries are acceptable for private use. 

Lectio Divina: Lectio, along with Opus Dei, is the traditional, complementary form of Monastic Prayer. It is the slow,deliberate, and contemplative reading of sacred or meaningful texts to help us grow towards holiness and oneness with God. Every member of our community should have a regular time set aside for Lectio,  be it daily, weekly, or monthly. Spiritual reading is part of the “Holy Leisure” that nourishes monastics’ongoing spiritual growth. It includes sacred Scripture, but is not exclusively religious —  it can  include music, movies, or videos,talks and lectures on the spiritual life.

Our Personal Prayer:  Modern monastic life includes spiritual practices old and new, borrowed and adapted for everyone on a spiritual journey.  Meditation, walking exercises, sacred movement, pilgrimage, contemplative prayer, talks, yoga, centering prayer, the rosary, litanies, are all enriching to the soul. 

A Liturgical Calendar and Cycle of Prayer:  Communitymembers should keep a regular cycle of daily and seasonal celebrations according to the custom of each one’s Diocese, national church, or polity, eg. The Book of Common Prayer. The Anglican Benedictine Confederation offers a cycle of prayer that celebrates the great monastic saints; the New Benedictine Community produces a weekly cycle of prayerintercessions  for communal and personal use. 

Service All followers of Christ are servants,  “washers of each others’ feet.” This is how Benedictines live out the monastic gifts of Humility and Hospitality. The rule is clear in the Tools for Good Works in Chapter 4:  “You must relieve the lot of the poor, clothe the naked,  visit the sick, and bury the dead. Go to help the troubled and console the sorrowing.”  Every member ofthe community is called to some form of active service. 

Service To Family We are servants to our family circle. Just as cloistered monastics must serve each other in community, so we are called first to serve our family members in love, whatever that circle may look like.

Service To Community We are servants in our communities, especially to the poor, needy and marginalized. Each of us is called to some kind of local outreach in the name of the New Benedictine Community. 

Servants/Stewards of Resources: We must be zealous in wise use of natural and financial resources.  Membersshould include a Stewardship item in their personal Rule of Life, detailing how they carry out this responsibility. 

Service To the Church We are servants in the Church of God. As baptized Christians and professed religious we do not act on our own, but in relationship to our church on local, national and international levels. Members are expected to be active participants in their local ecclesiastical bodies. 

Community: Like all monastics, we are responsible to and forone another, living not in isolation, but in the family that forms our community. 

As dispersed monastics living outside monastery walls, we find monastic community among  our immediate family and friends. New Benedictines must keep in mind that each time The Rule mentions the enclosure and community, he is speaking, in our case, of our immediate family and social surroundings. 
           Our monastic family,  our “other community,” is one another, the members and participants of the New Benedictine Community.  In our vows we promise stability to one other inthis community, some of us for a lifetime. We are ongoingcaretakers and stewards of one another: a significant commitment! We meet these promises practically in our bi-weekly celebration of the Opus Dei, our monthly Chapter Meetings, and our yearly retreat and full Chapter gathering. We are each expected to forge and maintain strong bonds of love and affection as a living and vibrant community. 

Finally we should never forget we are part of the human family and condition, members of a society. We are intimately connected to all living beings, human, plant, and animal. As monastics we live with a dynamic tension among three communities: Our immediate Family, our Monastic Family, and Our Human Family.

In Conclusion: As Benedictines we have only one Rule of Life, The Rule of St Benedict. We adapt that rule communally by means of a Customary, and individually by our personal Rules of Life.  Can dispersed Benedictines faithfully serve a Rule that was written for cloistered monks and nuns? The beauty of the Rule is its flexibility!  Cloistered communities adapt the Rule according to their circumstances, eg.  what they wear, how and when they pray, what ministry and labor they perform, etc.) Benedictine life has always been fluid, more faithful to the spiritthan the letter of the law. A dispersed community is no different in that sense. We are called in a special way to live into our Vocations as “Secular Monastics,” outside the monastery, each in our own home. It is our hope that this Customary will give guidance both to individuals and the community, to live out faithfully our vows of Stability and Obedience.   

Submitted as A Draft On the Feast of Corpus Christi 11 of June, 2020. AD

First revision submitted on 4 July 2020.

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