For more than 15 centuries, the Rule of St. Benedict, with its 73 chapters, has lead the lives of tens of thousands of men and women in hundreds of communities all over the world. And we could safely consider it a proven formula for living as a Christian community.
Nowadays, Christian families are called to be like the monasteries of the 5th century: islands of peace, love, and respect for God, in a hostile, barbarous, and impious environment that thrives on destruction and exploitation.
Just as it is, in the thesis of a book published some years back by a Benedictine priest called Massimo Lapponi, titled “The Rule of Saint Benedict for Family Life Today” (St. Pauls Publishing).
In that book, Massimo Lapponi explains that applying the Rule of Benedictine to our family life would result in changes in these 6 areas: Which are:
Changes in the way we work.
It would be clear that work is not supposed to be given priority over family life. But, as it is in a Benedictine monastery—with their motto ora et labora, which means “pray and work”—everyone is supposed to help with household chores as an accepted part of self-sacrifice at the service of others.
Changes in the way we rest
We are supposed to enjoy and share movies and games together, not in solitude. And there would be times for recreation and playing together after family dinners, slowing down the rhythm of the day to spend time with each other and relax. Because, “Rest is a time of communion with God and with others, and of the joy born of being in communion,” as the author writes.
Changes in the way we eat.
We are supposed to pray before all our meals. We would also eat together with the other members of our family, not at different times and places. It would then be a time for conversation, for sharing ideas and experiences, and for enjoying each other’s company. Coming together for meals is good for families, and it’s not just the Benedictines who say so; even, many sociological studies have proven it to be true. So, for this reason, the television and the phone should be turned off during meals.
Changes in the way we consume
A “Benedictine style” says that family would avoid luxury and superficiality. It advices that parents shouldn’t fill the children’s rooms with too many toys and other extraneous things. And they should establish austere rules for the use of electronic devices, as much for parents as for children: limited “screen time,” with specific times throughout the day when our screens would be turned off, etc.
However, we would try to dedicate personal and family electronics for shared use: It’s better to watch a movie together than for each person to play a different game on his or her own exclusive device. And this would reduce the number of screens in the house and it would also encourage reading and conversation.
Changes to our charity and solidarity
Our family would always seek to avoid being self-centered or closed in on itself: It would be welcoming, if we try to alleviate the suffering of others as much as possible, and we would then put our children in contact with the most disadvantaged.
However, Massimo Lapponi encourages us to implement these measures, as he says the following words: “The families of today are called to be the luminous islands of faith, education, and culture in the midst of their neighborhoods be it, at school, at the park, or with friends.
And the goal is to build a future that seeks to follow God, as the spiritual children of Saint Benedict did.”