Monday, July 11, 2016

Saint Benedict and the service of the deacon

A friend once told me the story of his first visit to Mount Saviour Monastery, near Elmira, New York. He hoped to stay for a time; he stayed several months.

When he arrived at the monastery, he saw a monk working. Approaching him he asked where he could find the prior. The monk stood up and said, “I am the prior.”

Father Martin Boler, OSB, the prior, was living out the Benedictine charism of “ora et labora” – pray and work in a very simple way in this monastery that lives the Rule of Benedict in a very simple style. The monastery’s website is here. A memory of Fr. Martin is found here.

I visited the monastery several times and this was the place where I reconciled myself with the Church in the early 1970s.

What impressed me about Mount Saviour is the real sense of fraternity, of mutuality among the monks and their simple life of work and prayer.

The Benedictine Rule, whose feast is celebrated today, is St. Benedict’s legacy to the world, showing a way that the monastic life (and life in the Church) can be a school of service to the Lord.

One passage of the rule, chapter 35, impressed me and today serves me as a starting point for a day of reflection on my upcoming ordination as a permanent deacon on Friday.

“The brethren should serve one another. Consequently, none will be excused from kitchen service unless they are sick or engaged in some important business of the monastery, for such service increases reward and fosters love…. Let all the rest serve one another in love.”

Every monk is expected to assist in the daily tasks of the monastery, even cooking, serving meals, and washing the dishes.

The deacon too is a servant, called to follow the Master who “came not to be served, but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

The deacon, a term which is often interpreted as both servant and table server, is the one who puts himself at the service of God in the community and in the world.

Some have suggested that the role of permanent deacon dropped out in the late first millennium of the church because the deacons sought power and control. 

So today the deacon ought to serve, in the world and in the church.

I pray that I may do this as I continue my service in the parish of Dulce Nombre and as I may be called upon to other service in the diocese.

My question in this next stage of my life is:

How can I serve the People of God in such a way that we are truly servants of God in service of the Reign of God for the health and salvation of all God’s people?

Pray that I can live out this question with love and humility.

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