Does the Benedictine tradition say anything about how to create peace in our families and communities? Does it say anything about how we can promote peace where there is currently war? Sister Benita Coffey says "yes"!
She recently spoke at a vigil that thanked the government for negotiating towards peace in Iran. Sr. Benita began by saying that St. Benedict wrote his rule "during the chaotic times of the 6th century when Rome was sacked by the Visigoths, the Huns ravaged northern Italy, and there was almost ceaseless war up and down the peninsula of Italy. Things were messy and people were badly in need of peace. This sounds familiar, doesn’t it?"
She went on to list three aspects of St. Benedict's rule that demonstrate how to build peaceful communities:
1. LISTEN The opening word of the Rule is “Listen”. Benedict’s followers are to listen with the heart. Then listen to one another. When big decisions are to be made, all are to be called together. The issue is to be explained; all are to listen, ponder, share, and then whoever is in charge is to follow the wisest course.
2. ATTEND TO EVERYDAY THINGS Members are told: Make peace be your quest. Keep peace among yourselves, don’t let quarrels grow, make peace before the sun goes down. Distribute the goods that are available according to how and where they are needed, because then all will have enough, and then they’ll be at peace. Is not having enough to live, one reason for so much unrest in our world today?
3. RESPECT Also basic to Benedict’s teaching is that all people, young and old, of every economic and social class, easy and difficult people, all inherently have value and are deserving of respect. For him, their value was that the God of goodness lives within in the heart of every single person. Every single person matters.
She concluded by saying "We believe and Benedict taught that good can be achieved by listening to each other, calling people together for decision making, forgiving wrongs, being good stewards of the earth, and working to guarantee that the needs of all people are met. War is not the answer." Whereas, peace certainly brings us one step closer to the kin-dom of God.
(Photo above left, Sister Patti Cielinski talks with a woman at the vigil. Photo above right, Sister Sue Kilduski listens to a family's story at the vigil.)