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Issue 2 number 9 Jul/Aug 2016
What would St Benedict say? Alexandra Green
As I write this we are all coming to terms with the EU Referendum result and what it will mean for us. What does this mean for us as Christians? The abbey at Abingdon, the physical remnant of which is St Nicolas church and the Abbey gateway, was a Benedictine foundation. St Bene- dict, patron saint of Europe and the father of modern monasticism, whose feast day is 11 July, wrote a practical guide to the Christian monastic life which is still followed by monks and nuns today including at the Community of St Mary the Virgin at Wantage with which this parish has close association.
St Benedict and the spirituality of his Rule embraced and formed a key part of European socie- ty and culture in the Middle Ages and beyond. It is interesting to consider that the Rule was written at a time of significant political instability in Europe, when the Emperor Justinian was struggling to gain power of Italy from the Goths. So Christian input into political struggles in Europe is not at all new.
There are a number of features of Benedict’s Rule which are especially pertinent to the current debate:
Andrew Colborne Alexandra Green Louise Heffernan Sheila Hills
Silvia Joinson David Pope
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The Rule of Benedict is available as a Penguin Classic ISBN 978-0-140-44996-9 Alexandra Green worships at St Helen’s and is a member of The Windoweditorial group
Offering hospitality to others Restraint of speech Obedience
Benedict says ‘Special care and attention should be shown in the reception of the poor and of the pilgrims because in such people Christ is more truly welcomed .’ (Rule 53). Much of the pre-referendum debate focused on immigration and this issue will not go away. During the summer months many people visit Abingdon from other parts of the UK and beyond. It is im- portant that we welcome strangers and pilgrims. The churches in the parish are open on a daily basis and we are grateful to the many volunteers who make this possible and their ministry to enable this to happen.
Particularly as the referendum grew closer, many people on both sides of the debate were in- creasingly vociferous and on occasions uncharitable. Benedict quotes Ps 391-2 commenting that ‘Here the prophet shows that it is occasionally right to refrain from saying good things be- cause one values silence, there is all the more reason to refrain from saying bad things because sin will be punished.’ (Rule 6).
There have already (and almost certainly by the time this is published even more) been calls for more referendums. Benedict speaks to us in the following:
‘ “I have not come to do my own will but that of him who sent me.” [Jn 6 38] But this very obedience will be acceptable to God and pleasing to men only if the order is given is carried without hesitation, without delay, without complaint and without any answering back from whom the one is unwilling.’ (Rule 5)
Perhaps the way in which we might view the referendum in the light of St Benedict is the im- portance of working together to achieve the best outcome from a challenging situation putting aside personal views or preferences.
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