A Roman Catholic Benedictine monastery of men

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On the page, “Discretion,” we quoted the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, which said that if we walk in the right path, we will find rest. Likewise, the Benedictine tradition identifies peace as a product of following God. Thus, St. Benedict can speak of the pursuit of God as the pursuit of peace, as when he cites Psalm 34:15: “Seek peace and pursue it” (prologue, v. 17). This theme of peace is also seen on the Benedictine medal, for one side has prominently displayed at its top the Latin word for peace, pax.  

Scripture says that the light of Christ “guide[s] our feet into the path of peace” (Lk 1:79). This path of peace is, of course, the one that leads to God, the one about which we have been speaking. St. Benedict wants us to walk in this peaceful path and he knows that the light of Christ's teachings is the special guide to this path (see prologue, v. 21). It is a peaceful path even in the midst of trials, which are inevitable (see chap. 58, v. 8).

Peace is also emphasized by St. Benedict with respect to life in the monastery. He wants peace in the house of God, that is, within the monastic walls. Thus, he warns against factions (see, e.g., chap. 64, vv. 7-9). And he gives the abbot authority “for the preservation of peace and love” (chap. 64, v. 11). Also, peace in the monastery requires genuine charity and patience among the monks.

In a well known passage, St. Benedict writes: “Therefore, we must set up a school of the Lord’s service [i.e., the monastery]. In its establishment, we hope to set up nothing harsh, nothing burdensome. But even if something a little more strict is put forth, as equity dictates, for the sake of emending vices and preserving charity, then do not be immediately troubled with fear and flee the way of salvation, which cannot be other than narrow at the outset. But as progress is made in conversion and faith, the way of God’s commands is run with a heart expanded by a delight of love that cannot be told” (prol., vv. 45-49).

This passage indicates that St. Benedict wants to establish a monastery that enables people to walk in the path of peace that leads to God. He does not want to set up anything harsh, although some discipline is needed and although the way of salvation "cannot be other than narrow at the outset." Yet as progress is made, "the way of God's commands is run with a heart expanded by a delight of love that cannot be told." Thus, as we progress on the path to God we have a peace beyond telling.   

May the peace of Christ dwell in our hearts and minds, and lead us to His eternal kingdom!


Benedictine resources


Have you ever thought about a vocation as a Benedictine monk?

See the pages under Vocation on the navigation bar above for more information.

Image to the left is a fresco from the cloister of Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore Azienda Agricola in Italy.