The following principles is derived from the ancient Rule of Benedict of Nursia who lived
in the fifth century and left behind a great deal of wisdom.
Families or communities lead to individual growth and development but
are also risky places. They are the environment where we learn to give and receive love. However, love costs
– it demands that we share ourselves with others. Community is an antidote to unhealthy individualism which
has become prevalent in the West. The Benedictine spirituality of community promotes mutual support,
empowerment, teaching, and learning. It is based on love that doesn’t use or exploit the other, that doesn’t
require equal payment in return, that is not emphasizing gratification of the self. To practise this love of
living for others requires a total commitment to God.
True community or family is only formed when there is sharing of
purpose, values, and commitment. The mutual love needs to emanate from the same Source. The purpose of a
Christian community is to witness of Christ within and without the group, to grow so that each person can
become something greater than themselves, to transcend one’s individual life so that the community becomes
the sacrament of human fulfilment. In community one has the opportunity to work out their connectedness to
God, others, and themselves. It is in the interaction with others that our shortcomings – our ego – manifest.
It is also here that we learn to control selfishness and practise love – where we are sanctified or made
holy. Here too, we can afford to search, stumble, and fall, with the assurance that we’ll be helped on our
way by those with more wisdom and experience.
A well-adjusted family or community will balance bondedness with
individual uniqueness and freedom. It will encourage personal expression of God-given gifts for the benefit
of all. Equality and respect will be promoted towards all irrespective of age or status. Each person will
have the right to be listened to and to get help as needed. All will serve and be served. This is a model for
all of us in a world that has become excessively individual.
The Vietnamese contrast hell and heaven as follows: In hell, the
people have chopsticks that are one metre long so that they cannot reach their mouths. In heaven, the
chopsticks are the same, but the people feed one another.
Joan Chittister, Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living the Rule of St. Benedict Today
(HarperSanFrancisco, 1991), chapter 4.
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