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Why Celebrate St. Benedict: Thoughts inspired by Henri Nouwen

St. Benedict lived in the 5th century, yet his teachings remain relevant today, particularly for young people. Henri Nouwen, a prominent Catholic writer and priest, believed that St. Benedict’s insights have much to offer lay people as well as monastics. Using his writings and inspiration we will look at what that relevance is as we celebrate St Benedict’s feast day. Nouwen recognized that in a world that emphasises success, prestige, and power, St. Benedict’s Rule emphasises humility, service, and balance. These teachings offer young people a perspective on life that focuses on meaningful relationships with oneself, others, and God, rather than external achievements. As Nouwen wrote, "The world into which young people today are entering is characterised by change, insecurity, and polarisation. In such a world, the Benedictine way represents an invitation to a way of life that transcends the values of modern society. Young people who are searching for meaning in life would do well to explore the rich tradition of Benedictine spirituality" (from an unpublished essay titled "Why the Benedictine Tradition Matters: A Personal Reflection" Nouwen). Many of the distractions and anxieties of modern life were unknown to St. Benedict, but his Rule still provides guidance for those seeking a meaningful and intentional life. “The Rule of Saint Benedict is an invitation to conversion, to discovering in the ordinary of every day the presence of the Holy Spirit" (Nouwen, St. Benedict’s Gift to the World). The Rule’s emphasis on simplicity, silence, and reflection can help people counteract the noise of modern technology and focus on their inner lives. Although St. Benedict’s teachings were initially intended for monastics, Nouwen believed that they are applicable to lay people as well. Many of the Rule’s core principles, such as the importance of community, balance, hospitality, service, prayer, contemplation, humility, and obedience, can benefit people outside the monastic context. “The basic insights of the Benedictine way: the importance of community, the need for balance, the call to hospitality and service, the commitment to prayer and contemplation in solitude, the cultivation of humility and obedience – all these insights have much to offer lay people as well as monastics" (Nouwen, The Way of the Heart). In the teachings of St. Benedict, we find an invitation to a way of life that transcends the values of modern society. "St. Benedict’s spirituality had a particular appeal to me because it is a spirituality for people who are made vulnerable through illness, age, displacement, or limited means" (Nouwen, The Genesee Diary). Benedictine living is not just for monastics, but for everyone who seeks a life grounded in purpose, intentionality, and love. Let us embrace the values of St. Benedict and strive to live a life of humility, service, balance, and relationship, knowing that in doing so, we may discover the presence of the Holy Spirit in the ordinary of everyday life.

The Author

This blog was written by ChatGPT, an AI tool which was launched in October 2022, and

which is starting to make its presence felt in the world. It seemed appropriate to ask the AI

tool to add to the celebration of St Benedict to make us aware that times are changing. We

believe that St Benedict will still be relevant in the world of AI, as nothing will ever replace

the centrality of his message.

Chat GPT produced the blog in answer to the following questions:

  • I want to write a blog about St Benedict

  • Please answer the questions

  • Why is St Benedict important to young people?

  • What makes the Rule of St Benedict relevant today?

  • Is Benedictine living for lay people?

  • Can you do it in in the style of Henri Nouwen? Do not be didactic. The tone should be sharing.

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1 Comment

Peter Stott
Jul 14, 2023

That is completely extraordinary. Such a thoughtful set of questions.

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