21 May Being a Benedictine outside the monastery
What does it mean to be a Benedictine outside the monastery? We asked the Rev’d Sacha Slavic, a close friend of the Community and a follower of the ‘little Rule for beginners’
How and why can you be a true Benedictine outside of a monastery context? I strongly feel that in my case I couldn’t do everything I do without being a practising Lay Benedictine. As a Minister in Secular Employment I work full-time as a teacher, a chaplain and an Associate Minister at Coventry Cathedral. I am also a husband and father. In order to achieve stability and a balanced life, in order to respond fully or to the best of my ability to my calling of ministry in all its aspects, I follow a pattern each day of WORK, PRAYER, RECREATION and STUDY.
At School I am a teacher of Religious Education, so need to prepare lessons, teach and mark.
I am also the school Chaplain, co-ordinating assemblies, community service volunteers, services and leading daily morning prayer. I do home and hospital visits, counselling, other pastoral work. Every term I run a course after school for parents/staff and pupils. I also lead the Peace and Reconciliation agenda.
At Coventry Cathedral I am an Associate Minister, involved in leading worship, preaching and pastoral care. I am Chaplain to the interns and co-ordinate a network of teachers who are part of the International Cross of Nails Schools.
At home work consist of the daily chores and duties, cooking, gardening, DIY, cleaning, looking after our pets…
Work is generally organised in order of priority and on list of things to do, shared with the rest of the team and/or family.
Prayer is the cement of my day. It is what interrupts a task, time in order to ‘listen with the ears of my heart’ and ‘to prefer nothing to Christ’. It follows the following pattern:
Lauds – between 6am and 8:15am – Start the day with God (up to 30 minutes if Lectio)
Terce – between 8:15am and 11:45am – a break with God (up to 15 minutes)
Sext – between 12pm and 2:45pm – a reflection on mortality and an assessment offered to God at the middle of the day. The Angelus finishes the prayer (up to 15 minutes)
None – between 3pm and 5:15pm – another break with God (up to 15minutes).
Vespers – between 5:30pm and 8:45pm – an offering of the day, finished and unfinished tasks to God, possible lectio if not done in the morning. (up to 30 minutes)
Compline – between 9pm and 11:45pm – combined with a study of the part of the Rule for the day which I will try to implement in my life the next day. The night prayer commits to God’s protection the household and all on my prayer list.
If I wake up after 3am I will pray the Office of Readings before going back to sleep.
I always pray for everyone on my prayer list who have asked for prayers and the daily prayers set by the Church diary at every Office. All prayers finish by asking God to remember my absent Brothers and Sisters which puts me in Communion with the various communities I am part of, including Mucknell Abbey, and those who are now in heaven.
This is what I call “Me” time and “Us” time. Every day I will have leisure time and time with my family: walking, reading, listening to music, watching a film or going for a meal…
Every day I will study for at least 15 minutes, whether educational journals, theology or doctrine…
If at the end of a day, I have been able to tick all four sections I can safely say that I have a balanced life. Now of course some days I work more than I relax, or I study less than I spend time with my wife and children, and so on. But the awareness of this brings stability in what would be otherwise a hectic life. Prayer is a constant, and although it is sometimes dobe in my car or my office, it is nevertheless always done. When at home, it takes place in the conservatory which is my oratory. But prayer is never done at other people’s expense. If I am visiting someone who is sick, that prayer with that person will be instead of the Office set for that time. One has to be creative and flexible outside the monastery/home.
“…stability in what would be otherwise a hectic life”
Every month I have either a quiet day or a weekend retreat at Mucknell Abbey in order to refill or refuel with the Community, my spiritual family, and I tend to meet with the Abbot for counsel. I also take groups to Turvey Abbey. I have found that many people who are not necessarily interested by the Church are quiet keen to explore their spirituality and enter faith that way. The Benedictine way is a wonderful tool for mission and applied evangelisation.
“Prayer is never done at other people’s expense”
The Rule helps me to achieve a reasonable balance in life, it helps me to identify ways in which I am unreasonable towards myself and others. It helps me to deal with conflicts, to become more authentic in my approach to life, to leadership. The Rule is a perfect tool for the teaching of leadership, humility, hospitality, self-discipline and being rooted in Christ.
“…implementing the Rule is a lifetime process”
Simple and rooted in commitment, implementing the Rule is a lifetime process. Silence; contemplation; obedience; humility; community; hope and the joy of the gospel are the tools to live daily life with God. Spirituality is not about religiosity or something you do from time to time when you feel like it. It is about caring for the people you live with, loving the people you don’t like, and loving God more than yourself. It is about listening to the voice of God in every action, everywhere and in everybody. It is about God in our daily life, minute per minute. A Benedictine spiritual life outside the monastery is about being zealous and in awe of the presence of God, in service to others, in patient listening, in action for building communities. Put nothing before Christ, and because Benedict asks you to see Christ in your brothers and sisters, put nothing before them.