After the long chapter on humility, Benedict moves on to a series of instructions on the life of a monk in the monastery. The chapters have titles such as “How Many Psalms are to be Said at the Night Office” and “How Lauds are to be Said on Weekdays.” A lot of it is certainly quite useful for monks, hence the longtime influence of this book. What might someone like me, or anyone who is not living in as a monk in a monastery, take from this?
Two things come to my mind. First, the importance of scheduling your time. I know that if I want to take time to read scriptures or other spiritual classics, I need to schedule it. For me this means setting my alarm to get up at 5:30 AM and beginning my day with reading. For others it may mean turning the TV off a bit earlier in the night, reading the Bible during your lunch break, or listening to the Bible during your commute. No matter what the specifics, the truth is that if you wait till you feel like it or have free time you will never read or hear the scriptures.
Obviously there are limits to scheduling. Those of us who are not monks have things that may ruin our best efforts at scheduling: Junia may get out of bed early (like she did this morning, 6:15 AM, come on!) or the boss may call a surprise meeting over lunch. Our schedule may get messed up and this is okay. We are not gearing for a sort of spirituality that just checks off boxes (I read the Bible today, check!) and that gets pride in our accomplishment. The scheduling is a mere help to get in touch with God and God, like a loving Father, will not get angry when the realities of life mess up our plans.
Second, spirituality is work. Monks in Benedict’s communities work hard in both the spiritual realm, reading the Bible and praying, as well as in the physical realm, doing “normal” work. We tend to only see work in terms of our 8-5 jobs during the week. Maybe prayer is an add on, a mere spiritual thing. We look at someone reading and think of it as “just reading.” But reading the Bible, or other things, and praying is as important a work as our paid jobs.
It is important to break this sacred/secular dualism. On one hand, we learn to see our secular, day-to-day, work as a Godly calling no less important in the grand scheme of things than “spiritual” church work. On the other hand, we see our spiritual formation not as an add-on when there is time but a vital part of our functioning as a human.
So make a schedule and put time in for spiritual formation.