Monday, July 6, 2015

"The Power of One" From the Radical Christian Life by Sister Joan Chittister OSB

The Power of One

In the sixth century, Benedict of Nursia was an aspiring young student at the center of the empire with all the glitz and glamour, all the fading glory and dimming power that implied.

Rome had overspent, overreached, and overlooked the immigrants on the border who were waiting—just waiting—to pour through the system like a sieve.

Rome—ROME!—the invincible, had been sacked. As in the book of Daniel, the writing was on the wall, but few, if anyone, read it.

In our own world, the headlines are in our paper, too, and few, if any, are reading them.

St. Benedict
Feast Day July 11
But in the sixth century, one person, this young man, resolved to change the system not by confronting it, not by competing with it to be bigger, better, or more successful but by eroding its incredible credibility.

This one single person in the sixth century—without the money, the technology, the kind of systemic support our age considers so essential to success and therefore uses to explain its failure to make a difference—simply refused to become what such a system modeled and came to have a major influence in our own time.

This one person simply decided to change people’s opinions about what life had to be by himself living otherwise, by refusing to accept the moral standards around him, by forming other people into organized communities to do the same: to outlaw slavery where they were; to devote themselves to the sharing of goods; to commit themselves to care for the earth; to teach and model a new perspective on our place in the universe.

And on his account—though numbers, history attests, were never his criteria for success—thousands more did the same age after age after age.

Through it all, for over 1500 years, Benedictine communities—small, local, and autonomous—worked in creative ways to meet the needs of the areas in which they grew, struggling always to shape and balance a deep and communal spiritual life with the great social needs around them.

If the twenty-first century needs anything at all, it may well be a return to the life-giving, radical vision of Benedict. Perhaps we need a new reverence for bold Benedictine wisdom if civilization is to be saved again—and this time the very planet preserved.

—from The Radical Christian Life by Joan Chittister (Liturgical Press)

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