A Free Online Course on Benedictine Spirituality

Vision of St. Benedict, late 14th Century
Giovanni del Biondo (Italian, +1398)

It has been my awesome and humbling privilege to live as a professed Benedictine Oblate for over a decade, (here is what that means) but living so far away from my monastery, and having no Oblate friends nearby, I’ve always felt like my formation was slip-shod — half-duncecap, half-seat-of-the-pants.

Here at Patheos we’re growing our own little community of Oblates — Father Dwight Longenecker is one, and Margaret Rose Realy is an Oblate Novice (and there are Benedictines in the Faith and Family and Progressive Christian channels, as well) — and that’s certainly a pleasure, but I am very grateful to learn of this:

To carry out the Church’s call for a New Evangelization, a Benedictine Abbey in the Chicago area is offering a free, five-part online course in Benedictine spirituality.

“We feel that St. Benedict’s way of life, which includes living in community, common prayer, work, and private prayer, is just as important today as when St. Benedict was alive,” said Fr. James Flint, OSB, vocation director of St. Procopius Abbey in Lisle, just west of Chicago.

“Vocations to the consecrated life have seen a slight upswing in the United States,” he said, noting recent news reports of a 10% increase in Catholic graduate theology students this year compared to 2005. “We hope to be part of that trend in our role in educating others about the great depth of Benedictine spirituality.”

He added, “Although we are using the course as a tool for looking for young men who may be thinking of a religious vocation, the course is open to anyone who wants to deepen their prayer life, whether married or single.”

The course will consist of five emails, one sent each day, and will cover the life of St. Benedict and of Benedictine monks, and the vocation stories of three men who have joined St. Procopius. There will also be emails prompting students to reflect upon each class. Students can sign up for one of two sessions. The first will run Oct. 14 – 18, and the second, Oct. 28 – Nov. 1.

“I think that St. Benedict would give an approving nod at the idea of using the internet to promote the spirituality,” Fr. James said.

Saint Benedict was a very practical Abbot; I am sure he would. This little course, like the Holy Rule, itself, seems like it is neither harsh, nor burdensome — like it might be an excellent introduction to Benedictine Spirituality and, for those a little way upon the path, perhaps a prompt to additional viewpoints and materials we have not seen. I’m signing up, join me?

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