… Or what I like to affectionately refer to as, the Rule of Motherhood. That was the main focus of the workshop I gave at the Frassati Conference. I know it sounds a bit weird, St. Benedict and motherhood, especially when there are so many saintly woman that fit the bill – St. Ann, St. Monica, Our Lady. But really, St. Benedict and his Rule fit aptly with the theme of motherhood.
When he wrote the Rule, his intention was not to establish a monastic order, but rather give something his followers could use to live more holy. Using the model of the family unit, Benedict set out to write his Rule. That is what makes it so perfect for families.
Also, other monastic communities are rooted in prayer, preaching, or alms giving; all of which can be a bit impractical for a busy family. Benedictine spirituality finds itself firmly rooted in work. Work and prayer. Ora et Labora. And that is what mothers do tirelessly; work and pray.
The overall theme of the conference was the new evangelization. I hope Fr. Longenecker publishes his notes on the talk he gave. I loved hearing about the influences in his life, June and her daughter, Sr. Lucy. He talked about how they evangelized to him through their authentic Catholicity. Fr. Longenecker challenged us to be fully authentic in our faith, which means being fully Catholic.
Carrying that theme of evangelization over in my own workshop, I discussed the Benedictine charisma of hospitality. Benedictines don’t go out evangelizing in the street, they invite people into their communities and evangelize inward. Our households are our spiritual communities, like little monasteries, and when we invite people in to experience it, they should be witnessing a family in love with each other and their faith. That is the witness. Mother Teresa famously said if you want world peace, go home and love your families.
Let your children be your first witnesses, from there they’ll carry the faith out into the world. That is how parents evangelize. Not by forcing holiness and structuring activities that make devotions feel contrived, but by loving them in the sloppy mess of every day life. With patience and kindness, not demands but love. Model the love the Father has for us with the love you show your children and spouses.
The workshop I gave was very informal and I encouraged talk from the ladies in attendance. I didn’t want to talk at them, but rather with them. My goal was to encourage and help them see that they can each learn something from each other.
The majority of the moms there were home schooling, devoted women. There tends to be a drive toward perfection among homeschooling and stay at home mothers. They can feel like their only job is to parent and they need, no have to, get it absolutely right. The hardest years of mothering my son where when I was a stay at home mom, only because I was intensely hard myself. I hope the ladies who attended my workshop were encouraged to not be so hard on themselves. The Rule of St. Benedict teaches moderation, and when, not “if”, you mess up just “begin again anew.” That was what I wanted to convey. That you don’t have to perfect, just authentic.
The rest of the talk was about the unique vows of Benedictines; stability, obedience, and conversion of life and how they relate to the family. The first two are self explanatory, it was last one I talked most about. Conversion of life is how we live authentically and make our faith new and evolving for our children. We need to challenge ourselves and our kids to never become complacent. As we physically grow and mature, so too should our faith grow and mature with us.
I wrapped up my talk with a brief discussion on divorce in the Church, shared my enthusiasm for what the Pope is doing to reconcile those fallen away from the Church because of divorce, and answered a few questions.
PS- I cussed. Twice. It couldn’t be helped.