Feast of Saint Benedict

Head of a Monk, Francisco de Zurbaran, 1635-1655

 Just as there is a wicked zeal of bitterness which separates from God and leads to hell, so there is a good zeal which separates from evil and leads to God and everlasting life. This, then, is the good zeal which monks must foster with fervent love: They should each try to be the first to show respect to the other (Rom 12:10), supporting with the greatest patience one another’s weaknesses of body or behavior, and earnestly competing in obedience to one another. No one is to pursue what he judges better for himself, but instead, what he judges better for someone else. To their fellow monks they show the pure love of brothers; to God, loving fear; to their abbot, unfeigned and humble love. Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring us all together to everlasting life. (Rule of Benedict, chapter 72)

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  1. What a marvelous quote from the Rule! Very classical: Hesiod toward the beginning of “The Works and Days” speaks of two kinds of strife, one good and one bad; “zeal” is the Christian substitute for “strife,” and the respective wisdoms of Hesiod and St. Benedict are a bit different, but it’s the same idea.

    The modern English translation of “zeal” and “strife” is “competitiveness,” which in its bad form is the root of all moral evil — and yet, in the US, it’s a principal virtue, worthy of great praise, alas. Consider how the fruits of competitiveness, = bad zeal, bad strife, have elicited a great denunciation by Pope Francis: “An economy of exclusion and inequality is an economy that kills”; “The culture of prosperity deadens us.” And in that vein: “Capitalism poisons everything.”

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