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D. EDMUNDUS KENDAL, S.T.D.
D. AIDANUS GASQUET,
ABBAS PRÆSES CONGR. ANGL., O.S.B.
THE VIA VITÆ
THE HOLY RULE ARRANGED
By DOM BERNARD. HAYES
"Christus Dominus sic allocutus est: Ille est monachus Bene dicti, qui plus obedit Regulæ quam carni.'''-S. BIRGITTA : Revel. 1. 4, C. 127.
"The man of God (Benedict), besides so many miracles which made him famous amongst men; was also held in high repute as a teacher; for he wrote a Rule for Manks, both excellent in it discretion and eloquent in style. If anyone desires to know mor of his manner of life, he can find all that the Master did in thi Rule; for the holy man could not in any way teach otherwise tha he lived." Second Book of Dialogues of St. Gregory the Great c. xxxvi.
"In omnibus igitur omnes magistram sequantur regulam, nequ ab ea temere declinetur a quoquam."-S. Reg, cap. iii.
"Ecce pietate sua demonstrat nobis Dominus viam vitæ."Prologus in Regulam.
THE idea of this book is a good one, and it will be welcomed by many members of the Benedictine family and others. A series of devout Meditations on the Rule of St. Benedict is virtually a novelty at the present day; for although in past times pious affections and elevations on the Holy Rule have been given to the world by one or other of its numerous commentators, they are not easily accessible in a form adapted for use. Moreover, the present publication aims at providing the reader with materials for pursuing that "brief and pure method of prayer which is recommended by St. Benedict himself.*
The holy Patriarch gives no explicit instruction how to pray. To him, as to those Fathers of the Eastern Church and of the desert, whose traditions he carried on, "prayer " is simply the speech of the heart with God. Vocal prayer or psalmody was to fill up a large portion of each day, and mental prayer was to continue, as far as possible, during all the waking hours not occupied by the Divine Office. * Reg. S. Benedicti, c. xx.
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In St. Benedict's time there was no fixed time for "meditation "-no hour or half-hour in which the whole community knelt in their places in Church and devoted themselves to the exercise of mental prayer. A monk, as far as possible, should pray always. St. Benedict was intimately acquainted with the writings of Cassian, whose disciple he calls himself. We may be sure that he strongly held, with the ancients whom Cassian quotes in his first Conference, that the monk's grand aim was few pla, or "contemplation "-the inherence of the soul on Divine things and on God. With Cassian, he was far from thinking that the attainment of contemplation-that is to say, of anything like continuous and intense application of the spirit to God-was an easy matter. All the means and instruments for the gradual acquisition of such a spiritual condition, which are entered into at great length by Cassian in the Conference I have quoted, and in the ninth Conference, were, without doubt, insisted on and explained at Monte Cassino. But we find no trace of " methods," if by methods we mean a businesslike marshalling of the mental powers and faculties to produce a special effect in a given time. It would be absurd to suppose that St. Benedict and his school of spirituality did not give a novice useful directions as to how to use the imagination, the reason, and the will. This kind of instruction is of the essence of all "methods "; and the "methods" which have been devised and delivered to the world by great Saints and masters in all ages have invariably dealt with these essential factors in "contemplation."