Ecclesiastes 12:12 for Benedictine Oblates

Saint Lucas altarpiece, detail: Saint Benedict...

Saint Benedict of Nursia and his Rule.

“We desire that this Rule be read often in the community, so that none of the brothers may excuse himself on the ground of ignorance.” From the Rule of Saint Benedict, 66:8.

There are a great many books in the world. Happily there are many that are good and worth pursuing. Study is a wonderful thing. In moderation. Anything can be over done. I used to read the Bible so much that I actually dreamed verses. All night. I love God’s word but, you know, my guess is that He wants me to get a good nights sleep as well as study.

” … Of making many books there is no end: and much study is an affliction of the flesh.” Ecclesiastes 12:12. Hmm. That’s IN God’s word.

One of the many things that can pose a problem for a lot of people, and this is just my thought based on my experience because I know me better than I know anyone else and this is one of the things that can pose a problem for me, is setting priorities. There is so much that is positive and that would obviously do me good that it’s a hard task at times to set certain things aside in preference to others. I’ve heard it said, and I believe it to be true, that the good can be the enemy of the best. So setting priorities, putting the best before the good, probably needs to be high up the list of priorities, wouldn’t you think?

With priorities in mind and with the intention of putting what’s best first let’s go back to the Rule of Saint Benedict and the passage above. There are a multitude of references in the Rule about readings and study. During Lent, for example, the monks, according to Saint Benedict, were to be given books from the library that they would study as Lent progressed. Reading and study are important. But our good Saint Benedict says to give each monk A book, not five or sixteen or, well, you get the picture.

There are good books available on a wide variety of subjects. Books on how to play better golf, books on how to be a good Oblate, books on how to write books, and more. You know, I always wanted to play golf but never had the time. So I planned to play after retirement. When I got sick back in 2007 and had to “retire” I had time on my hands and started going to thrift stores. I found golf bags and golf clubs galore. In good condition too. I could have had a world-class set of clubs for, oh, say fifty bucks or less. But now? Now that I have time to play? I’ve got so much structural damage that if I tried to swing a club I’d either end up in traction or end up making my chiropractor very rich. So I can’t play golf. And you know what? I can’t read every good book that’s out there either. So once again I’m faced with the setting of priorities. Play golf and hurt myself or don’t play golf and not hurt? Read until my eyes fall out and I dream in chapters or read what’s best while setting what’s good aside?

OK, what was the very first book we had about Benedictine spirituality? What’s the very best book, time-tested and a worthy read, explaining Benedictinism? And wouldn’t it be nice to be able to find one volume that would answer to both of these? That would make prioritizing much simpler, wouldn’t it? Find a book like that and we’ll have the best rather than just the good, won’t we?

Want to grow as an Oblate in your spirituality? Want to be a better Oblate of Saint Benedict? Want to set a good priority? Want to simplify without the danger of giving up the best for the good? Want a library that will help you do all of this that you can hold in one hand?

“We desire that this Rule be read often in the community, so that none of the brothers may excuse himself on the ground of ignorance.” From the Rule of Saint Benedict, 66:8.

Now that was simple, wasn’t it?