The following principles are derived from the ancient Rule of Benedict of Nursia who
lived in the fifth century and left behind a great deal of wisdom.
Listening is a vital part of spirituality – listening to
the Scriptures, guidance of the wise, fellow humans, and the world around us. In other words, spiritual life is
achieved by listening to all of life and learning to respond to each of life’s dimensions wholly and with
Scripture, according to Benedict, is the voice
of Christ, a divine medicine, and a weapon against evil forces. If read regularly, ideally daily, it keeps us
focused on the purpose of life and shows us how men and women of God dealt with the challenges in their
lives. Prayer – speaking and listening to God through the Scriptures – helps us to see and hear the world in the
right perspective. Prayer, however, can become hollow if not accompanied by active concern for
Other people can be a way that God speaks to us,
therefore listening to others promotes growth and is an important aspect of loving one another. By listening, we
become sensitive to people’s needs and are able to assist. Listening to the wise gives us guidance for our
journey and may spare us unnecessary hurts. Learning to listen to the truths of those around us – trying to hear
more clearly the whisper of God in the gentle breezes of life – should be accompanied by a willingness to change
ourselves and our world. If that happens, gradually we’ll see our life changing from dry and independent to
compassionate and meaningful.
Circumstances of our
lives teach us to face our own life patterns
and enable us to change those habits that no longer work for us. Without listening, we just drift through life.
Being attuned to what goes on in and around us enables living our life in stereo. Most of us tend to listen
selectively. If we are to become whole, we need to learn to listen on every level of life.
Many of us are at least partially deaf and don’t know what real listening involves. It
requires an open heart, willingness to hear the opinions of others and, upon careful reflection, act on their
sound advice -- in short, willingness to be corrected, to change, and to grow. This is because truth is a
mosaic of the face of God and God’s voice can come from the least expected places. Life is a learning process,
but learning through listening is often overlooked in the western world which focuses on academic
achievement and credits received. Important to pursue is the discovery of truth, the cultivation of beauty, and
the recognition of the real lessons taught by life. This itself is a lifelong process.
Reference: Joan Chittister, Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living the Rule of St.
Benedict Today (HarperSanFrancisco, 1991), chapter 2.
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