The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Putting God first

My wife and I decided to do something a little different for our anniversary this year. We spent the weekend at Conception [Mo.] Abbey. As this was our first visit to an abbey, we weren't sure what to expect. But we looked forward to the trip and what God might have in store for us.

The monks at the abbey follow the Rule of St. Benedict. Written in the sixth century, the rule outlines the spiritual values of the community and the order of its daily life. The monks are called to a simple life of prayer and work. Their prayer schedule includes six services throughout the day starting with vigils at 6 a.m. and ending with compline at 7:15 p.m. The liturgy for these services is centered in scriptural readings from both Old and New Testaments, accompanied by psalms that are chanted by the monks.

We arrived Friday in time for vespers at 5:15 p.m. The New Testament reading was Galatians 2:11-16. What caught my attention was the last verse: "Yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law." This familiar verse seems to set the stage for the entire weekend, as we had come to believe, to experience and to explore God's love for all his people regardless of any preconceived notions of religious doctrine or boundaries.

We received a warm welcome from everyone we met, especially Brother Jonathan who took it upon himself to be our spiritual guide for the weekend. He took extra time to help us become familiar with the liturgy and gave us an education in the rich history of the Benedictine tradition.

The notion of going to "pray with the monks" now seems so far removed from what we actually experienced. By the time we left Sunday afternoon, the experience had become more about the power of prayer and a life devoted to God. I think of the disciples saying to Jesus, "Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke 11:1). My wife and I both received a lesson in how to pray as followers seeking to do God's will in the world. We also received an education as to how we can continue to "pray and work" to bring the kingdom of God into our lives and the lives of those we meet.

A few weeks prior to our visit to the abbey, we attended a wedding at church. During the ceremony, the pastor gave the newlyweds the following advice: "Love God and love one another, but do it in that order. If you do, your marriage will be blessed for a lifetime." In the peaceful surroundings of this spiritual fortress in rural Missouri, we rediscovered the importance of love of God in our lives together.

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Posted at 8:44 pm (U.S. Eastern) 5/29/2008

I have been an Oblate of St. Benedict for about 12 years, and the  Rule of St. Benedict has been very influential in my daily life. I would invite anyone interested in centering their lives in Christ, practicing Lectio Divina, making prayer a priority,  preferring moderation in everything and serving the Christ that is in others to learn more about being an Oblate.

Oblates come from a variety of Christian denominations, as St. Benedict lived and wrote his rule 1000 years before the Protestant Reformation. It has been refreshing to share many similar views with Oblates of other denominations. 

I believe that the Rule of St. Benedict can very well change the world's ideas of what is considered priority in one's life. It is a short book and it is useful to use a commentary (Norvene Vest and Joan Chittister's are recommended) while reading it.

Thanks for sharing your experiences at Conception Abbey with the Lutheran readers! 


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Embracing diversity