“Your flame just won’t go out!”
The Sister addressing me smiled as she delivered her pun.
As lector that day, it was my responsibility to snuff the Paschal candle we light for Liturgy of the Hours during the Easter season. The trouble with that candle is that it can be tricky to snuff with the brass snuffer, and I had to try more than once to get it extinguished.
Sister’s words were more than just a clever pun – they were a profound statement on the spiritual importance of keeping the flame of God’s life burning brightly in our hearts. At Pentecost we recalled the tongues of fire that rested over the heads of each of Jesus’ Apostles, empowering them to go forth and bear the Good News. Now that the Easter season is over and we have entered Ordinary time again, it is all the more important to prayerfully consider how to keep our own flame burning brightly.
St. Benedict’s Rule offers the following:
- Listen more than you speak. The Holy Rule begins with the words, “Listen carefully…with the ear of your heart” (R.B. Prol. 1) and admonishes the reader not to harden her heart if she hears God’s voice coming to her in unexpected ways or persons (R.B. Prol. 10-12). Even in prayer St. Benedict recommends listening more than speaking, for “God regards our purity of heart and tears of compunction, not our many words” (R.B. 20.3). The heart that hears God’s voice burns with love!
- Dare to be different. St. Benedict encourages the reader of his Rule to put the love of God before all else, even things that might seem good and noble and worth doing or holding onto. He writes, “Your way of acting should be different from the world’s way; the love of Christ must come before all else” (R.B. 4.20). Dare to be different – put God before all else, and the fire of God’s love will light the way before you!
- Practice “good zeal.” St. Benedict distinguishes between “good zeal” and “bad zeal” based on whether it leads us closer to God or separates us from God and one another. “Good zeal” draws us closer to God’s heart and unifies the human community when we “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” (R.B. 72). Now there’s a fire out of control: every human heart trying to be the first to love and support others in their struggles and weaknesses, purely out of compassion!
- Run, don’t walk! In the Prologue to his Rule, St. Benedict paraphrases Scripture when he writes, “Run while you have the light of life, that the darkness of death may not overtake you (John 12:35).” (R.B. Prol. 13). Near the conclusion of the Prologue, he again uses the metaphor of running: “But as we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love” (R.B. Prol. 49). The person on fire for God doesn’t put off to tomorrow what God is calling her to do today!
May your Ordinary Time burn extraordinarily brightly and alive with love and zeal for the God who longs for you!
Sister Ann Marie Wainright
Sister Ann Marie Wainright is a Benedictine Sister of St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth, Minnesota. Originally from New Orleans, Louisiana, she worked as a CPA for many years before earning dual masters degrees in counseling and pastoral studies. Sister Ann Marie is interested how people encounter God in their daily lives and how they use their faith and spirituality in meeting difficult challenges.
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