Like an Abbot
St. Benedict is a well known figure within Catholicism, but his impact had a direct role on the preservation of Western Culture. Benedict grew up in an affluent Italian family and was sent to Rome to continue his studies. While there, he applied himself to his schooling, but was appalled by the moral weakness of his peers. In frustration, he fled.
Benedict sought, as many of his contemporaries did, to find and connect with God through asceticism. By rejecting the comforts of daily life, though by modern standards they were anything but, these men and women sought to enter into relationship with God by removing all distractions and obstacles. Benedict lived, for a time, in a cave below a monastery.
Benedict’s holiness became well know throughout the country, and pilgrims would journey to visit with him and to seek counsel. Eventually, some sought to join with him in his life of work and prayer. At first, Benedict did not want to engage in this path. After all, he lived in a cave so that he could be free from distraction and lead a simple life. Taking on the responsibility of creating and leading a religious community stood opposed to his basic goals.
Benedict may have left the cave and assumed leadership, but his principles came with him. His Rule is very strict, and many of his followers buckled under the pressure. On more than one occasion, they conspired to kill Benedict, only to be thwarted by divine intervention. Benedict’s rule, in its simplicity, gained popularity among successive religious orders. Today, Benedict is regarded as the Father of Western Monasticism. Through his Rule, Benedict inspired many of the religious communities who worked diligently through the Middle Ages to preserve and protect the arts and humanities of Western civilization. We owe him a debt of gratitude.
In Chapter 27, St. Benedict describes how an Abbot is to act towards a brother who has been removed from the community for offenses against the order. Benedict emphasizes that the Abbot should take great care not to punish the wayward brother, but rather, to remedy the situation. Excommunication isn’t a punishment, but a plea for reconciliation. Benedict writes that the Abbot should remember that his role is to care for the sick, not tyranny over the strong.
All fathers are the Abbot of their families. We’re are charged with care for the weak, not tyranny over the strong. This kind of service requires tremendous humility. We must summon the energy and courage to care for our children even when they don’t cooperate.
The number one virtue that you must have, in order to fulfill your mission, is humility. You must have the strength of character to accept your role and serve your children with everything that you’ve got. You don’t have to be perfect, but you do have to give it your best effort every single day.
The Abbot of a community gets the title, and the mitre, but they also get all of the responsibility. They’re accountable to the community for the care of the members, for setting a vision, and maintaining the monastery. Dads occupy the same space. We have the responsibility to enforce uniform discipline, adequate nutrition, and health and safety.
Parenting is never easy. Overcoming challenges and parenting successfully is within our control. It’s a high standard, but the kind of lofty aspiration that aligns perfectly with masculinity. We have the grit and tenacity to take on this lifestyle, and to do it well.