‘Listen carefully, my child, to the Master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart. This is advice from a father who loves you; welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice.’ (RSB Prologue 1)

The first word of the Rule is ‘Listen’ (‘obsculta’), and what St Benedict asks of his readers is a careful listening to other people and their needs: it means taking them seriously. Religious believers understand this as an expression of their faith, the counterpart to their careful listening to God in prayer.

‘All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ.’ (RSB 53:1)

We should be noted for our warmth, acceptance and joy in welcoming others.

‘They should each try to be the first to show respect to the other, supporting with the greatest patience one another’s weaknesses of body or behaviour.’ (RSB 72:4-5)

If we really listen to other people, then we are treating them with respect. The consequence of this is that we should be patient with them and seek to understand their situation and what they are saying, regardless of background, intelligence or professional skill.

‘If he teaches his disciples that something is not to be done, then neither must he do it.’ (RSB 2:13)

We should speak the truth and act accordingly.

‘He will regard all utensils and goods as the sacred vessels of the altar, aware that nothing is to be neglected.’ (RSB 31:10)

At Syracuse Hermitage, as well as valuing the beauty of our environment, we should appreciate and care properly for all the things that we need and use to do our jobs.

‘All things are to be done in moderation.’ (RSB 48: 9)

The Three-fold Good

Communal fellowship amongst monastics and hermits and between one another is the first good. It is founded not upon personal relationships as one is familiar in the world rather its base is soulful relationship, by an understanding, acceptance, dialogue, and service between one another that has such depth and breadth.  Such fellowship can only culminate in the community’s celebration of the Sacred Liturgy.

The second good, being Solitude refers to both an interior disposition and an external milieu in which the monastic-hermit is enveloped in silence as in a cloud.  In this No-place of solitude and the unknowing in silence one may allow him (or her) self to listen to and perhaps even encounter God. Lectio Divina and personal prayer enrich the monastic’s silence.

Thirdly, this good is called evangelium or martyrium.  It is likely you might ask, “what does evangelism and martyrdom have in common?”  How did our Lord evangelize and suffer the Cross for us? By such a radical love we can only call it Divine Love.  A Life-in-Christ is always led by the Holy Spirit in such unconditional total self-giving ways. In some manner the hermit seeks a greater martyrdom: by deeper solitude, by missionary activity at the risk of one’s life (not because one wishes to die) because one is on fire with the Love of God that he from his entire being he must let other know of this Love for All Mankind.

A mystical, ontological Life-in-Christ is the ultimate experience of the threefold good. An Apostolic Life, hence a monastic life, of fellowship, withdrawal and solitude to listen to the Father, and a complete kenosis and obedience to God in order to proclaim to the world God’s Supremacy to the point of giving one’s own life on the Cross.

Crucifixion bw woodcut