Robert Benson writes and speaks on living a more contemplative and prayerful life in the modern world, about the search for and the discovery of the sacred in the midst of our everyday lives. An alumnus of the Academy for Spiritual Formation, he is also a member of the Friends of Silence and of the Poor, an ecumenical order of lay people. He is featured among our Living Spiritual Teachers and is the author of many books including A Good Life: Benedict's Guide to Everyday Joy. In this timely paperback, Benson deals with a subject that concerns us all: the yearning for community in a world of constant speed, pressure, and isolation despite all the technological tools we use to communicate with others.
Early in the book, the author offers the following definition: "Community is another way to say other selves to love, . . . people who will share in the ups and downs of our journey, people who will walk beside us in the light and dark of our days. We too are hoping to find and to be found by folks with whom we have common cause and work, shared dreams and hopes, collective wisdom and experience. We too want to belong to something larger than ourselves. We too hope to be included and to be held dear and to be thought of often."
The challenge in our time-starved culture is to give ourselves over to establishing deeper relationships with the people that surround us neighbors, co-workers, and members of the many groups we attend. After sharing his own community participation, Benson states that we can learn from the Rule of St. Benedict more about "building a sense of community with people with whom we share only a small portion of our lives in common."
One of the most important qualities needed to build a richer sense of community, according to St. Benedict, is humility which is connected with modesty, suffering, and confession. A second quality is mercy which means bearing injuries patiently, not acting in anger or judgment, and being ready to forgive. A third quality is the spiritual practice of hospitality or offering a wider welcome to strangers, outsiders, and those who frighten or appall us. A final quality that can bind us together with others is amplifying our caring for others.
These spiritual practices were all suggested by St. Benedict as part of a "a school for the Lord's service." They are pathways to enrich our community life and enable us to love God and one another.