When I first entered monastic life, I was given a copy of the Rule. It made no sense to me. I wanted directions. I wanted a formula. I wanted holiness of the installment plan: buy now, pay later. It took me years to understand that if I paid now, I would get what I was looking for only if, and when, I had become what I sought. It took me years to realize that the Rule distilled years of experience, a kind of memoir of what Benedict believed spiritual life was all about and a record of what apparently had been the most effective ways of achieving it for that time. But it was no blueprint at all.
I began to see this life would take constancy and patience and balance. We were into growth here, not into practices. This life would be about the sanctification of the normal, not about spiritual gymnastics. We were about a way of life, not about living life a certain way.
As a result, I now find myself going to the Rule of Benedict when I wonder what the Christian response to ecological problems should be. I go to the Rule to find my way through the thickets of human relationships. I rely on the values and principles of the Rule to explain my depression and my frustration and my spiritual ennui. I depend on the Rule to help me get my mind off me. I see the Rule as a set of values that transcend time but have special meaning in my own days.
I have written this book to share these years of reflections with people who I have found are just as serious about the questions and just as concerned about the way as I am. In the face of continuing confusions, shall we go back and be the old Church? Would that solve our dilemmas? Or is any church our answer in this day and age when churches themselves struggle with the nuclear questions, the women’s question, the life-style questions, the pastoral questions, the family questions, the personal questions of alienation and unrest? What is spirituality in the midst of all that: a rosary a day, meatless meals, a regular retreat, involvement on parish committees, public activism? The questions crescendo. The answers, I think, reside in things that neither come nor go with the years and times. The answers lie in bringing wisdom, not recipes, to bear.
-From Wisdom Distilled from the Daily