ROME — Pope Francis asked the world’s Benedictines to continue to offer oases of peace and silence to a busy and distracted world.
So many people today “do not have enough time to listen to God’s voice,” he told about 400 members of the Benedictine Confederation April 19 at the Vatican.
In this hectic world, Benedictine monasteries and abbeys “become like oases where men and women of all ages, origins, cultures and religions can discover the beauty of silence” and regain their bearings so they can be “in harmony with creation, letting God re-establish a proper order in their lives,” he said.
St. Benedict, their order’s sixth-century founder, acted as a guiding light during an age that was marked by “a deep crisis of values and institutions,” Francis said. “He knew how to discern between the essential and the secondary in spiritual life, firmly placing the Lord in the forefront.”
“May you, too, his children in this time of ours, practice discernment to recognize what comes from the Holy Spirit and what comes from the spirit of the world or the spirit of the devil,” he said.
Without the wisdom of discernment, he said, “we cannot do anything,” and people can easily become “puppets” at the mercy of every passing trend, he said quoting, from his recent apostolic exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate (“Rejoice and Be Glad”).
The pope also praised their important work in ecumenism, interreligious dialogue and hospitality, all of which show there is no conflict between contemplative life and serving others who visit from outside the community.
He thanked them for their work in education and formation, calling on them to be sure today’s students receive not only important ideas and knowledge, but also the tools needed for building that unique “wisdom which pushes them to continually seek God in their life.”
That same kind of wisdom will lead students to “practice mutual understanding because we are all children of God, brothers and sisters in this world that thirsts so much for peace,” he said.
Members of the Benedictine Confederation were meeting in Rome April 19-21 to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the federation’s founding. Pope Leo XIII created the confederation in 1893 to help promote unity among the various autonomous Benedictine monasteries and congregations. It was also the year the cornerstone was laid for the Abbey of St. Anselm in Rome.
The confederation is led by Illinois-born Abbot Gregory Polan, who led Conception Abbey in Conception, Missouri, before being elected in 2016 abbot primate and head of the Benedictine university of St. Anselm in Rome.