Fr Brian Keogh of Southern Star Abbey, Kopua, speaks of the prayer/work/life balance
2 September 2011
The first key in the Rule of St Benedict, founder of the Benedictines of which the Cistercian monks at Kopua are a branch, is ‘listen’, Abbot Brian Keogh told those gathered for the Let Us Pray symposium in Holy Spirit Cathedral, Palmerston North on August 12.
‘Loving is the capacity to listen – no surprises there because this is also the key in the scriptures.’
The best illustration of this attentive listening is the Annunciation [Lk 1:26ff]. ‘Mary was going about her daily tasks and was gracefully interrupted. But she’s intelligent. She has some questions – how is it possible? Eventually the missing piece is supplied – the power of the Holy Spirit will come over you. Then she says “Let it be done”.’
Fr Brian spoke of the monastery schedule of prayer seven times a day between 4am and 8pm which each monk could develop as they liked. ‘It is hard work turning up seven times a day and we have to work at it.’
But, he said, it was important not to become a slave to work. ‘Leisure is required for a life of work and prayer. We need to have time to be with God – to be empty for God.’
He suggested taking as a model the ‘praise’ sessions in the dawn and evening choruses. Keep your prayer short and regular, as the birds do.
He said he sometimes dreamed that he was juggling five tennis balls and keeping all five in the air at once was a major challenge. ‘I realised that I was doing too much,’ he said. The challenge was in holding all aspects in balance. ‘We need to know our priorities and not be dragged along.’
Fr Brian offered one concept to transform daily work which he said is emblematic of the Eucharist. ‘When you put food on the table, you can say to yourself, “This is my body laid out for you”. You have worked hard to create the meal so you can say, “This is my blood poured out for you”.’
In the Benedictine Rule manual work is alternated with lectio divina. ‘Fidelity to the daily works and to lectio divina is not easy. The life of virtue is also hard work. There is no room for street angels and monastery devils. It starts from the inside.’
Speaking of the domestic Church, Fr Brian said we were all called to be priests, to witness in the local church and then in the world.
The family is invited in to work in the area of governance in the church. The paradigm for all community living is the relationship of husbands and wives and the family. Within this unit each member calls the other forth to grow in grace.
‘This is a real challenge and we are called to somehow hold together.’
If it doesn’t resonate with what the sacrament of marriage is about it is empty rhetoric.
Hundreds pray, listen and discuss in Palmerston North
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