Fitting Everything In

I sometimes wonder how other people manage to fit everything in. They look after their families, do their jobs, care for house and garden and STILL have time to read, write, watch videos and cultivate all kinds of hobbies, from extreme sports to needlepoint. By contrast I, who ought to have all the time in the world, am in a perpetual state of trying to keep up. Could it be that I exaggerate the ability of others to remain on top of things and underestimate my own ability to do the things that really matter?

Today’s section of the Prologue to the Rule of St Benedict (Prol. 14–20) goes straight to the point. A Benedictine is, by definition, a worker for God (Prol. 14), motivated by a desire for life (Prol 15) — life which, in all its fullness, can only be obtained by the renunciation of evil and the pursuit of goodness. So, we are exhorted to turn away from evil speech, do good, and seek after peace (Prol. 17). That will prepare us to hear the Lord’s invitation to follow the way of life (Prol. 20). Simple, isn’t it? Only, most of us don’t find it easy but almost impossibly hard, which is why we have to try and try again, spending our whole lives listening for that invitation in the midst of all the other activity we undertake. However much we want to hear and heed the voice of the Lord, we still need a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, food on our tables; importantly, we still need one another if we are to grow in holiness.

For the monk or nun, therefore, the challenge of fitting everything in remains. The only difference is motivation and approach — how and why we do things, rather than what we do. We ought not to be acting from selfish motives — what’s best for me, or even what’s best for my community — but from more altruistic ones — what’s best for everyone; and the way in which we do things ought to be less of a hectic scramble. I say ‘ought’ because we all fall short of the ideal. Perhaps that is a good thing. Those super-organized beings we admire from afar can be rather difficult to live with, making saints of everybody else rather than themselves!


8 thoughts on “Fitting Everything In”

  1. Dear Dame Catherine,
    The old saying: there‘s saints and martyrs. Martyrs are the ones who have to live with the saints.
    I find St Therese of Lisieux comforting here, just doing the little things well.

  2. Dear Sister Catherine
    Glad you were saved unproductive trip to chemo; and produced this blog instead?

    It is encouraging -” try and try again.” ( I think). I am not sure I understand what you are saying – your para –
    “For the monk or nun, therefore, the challenge of fitting everything in remains. The only difference is motivation and approach — how and why we do things, rather than what we do. “, Please could you clarify ” the only difference” compared with what? I guess you don’t mean non- monastics?

    Happy New Year to you all and thank you.

    • My first paragraph is about people who seem to be able to fit a very great deal into their lives, especially very necessary activity— lay people. My second paragraph is about St Benedict’s view of what we need to fit into our lives, which boils down to avoiding evil and cultivating good. My third paragraph is about how monks and nuns have to do many things necessary to keep body and soul together, but our attitude must be shaped by what I highlighted in the second paragraph. Is that any clearer?

      • I think it is me, not you, however you did ask if it is any clearer? Hmmm .. So:
        P1 – wistful envy that other people appear to fit in everything. They are not motivated by St Benedict.
        P2 – For Benedictines only, renunciation of evil; pursuit of good. This is a full time job and then this is just the staring point to hear God’s invitation and on top of that there are all the everyday practicalities and distractions of living.

        P3- For a monk or nun it s really, really hard and one keeps failing and needs to try and try again. The motivation though is ” this voice of the Lord inviting us” ( Ie Prefering nothing to Christ?) . Fitting everything in is common to all, however for monastics their motivation is a single mind focus on Christ, which makes it all worthwhile, where non monastics have different motivations? So you are just stating what motivates you ( a nun) to keep going?? Dunno:).

        • Oh dear, I can only apologize for not writing more clearly because your summary, thoughtful though it is, doesn’t correspond to what I meant and I think I shall only dig a bigger hole for myself if I try to explain further. Would you think me very rude if I suggest we just leave matters? The blog post was meant to be short, and I fear I’ll end up like a glossator, writing ten lines of commentary on every one of text.

  3. According to St. Ambrose “Si vis omnia bene facere, aliquando ne feceris” . I think that nowadays the danger of “activism” is strong , and brings to envy, selfishness… and, upon all, the risk to make things without end (in all the meanings)
    Happy New Year to you and the community!

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