A New Beginning and Some Help from the Rule of St Benedict

The outcome of the Scottish Independence Referendum marks a beginning as much as an end. We shall now see, I hope, some real thought being given to the Constitution and the way in which the peoples of these Islands, not just Scots, are governed. The danger is that there will be a headlong rush to apply some sort of constitutional sticking-plaster to very real wounds and divisions; but if one thing is clear, it is that there is a huge dissatisfaction with existing party political processes. I use the word ‘party’ advisedly, because the turnout for the Referendum was impressive, showing a degree of engagement that was heartening. Heartening, too, was Alex Salmond’s speech urging acceptance of the result once it was confirmed. We have been reminded that we live in a democracy, and that is no bad thing, for it is democracy that is the real winner — not the ‘Better Together’ campaign. We do not live in a society where we have no choice, even if at times it feels like it.

Later today we shall no doubt be treated to a host of speeches, many of them in Gettysburg mode, urging peace and unity. It may be only an accident, but I find it helpful that the section of the Rule we read today begins with the words ‘Do not give way to anger’ and goes on to advise against nursing grudges, paying back wrongs, grumbling, back-biting and a host of other ills. Instead we are urged to love our enemies and place our hope in God. (RB 4. 22–43) In short, it is a recipe for sanity the day after an experience many will have found searing. However, I think it is more than that. It is a recipe for inner peace, balance and a sense of proportion, but it requires effort on our part. We don’t ‘magic away’ negative feelings or bad experiences. We have to be honest about them and ourselves. Hence the admonitions not to be proud or eat or drink or sleep too much, for without some control over our minds and bodies, we cannot expect to have any control over our emotions or actions.

Today promises to be a challenging day for all of us. It ushers in a period of change, and most change is painful at times. Let us continue to pray, for the Holy Spirit is the only comforter and guide who can reach the depths of every heart.

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