Always We Begin Again: The Benedictine Way of Living,15th Anniversary Edition, Revised

Always We Begin Again: The Benedictine Way of Living,15th Anniversary Edition, Revised

by John McQuiston

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Overview

This book holds timeless appeal for readers who hunger for a meaningful and creatively balanced framework for life. It offers a simple blueprint, based on the Rule of St. Benedict, to order one’s time and create physical and inner space, to step back from the demands and pressures of the moment, and to step into a place of peace. While strict adherence to the Rule may be possible only in a monastic setting, its bedrock, the ordering of each day, is accessible to seekers of any creed or of no creed at all. The brief readings and meditations in this small book offer a bridge between a busy day and a moment of restorative and blessed silence. “The original edition emphasized thankfulness, and this revision emphasizes loving-kindness... It continues to be my hope to put the wisdom of the Rule to work in my life, and when I fail (as I do consistently) to begin again.” —From the Preface

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780819224538
Publisher: Church Publishing Inc.
Publication date: 01/01/2011
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 120
Sales rank: 952,579
File size: 179 KB

Read an Excerpt

Always We Begin Again

The Benedictine Way of Living


By John McQuiston II

Church Publishing Incorporated

Copyright © 2011 John McQuiston II
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8192-2453-8


Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

    The First Rule


    Attend to these instructions, Listen with the
    heart and the mind; they are provided in a spirit of goodwill.
      These words are addressed to anyone
      who is willing to renounce the delusion
      that the meaning of life can be learned;
      whoever is ready
      to take up the greater weapon of fidelity
      to a way of living that transcends
      understanding.
    The first rule is simply this:

    live this life
    and do whatever is done,
    in a spirit of loving kindness.

    Abandon attempts to achieve security,
    they are futile,
    give up the search for wealth,
    it is demeaning,

    quit the search for salvation,
    it is selfish,

    and come to comfortable rest
    in the certainty that those who
    participate in this life
    with an attitude of compassion
    will receive its full promise.


    Humility

    Cultivate humility.
    To be exalted is to be in danger.

    Pride is considered a sin because it warps our
    existence.
    It establishes our lives on a false foundation.

    No one can win all the time.
    Therefore, a life based on triumphing over others
    will always be unfulfilled.

    The way to closeness with the sublime
    is not to add,
    but is to take away more each day
    until we have been freed,
    even from desire for perfection.


The Twelve Stages of Humility

    These are the stages to freedom from self- centeredness,
    to humility,
    the centerpiece of the true life.

    The first stage of humility
    is to keep the sacred nature of consciousness
    and the world in which it exists
    always alive within us.

    Everything we think,
    everything we do,
    everything we feel,
    is cast in time forever.
    Every moment that we live is irreplaceable,
    therefore each moment is hallowed.

    We must be on guard
    against despair, against fear,
    against bitterness, against self-seeking,
    and have the tenacity and courage
    to think optimistically and act kindly,
    and to put the needs of others always before
    our own.

    The second stage of humility
    is to distrust our own will.
    Our wants are insatiable,
    and our will is the product of those wants.
    Our pleasure,
    our needs,
    our wishes —
    all are mere self-interest,
    and the demands of self-interest
    are never ending.

    Our desires are the path to disaster.
    At every turn there is something more to
    acquire,
    something to distract our attention,
    something to divert the unchangeable
    footprints we leave behind.

    Day and night we must return to humility,
    and use it as a compass to guide us on the
    true course.

    Therefore the second stage of humility
    is not to love our own will,
    nor to find pleasure in the satisfaction of our
    own desires,
    but to carry out the unfathomable purpose of
    our being,
    to fulfill the design that can only be
    discovered
    by overcoming our own cravings —
    for the function of existence
    and of our lives
    is not ourselves.

    The third stage of humility
    is to accept our limitations,
    even to death.
    To accept that there are events
    outside our control
    and that have ultimate power over us,
    and that our will
    will not be done.

    The fourth stage of humility is to be patient
    and to maintain a quiet mind,
    even in the face of inequity, injury, and
    contradiction,
    preserving the awareness
    that we are ever shaped by
    experience
    and refined by fire,
    and accordingly
    to be thankful even for injuries.

    The fifth stage of humility
    is not to conceal our faults,
    but to be ruthlessly honest
    with ourselves
    and about ourselves,
    for to lie to ourselves or to others
    is to falsify our relationship with true life.

    The sixth stage of humility is to be content
    with the work we are given to do
    and with the circumstances of our lives
    however unfair or demeaning,
    always bearing in mind
    that it is our outlook
    that confers value on our experiences,
    and that nothing that occurs to us
    is intrinsically good or bad.

    The seventh stage of humility
    is not only to declare ourselves to be humble,
    but to believe in our hearts that we are of no
    consequence.

    For alone we are of no moment —
    in the vast reaches and endless memory of
    the universe
    our most profound idea is the merest fantasy;
    our greatest triumphs
    and our meanest actions
    are as lasting as a footprint in sand.

    The eighth stage of humility
    is that we take no action except that which is
    in accordance with the path established for
    us, by word and by example, by those whom
    we know to be true guides, both past and
    present, always mistrusting our own ideas
    and wills.

    The ninth stage of humility
    is that we refrain from judgment.
    It is not for us to live the lives of others,
    or to understand the infinite forces at work
    at every instant in another's life.
    We must restrain not only our criticism
    but also our advice,
    offering it only when requested,
    and then only with sincere misgiving.

    The tenth stage of humility
    is to have sincere empathy.
    We can never believe ourselves superior to
    one another,
    nor take pleasure in each other's
    shortcomings and misfortunes.

    The eleventh stage of humility
    is to speak gently and briefly.
    Participation in community requires
    that we speak, and also that we listen.
    In speech we must be candid,
    in listening we must be accessible.

    The twelfth stage of humility
    is to maintain not only humble thoughts,
    but also a humble demeanor,
    whether at work, on the road, at the
    market,
    in speaking or at rest.

    We should continuously reenforce,
    through appearance and demeanor, the
    mien of humility.

    By daily pursuing these intentions,
    we will begin to observe these precepts
    through habit rather than by discipline,
    and in consequence,
    after long practice,
    we will sometimes accomplish these goals
    as our natural manner.


Routine

We are physical creatures, and creatures of routine. We thrive when a specific daily schedule is established.

    The day should be divided
    so that there is
    time for meditation or prayer,
    time for meals and relationships,
    time for learning,
    time for labor,
    and time for rest.


Time for labor and time for rest will consume two-thirds of our hours. But eight hours a day remain for study, meals, sharing, and prayer. The wise use of these eight hours is most often neglected.

Bear in mind that the seasons bring changes. Flexibility is required in all things human. Do not be afraid to vary your schedule as long as you are consistent with the spirit of daily balance.

One day a week we should worship with others, more frequently if we have an opportunity. Solitary meditation or prayer, like solitary life, must be balanced with community. We cannot shift the center of our lives away from ourselves if we are too much alone.

Routine is important, but too much of it dulls. On days of special importance, our routine should be varied, but within limits, always maintaining the spirit of the daily reaffirmation of the way. This spirit allows the daily method to be relaxed and amended from time to time, in keeping with both the sense of freedom and of discipline that we seek. We should modify our prayers and meditations with the seasons, so that from season to season there is change, but from year to year there is repetition.

The routine of the day should vary according to the seasons, but a regular pattern should be followed. Self-discipline should be maintained, for without self-discipline, we will never strengthen our inner resources sufficiently. Without self-discipline we will always be lost.

At the end of each day, time should be strictly reserved for meditation or prayer, and silence. It should be the practice to gather together in the evening for a reading, sharing, or prayer according to your nature, followed by silence. The reading should be appropriate for the time before sleep, and be only a few pages in length. The last devotion before sleep should be chosen carefully, and it should be sung or recited if possible. Music speaks to us in a language beyond words, and the life we are seeking to live is one of harmony and rhythm.

Establish a regular pattern for meditation at night, and follow it. If your sleep is untroubled, accept the rest you are given. If you are caught up with concern, meditate and pray. In the night we are most vulnerable to fear.

Give thanks for your trouble, and accept that life includes trouble as well as joy. All is given out of the mystery that called us into being, and of which we are.

One day a week should be a day of rest and study. We must have time to reflect and to renew. All of our growing and healing is not conscious. We must give ourselves time to mend and germinate.

Create a daily pattern and follow it. Maintain your discipline. Accomplish each task you have set before yourself.


Stewardship

The steward to whom management of material possessions is entrusted should be neither avaricious nor parsimonious. He or she should be realistic and measured in decisions, and should view possessions as a trust.

The most critical quality for a manager, whether of property or persons, is humility. The task of a manager confers power, and he or she must be continually on guard against self-importance and vanity. Frequently such a person will need assistance from others. Help should be sought freely, keeping in mind that neither power nor wealth should be hoarded.

From what we have, those things which should be given are to be given freely and without delay, so that no one shall be angered over possessions. At all times let us recall that every thing we use in this life was here before us and will be here after we are gone. This world and everything in it is on loan, entrusted to our care for our time.

The only significance of things is our relationship with them. The idea that we own anything, or that we created and possess those characteristics that make us what we are, must be utterly rooted out. Let no one presume that we are more than passing shadows, created from we know not what, for a purpose we cannot understand. We are merely tenants at sufferance in this life.

Everything we have is on loan. Our homes, businesses, rivers, closest relationships, bodies, and experiences, everything we have is ours in trust, and must be returned at the end of our use of it. As trustees we have the highest and strictest requirements of fiduciary duty: to use nothing for our sole benefit; to manage prudently; and to return that which has been in our care in as good or better condition than it was when given into our custody.

No one should complain because someone else has more. Our needs should be small, and we should not want that which exceeds what we truly need.

Those who need little should be thankful. Those who believe they need more should seek to correct this defect. The only genuinely wealthy are those who are satisfied with what they have.

The daily consumption of material things should be parsimonious. It is a good thing to deprive oneself of certain needs and comforts periodically, to fast and meditate, and to resume normal life with thanks, renewed appreciation, and joy. The material side of existence should be treated reverently as a gift from that incomprehensible source of all things, and valued as the means of daily life for ourselves and others. But we must be ever on guard against making the material an end.


Service

No one is excused from rendering service to others. No one is exempt from performing the mundane tasks of daily life. Rendering service to others is necessary to our own fitness. Exempting someone from commonplace chores invites vanity.

If one has special talents, they should be used for the benefit of others. On no account should one's talents be cause for vanity. If egotism results from the exercise of a gift, the practice of that talent should cease until it no longer results in hubris.

The use of goods and talents primarily for oneself is incompatible with humility. Humility is the key that unlocks the universe. Living life as if the pursuit of goods and recognition is its purpose, destroys it.

Putting ourselves at the center of existence isolates us. We are relational, dependent creatures, and we are not the purpose of the cosmos. The great unknown and transcendent mystery is its own purpose.

We should share in labor and take turns in service. As a task is handed from one to another, approval and thanks should also be passed from one to another, so that good will and blessings are distributed with the work.

We must care for the sick and visit them. We should deal with them patiently, seeking, through our attention to their need, to practice the art of caring. We must recognize that attending the sick can lead us into a fuller dimension of a fruitful life.

Those of us who are sick should consider that our suffering is a part of incomprehensible reality, and that it is our task and opportunity to make the encounter with illness serve an exalted function. Those who lead must ensure that the sick are not neglected.


Meals

Meals should be taken together in a spirit of community and used as an opportunity to share our interior life. The expression of our thoughts and feelings serves many purposes. Frequently when we speak we open ourselves new insight. We do not know what others feel or think unless they share it through words. Language breaks down our separation. Responsibility for communication is to be shared, so that each member of the group shall take an equal turn.

Only wholesome food should be eaten, and only in an amount which is sufficient to satisfy hunger. Gluttony and excess consumption of any kind must not be tolerated in ourselves. With regard to alcoholic drink, abstinence is desirable, moderation is essential.

Meals should be taken at regular times. We share a physical nature with the rest of creation, and eating is an essential activity. Therefore we should make this vital function play its appropriate role in nurturing the design of the life we seek.


Worship

The adoption of an attitude of thankfulness to the sublime mystery that brought us into being and preserves us is at once means and end. Its worth is beyond measure. Therefore our distance from our regular place for meditation, prayer, and being thankful should never prevent our performing that work for our spirits.

Remember that we are always in the presence of the sacred, but that the sacred nature of life is only apparent to those who are open to it. We are a part of the infinite which is in this moment expressing itself through us and in every facet of daily life.

In order that we live as our best selves, we must maintain an attitude of appreciation for this life and for the eternal mercy that provided it. A service of thanks and praise should be established for worship, containing both the familiar and the inspiring.

If we address persons of distinction, we accord them honor and respect. How much more should we accord the Unknown Source of all that exists and of all relationships. Our attitude in prayer and meditation should therefore be pure and humble.

When we are nearby to our usual place of meditation, we should return to that place at the appointed times, for we are sustained by such continuity. We are physical creatures, and concrete reenforcement of habits of meditation, prayer, and gratefulness will assist us in the work.

Similarly, when we are near to our friends and family at mealtimes, we should take our meals in community, renewing and continuing the relationships that make up the fabric of our lives.

We are ceremonial creatures. A special place for worship services should be maintained, and a place reserved for the cultivation of our spirits. It should be made available between services for individual prayer and meditation. It should always be treated with reverence, and when services are not taking place a deep silence should be preserved.

We must not allow criticism of the failings of organized religion to keep us from worshiping in community. No one can live up to the standards of the great religions. There is no church, synagogue, or temple that does not contain some number of persons who are sincere, worthy of friendship, and from whom we can learn.
(Continues...)


Excerpted from Always We Begin Again by John McQuiston II. Copyright © 2011 by John McQuiston II. Excerpted by permission of Church Publishing Incorporated.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

Preface to the Revised Edition          

Foreword to the Revised Edition by Phyllis Tickle          

About the Rule          

My Introduction to the Rule          

The Rule of Saint Benedict: A Contemporary Interpretation          

Some Forms of Meditation and Prayer          

An Example of a Weekday Schedule with Seven stopping Points          

Some Thoughts for Reflection          

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Always We Begin Again: The Benedictine Way of Living 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
KoKoLM More than 1 year ago
This little book contains all one needs to embrace life to its fullest. I use it as a daily meditation guide.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author thinks RSB needs his translation ... It does not. However he offers a sensible set of do's and don'ts to better Christian living.