Father Tirso

The Rule of St. Benedict is a 6 th century document written by St. Benedict of Nursia who is attributed as being the founder of Western monasticism. This rule has governed the lives of Benedictine monks and religious since that time. It has also been the basis or foundation of the rule that governs similar religious communities as the Benedictines. At the start of the Rule St. Benedict writes words to this effect, “Before starting any good work, pray earnestly to God that it might be carried out by Him to its fulfillment.” In other words, built into the Rule of St. Benedict is the spirit of trust in God’s providence and the acknowledgement that all good comes from God and can only be brought to completion by the guidance of God’s grace. In this way, whatever good we as followers of Jesus are able to do serves not only for our individual sanctification but also for the sanctification of the entire human race. This 6 th century advice from the founder of Western monasticism is one that we all need to take. We ought to pray before the start of any good work.

Of course, St. Benedict was not the one who came up with this idea. His advice came as a result of reflection on the life of Christ. Namely, before every major step in the public ministry of Jesus, the gospels tell us that he went off by himself to pray. Jesus spent 40 days and 40 nights in the desert. Jesus also went off by himself to pray before every major moment within his ministry. He even prays the night before he faced his own crucifixion. The point is that Jesus took the time to pray before every good work that he was sent to accomplish.

Jesus’ prayer was not a matter of asking God to do certain favors. Jesus himself was divine so he would not need to pray in that way. Rather, Jesus’ prayer was a matter of communing with his Father and allowing his will to remain in union with the will of the Father. In this way, prayer is not meant to force God to bend to our will. Rather, it is meant to bend our will so that what God desires becomes what we desire. In this way, we learn to imitate God and act with the very heart, mind and will of God Himself.

Again, this attitude of praying before the start of any good work is one that all of us ought to adopt. It is certainly one of the things that priests like myself have been taught to do. It is built into our vocation, so to speak. For example, priests ought to be taking a weeklong retreat once a year. In that time of retreat, we are meant to focus more intensely on our prayer life, our relationship with God, so that we can make certain that whatever action we are committing ourselves to in our ministry truly conforms with the mind and heart of God. After all, priests have been ordained to minister “in persona Christi”—in imitation of Christ and in his name. No priest will be able to accomplish such a task unless he first of all unites his own will to the will of God.

Such is also the case with the process of Renew My Church. The pastors of our grouping are being called together for several days during this week to take time to pray and reflect. The process of Renew My Church will be a very emotional time for all involved—priest and lay alike. As the pastors of our respective communities, sometimes, it becomes incumbent upon us to put personal feelings aside and learn to think with the mind of God whose ways are not our ways. In order to make certain that we begin this process with minds, hearts, and souls centered on God, it is necessary for us to take time to focus on praying earnestly to God so that the work we will begin through Renew My Church will always be guided and directed by the Holy Spirit.

In time, the members of the Grouping Feedback and Discernment Team (GFDT) will also gather for a day of prayer and reflection. If praying before the start of any good work applies to priests, it certainly applies to every person who calls him or herself a disciple of Jesus. For this reason, the GFDT members will also be asked to spend an entire day in prayer so that they, too, will entrust themselves to the providence and guidance of God.

I ask that you keep the other pastors and me in your prayers this week as we prepare to begin the work of Renew My Church for our grouping. We will need the help of the Holy Spirit to make decisions that will focus our faith communities on the mission of Jesus—to proclaim the Good News, make disciples, and walk with those disciples into the heavenly kingdom.

Fr. Tirso S. Villaverde, Jr.

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