Tuesday 23 October 2012


Benedict at St Giles' - Michaelmas Term 2012

Thus Father Stephen Ortiger at St Giles' Church in Oxford last Thursday!  Silence, he pointed out, can be empty or eloquent, depending on how we approach it.  Injunctions to pray can be counterproductive.  Instead we should listen expectantly, or "attend" - Benedict uses the word at the very beginning of his Rule - before, as Fr Stephen enjoined us, "bringing our reality to God".  

Addressing the topic of Holy Listening - the second talk in a weekly series on Benedictine Wisdom - he began by explaining that Benedict's vow of stability (so different from the Franciscan way) was designed to facilitate the interior journey, the "journey to the centre".  As someone once said, the longest journey is from the head to the heart. And Fr Stephen encouraged his audience to keep making that journey. 

Another former Abbot of Worth, Christopher Jamison (as seen on TV), echoes that Benedictine desire to "step back, be still and look inwards" in his book Finding Happiness - Monastic Steps for a Fulfilling Life, which is our current focus at Wychwood Circle's monthly discussion forums.  His emphasis is on "internal freedom" - freedom from the constant exercise of our much-prized external freedom, seen in such happiness-seeking activities as 'retail therapy' which involves "choosing and choosing again".

This, says Jamison, can become and end in itself, distracting us "from that interior world which is the true source of happiness".  Blest are the pure in heart? A contemporary version might use the expression "freedom of spirit" which, he goes on to say, "describes the condition of human beings at their best".

Benedictine Wisdom: Timeless Guidance for Today's World 
Thursday Lunchtime Talks at St Giles' Oxford  Oxford Centre for Spiritual Growth

Finding Happiness: Monastic Steps for a Fulfilling Life
Abbot Christopher Jamison  Orion Books 2009

"The interior landscape of our life
A discussion based on the second and third chapters of Finding Happiness
November 11th 7-9pm Wychwood Library OX7 6LD

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