The Unbalanced Benedictine

An Ordinary Life Meets an Extraordinary Rule

Why the Unbalanced Benedictine?

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© Joingate |

Why Am I “Unbalanced”?

Why do I call myself the Unbalanced Benedictine?

There are two reasons.

First, I don’t want to give the impression that I have it all figured it out. Practicing Benedictine spirituality in the middle of my crazy secular existence is a constant challenge. This blog will describe some things I’ve done that have worked well and some things that haven’t. And I’ll be honest about what I’ve learned from both. I’m sure I’m not the only unbalanced Benedictine out there, and I want to provide a safe place for others who feel this way.

Let me be clear: I’m not a good Benedictine role model. You won’t find me consistently praying the Hours or keeping a regular meditation practice. I don’t have uplifting spiritual encounters or insights every time I sit down for Lectio Divina. I’d love to be able to do all that, and it’s what I strive for, but that’s not where I am. I’m writing this blog as a companion for anyone else who struggles with incorporating the Rule of St. Benedict into their secular lives.

Second, I want to challenge the whole notion of Benedictine spirituality being about balance.

Striving for Balance

Conventional wisdom holds that the Benedictine life is—by definition—a life of balance. The Rule of St. Benedict prescribes times for corporate prayer, private devotion, work, rest, and taking meals. What can be more balanced than that?

When I first began taking the Rule seriously, that sense of balance really appealed to me. At the time I was homeschooling my two young children. I was also responsible for all the financial and administrative work for my husband’s consulting company. And I did all the other things a modern wife and mother does. I was too busy, and my spiritual life was virtually nonexistent. There was no time for me figure out who I was as a person. Benedictine balance seemed like the perfect solution.

But it wasn’t.

I added morning and evening prayer to my daily routine, along with regular bible reading. I set rigid boundaries around “school” time, “work” time, “faith” time, and “me” time. This, I believed, would achieve the balance I was looking for.

All it did was give me more things to fail at.

And fail I did. I was a very unbalanced Benedictine.

But I kept with it.

It’s Not About Balance

Over time I’ve discovered that Benedictine spirituality is not actually about balance. It’s about putting God first and seeing God in everything. Yes, scheduling specific times for prayer and devotion is helpful and beneficial. But treating these things as ‘tasks’ that need to be checked off my to-do list is not helpful. Deepening my relationship with God is not something I’ll ever complete. Nor is it something that I can only accomplish through formal prayer or bible reading.

God is in my prayer time, yes, but God is also in my relationships with my husband and children. God is in my paid and unpaid work, my leisure time, and everything else I do.

My life, like most people’s, is not in balance. And it probably never will be. Sometimes my husband needs more attention than I’d ‘planned’ to give him on a given day. Or my kids (now teenagers) will have some crisis that requires my immediate and undivided attention. Occasionally my body gives out and demands extra rest. Also, being a writer means now I have deadlines. And I have to be attentive to all of it.

And the Rule allows for this. In fact, the Rule was designed for this. While Benedict does prescribe set times for prayer, work, etc., he also allows for a lot of variance, depending on local conditions and individual frailties. But in all cases, the Rule of St. Benedict keeps one’s focus on God, and that’s the heart of Benedictine spirituality.

My life is unbalanced. It’s also Benedictine. And I truly believe that the lack of balance is part of what makes it Benedictine. A Benedictine life is not about achieving perfect balance; it’s about embarking on a journey to God and with God.

I’m on that journey. I’m sharing it on this blog. And I encourage any other unbalanced Benedictines to join me.

Advent Beginnings and Welcome

Photo 63638043 / Advent Candles Blue © Daniel Bernátek |

Why Advent Beginnings?

I’ve always preferred Advent beginnings over New Year’s beginnings. Celebrating the change of the calendar year with resolutions and ambitious commitments is the more popular way to go, but it always seemed to me that New Year’s is about breaking with the past and starting anew.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes we need to break with our past in order to move forward.

But more often, we need to find a way to incorporate what has come before into new growth and direction. That is where Advent is so helpful.

Advent is simultaneously an ending and a beginning. The word “advent” means arrival or coming, and in this case it refers specifically to the coming of Christ. Both comings of Christ. Christ has come and Christ will come again. The gospel readings of Advent begin with an adult Jesus talking about the coming of the Son of Man (commonly known as the end times) and end with Jesus’s own birth. The gospel readings move us backward and forward at the same time. Advent beginnings are advent endings.

I like the fact that there’s no clear line between beginning and ending, new and old, yet it’s not exactly a repeating circle, either. Each time Advent comes around again it’s something new: a culmination of what has been and anticipation of what’s to come. And each year it’s different.

Why This Blog?

I’ve been an Oblate for a little more than five years, though I’d been attempting to incorporate elements of Benedictine spirituality into my life for more than a decade before that. One of the things I’ve always lacked in my practice is accountability. Sure, I go to my monthly Oblate meetings at Glastonbury Abbey and I take personal retreats there as often as I can, but I find that’s not enough.

That’s where this blog comes in. I’ve often reflected in writing on Lectio Divina or the Rule*, but I’ve never shared those written reflections with anyone. Also, it’s too easy to skip a meditation or three and fall out of the practice. My hope is that writing this blog will help to focus my practice. Yes, it’s a new endeavor, but it’s not a break from my past. It’s a culmination of where I’ve already been and anticipation of where I want to go.

Wanting to deepen my relationship with God should be enough by itself, but it’s not. Saint Benedict wrote his Rule for people who live in community. I don’t live with other Benedictines, or even see any more than on a monthly basis, and I feel that lack. So I hope to build an online community with weekly blog posts, where we can share insights and challenges and provide support for one another. [EDIT: I have changed to biweekly blog posts in order to keep my schedule more manageable.]

I hope you’ll follow this blog and find it helpful in your own journey. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, or even to be a particularly good Benedictine. But I am who God made me to be, and all I can do is strive to be that person, in this place, in this time, to the best of my ability. If anything in this post or any other speaks to you in any way, please share in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

May God be with you in your own Advent beginnings!

*If this is all new to you, you can find information on The Rule of Saint Benedict here.

You’re Early!

Welcome to the Unbalanced Benedictine! It appears you’re here a little early. I’ll be launching this blog with my first post on Sunday, November 27, 2022. I look forward to meeting you then!

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