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February 1, 2023

Enemy of the Soul

In case you missed last week’s post, I’ve been reading a short book called “The Rule of St. Benedict.”  Benedict lived in sixth-century Italy when the Roman empire was disintegrating.  He was a celebrated holy man and established 12 monasteries.  Benedict’s Rule “offered definitive direction and established an ordered way of life that gave security and stability” in the monasteries.  There are 73 chapters describing the rules, and while some are outdated in the modern world, there is a principle behind them that inspires holiness and obedience.

Chapter 48 describes “The Daily Manual Labor” of the monks, where Benedict writes: Idleness is the enemy of the soul.  Therefore, the brothers should have specified periods of manual labor as well as for prayerful reading. 

Idleness is the enemy of the soul.  Those are strong words!

What’s Benedict’s anecdote for idleness?  Manual labor and biblical study.

Some of you are thinking that idleness isn’t an issue.  After all, you have way too much on your plate.  You’re a busy man!

Most of us are living full, busy lives.  But we are kidding ourselves if we don’t think we have idle or lazy moments.  The question is, how do you fill that time?  Benedict believes that idleness is actually an enemy of our souls, our very being.

With that in mind, how do you fill your “downtime?”  Even if it’s just 15 minutes between meetings or the hour you have after you put your kids to bed, what are you choosing to do in that time?  Benedict believes it’s best to work, doing something with our hands, or to prayerfully read, doing something with our minds.  There should be specified periods of both.

As I contemplated this, I realized that I turn to entertainment and distraction in my idleness.   I don’t turn towards God or something beneficial for my soul. Rather, I turn to my phone to get lost in my news feed or social media, scrolling and digesting worldly content that does nothing to move me closer to God.  It’s crazy how often I reach for my phone in a moment of downtime.  It has become an undisciplined habit and one I’m changing.

What do you do in your idle moments?  Where does your mind go?  Are you moving closer to God or seeking distraction in those times?


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