The Rule of St. Benedict: Chapter 1
Our Father Benedict's harsh condemnation of sarabaites and gyrovagues in this chapter stems from his strong beliefs about spiritual formation. We are formed in community, St. Benedict insists, and not just any community, but a community gathered around the instructions of the Lord put into practice under a rule and a superior.
It is a challenge to live according to the Rule of St. Benedict anywhere, but it is especially so outside of a monastery. The momentum of life in our society propels us along a path very similar to that of the Sarabaites, who, "In their works they still keep faith with the world," and whose "law is the desire for self-gratification: whatever enters their mind or appeals to them, that they call holy; what they dislike, they regard as unlawful."
I hear from this chapter a clear call for those of us who desire to follow in the path of St. Benedict outside of a monastery to prayerfully inquire within ourselves which vices of the sarabaites and/or gyrovagues we tend to practice. Do our spiritual practices generate transformation, or are they merely tools our ego uses to secure its self-interest? Is our "rule" whatever appeals to us, or do we seek to be conformed to the will of another? Does our life find its true home in a community gathered around the common intention of spiritual formation, or are we lone rangers, afraid to truly open ourselves to others?
We cannot do this inner work alone, so let us welcome Christ to abide within us to separate wheat from chaff, virtue from vice, and truth from lies. And with God's help, let us proceed along the path our Father Benedict has laid out.