The first word is listen. Before Benedict says anything else, he asks us to listen. The prologue of Benedict's Rule begins, saying, "Listen carefully, my child,
to the master's instructions,and attend to them with the ear of your heart." Think of the teacher, waiting at the front of the class for everyone to quiet, and when every voice stops and the room is silent, then the teacher begins, saying “Listen.”
You know this plea. “Listen to me, son. Here are keys to the car, but you need to be careful.” “I need you to listen to me. This stove is hot. If you don’t watch out you’ll hurt yourself.” I’m headed for a cliff and someone says to me “Listen to me. I know where this is going. You need to stop.” Sometimes the word isn’t a warning but a plea to hear deeply felt words: “Listen to me. I’m trying to tell you I love you.”
I don’t listen, though. I have things on my mind. I know better. I don’t need someone else to tell me what to do. “You’re not the boss of me!” I think. My eyes glaze over, my mind goes somewhere else, and the words shared are the tree falling in the forest without anyone around; they may make a noise but I don’t hear them.
When I pray in the mornings, I try to be quiet. I read a scripture passage, count my breaths, and hope for quietness. Some mornings it happens. Some mornings the only noise I make are my breaths and the subtle beat of my heart, and everything else is quiet. When I can finally hear the ambient noises, the traffic from the interstate and the birds' chirps and the voices of those who walk by on the sidewalk, I know I am listening. In those moments when I am finally quiet I say with Samuel, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” Maybe this is the type of listening Benedict asks of us, to listen to him so that we might know God, and to listen not only with our ears but with our heart.
Here Benedict sits us down, puts his hands on his shoulders, looks us in the eye, and as he starts to speak says, “Listen.”
"In drawing up its regulations, we hope to set down nothing harsh, nothing burdensome." - Rule of St. Benedict