Dissatisfied then poison the CEO

There is an established Benedictine tradition that the 'Rule of the Master' which is a long, ponderous, prescriptive and punitive text was St Benedict's first attempt at establishing rules for a community.

So 'successful' was it that the community demonstrated their 'satisfaction' by trying to poison Benedict.

God, as the ultimate arbiter, recognized in Benedict a hidden gem and so, helpfully, warned Benedict of the plot against him and saved his life.

But also saved from an early death, Benedict listened to this radical expression of 'employee' views and changed.

At the heart of the Rule of St Benedict -  a slimmed down, compassionate and framing (rather than prescriptive) version - lies the importance of 'listening'. It opens with the invitation to listen with the ears of the heart to the words of Christ. It sets the tone for the whole.

Today, I was giving a talk on 'Christian leadership' using St Benedict as my exemplar.

I focused on three things in the Rule.

The first is to listen with the ears of the heart - and to recognize that whenever two are together, there is always a third: what does happen to our conversation if we realize that God too is a present listener?

The second is that we learn from diversity. St Benedict tells us that we should canvas our views from the whole community - and that God often imparts wisdom to the outrider that in Benedict's case is the young but it might be the old or the disabled or any other category of the different and marginalized. I used to especially like the focus on the young but alas now...

The third is that every guest is to be recognized as Christ. What would this do to the customer relations of any micro-finance institution (the management of which were the audience of my talk)? Each and every person bears the image of God: how does that revolutionize the compassion of our attention (and, sadly, fails to)?

The Rule of St Benedict is possibly, after the Bible, the most influential text in the history of Western civilization and it is a tragedy it is not known more widely (accompanied by an intelligent, sensitive, contemporary commentary).


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