This week we celebrated the joyous memorial of St. Benedict, Patriarch of Western Monasticism. And yet again here at IPF, we got another stellar homily.
The homilist opened with the opening words of St. Benedict’s Rule, Obsculta, o filii…et inclina aurem cordis tuis, ‘Listen, O sons…and incline the ears of your heart.’
He then said, ‘Listen.’ And paused into a deafening and lengthy silence.
He continued on to reflect on the immensely powerful and quintessentially Christian character of the virtue of listening attentively, with the ears of the heart, to another. He elicited laughter from the seminarians as he spoke of those we all know who talk incessantly, listen little, and even when they do listen it is only to await their next chance to spring into a new torrent of words. He opined that our sound-saturated, texting culture has nearly forgotten what it means to listen.
‘The one who is capable of listening is the one who knows s/he has been heard, and has been loved in that hearing. Above all they know that God has heard, that God loves to hear them.’
He recalled with deep emotion the times he would dry dishes with his grandfather, and how his grandfather would speak to him; but above all his grandfather would listen to him with delight and great attention. It was there at the sink, he said, that he learned the inner unity of listening and loving. In fact, he said, to listen in love to another in love is nearly omnipotent as a healing balm.
Over 20 years ago I was counseled by a spiritual father to cultivate the asceticism of listening to others as a way to assist God in demolishing my warped ego, to teach me to love and cultivate my capacity to pray with the heart. It was among the top three best pieces of advice I have ever received in my life.
Incline the ears of your heart.