St. Benedict’s Twelve Degrees of Humility: The Ninth Degree

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St. Benedict of Nursia

St. Benedict of Nursia

We are approaching the top of the ladder of humility.  The ninth degree states:

The ninth degree of humility is that a monk restrain his tongue and keep silence, not speaking until he is questioned. For the Scripture shows that “in much speaking there is no escape from sin” (Prov. 10:19)and that “the talkative man is not stable on the earth” (Ps. 139[140]:12[11]).

This degree really hits the sin of pride smack in the face.  St. Benedict is asking us to put aside our own opinions, ideas, thoughts, and knowledge and listen, really listen.

How often when in conversation with another are we formulating our response while the other person is still in the middle of their point?  Sometimes, we even interrupt, bursting forth with our own great intelligence before the person can finish their contribution.

In the Spiritual Exercises used by the Congregation of St. Maur, a french Benedictine monastery, it states, “The desire to talk comes only from pride, for one speaks only to instruct others and to appear learned and clever.”

Ultimately St. Benedict is calling us to silence so that we can hear the voice of God.  Remember the very first degree, recognizing that God is always present?  He too, wants to be a part of the conversation by quietly speaking in our hearts.  If we are trying so desperately to be heard, how will we be able to hear His voice?

Canon G. A. Simon explains in the Commentary for Benedictine Oblates, “When anyone takes care to keep interior silence the better to listen to God’s voice and to live more intimately with Him, he does not indulge willfully in idle or foolish talk,” (p. 154).

This is a lesson we first must learn and then we can share it with our children.  Granted, there are conversations that need to be had, but if we expect our children to learn to listen, we too must listen, even to them, mostly to them.  In families with many children it can get a little loud for a little too long.  I remember telling my children that my ears were tired and we needed to take a silent break and listen for the quiet things.

We all need a break from the noise around us.  This degree of humility helps us to see that we don’t want to be a part of the noise, but instead of adding one more fact or “but” or “also,” sometimes we just need to add silence with a smile and a nod and a humble heart in tune with God.

God’s blessings!

Copyright 2014, Diane Schwind

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