Ampleforth Abbey

24 February 2018

Obsculta: Listen, child of God, to the guidance of your teacher


Fr Kentigern Hagan OSB reflects on the opening verses of the Prologue to St Benedict's Rule. Fr Kentigern serves the community as Sacristan and as Warden of the Visitor Centre, in addition to work as an assistant chaplain in the College and as Parish Priest of Kirkbymoorside.

From the very first word of the Rule, the key-note is struck. At the heart of the Rule, at the heart of any community, is the need to listen. First and foremost we need to be people ready and able to listen to what God is calling us to do and be. However, we will not be attuned to this if we are not ready and able to listen to each other.

This listening is not just an action of our ears. It means that our hearts must be open to the needs and gifts of others. Yes, we must not only be aware of what is needed by others, but also be able to appreciate and accept what others have to give to us as individuals and as a community.

In this way, truly we begin to listen to each other and become open to what God is giving to us and asking of us.

Much of the rest of this opening passage of the Rule speaks of obedience and disobedience. There should be no surprise at this. Obedience and disobedience have their roots in the Latin obaudire - 'to listen'. This Latin verb for listening has the connotation of listening and then doing (or not). So, our actions are regulated by our ability to listen. As has already been said, we need to listen to what God wants of us. That is often transmitted to us through the teaching of the Church. We hear through the regular use of the Scriptures, which we call the Word of God for this very reason. We hear through the teachings of our Holy Father the Pope and our Bishop. Our priests in their own listening are also called to speak and teach. We respond to what others share with us.

So, if we are truly to be a community serving our Lord Jesus Christ, we must first be a listening community, attuned to God and to each other.