When i first arrived in Rome to live, there was group who needed a priest to go with them 40 miles east of Rome to a place called Subiaco and so in my ignorance I went. I had no idea of this history that was made there. By the time we left I understood that I had been to a truly holy place.
Benedict from a well to do family had left his studies at age seventeen. In the mountains near Subiaco he encountered a monk named Ramano and because of that encounter went on to spend three years living in a cave, as a hermit. He emerged a changed man, the man who would be called the father of western monasticism. His rule would shape monastic life as we know it.
At the center of his rule was a principle called epiekeia. This word has no single English equivalent. You will see it translated as equity, clemency, leniency, suitability, mildness, gentleness. It appears in the Bible at Acts 24:4 and 2 Cor 10:1 where Paul writes
Now I myself, Paul, urge you through the gentleness and clemency (epiekeia) of Christ
The word describes that which sits in the perfect balance spot between disorder and rigid discipline. It is worth noting the other word St. Paul uses with it praotes, translated here as gentleness it also includes meekness and humility.
It would be nice if we could stop judging others but we all do it, regularly. Today as St. Benedict looks down on us from his place in heaven perhaps we can at least alter the way we judge. We we start to make that judgement about a coworker, boss, family member, friend or just another driver on the road, remember the many meanings of epiekeia.
St. Benedict, pray for us.