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To live without a murmur

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To live without a murmur

In his Rule, St Benedict spoke specifically against murmuring five times*.  Murmuring or grumbling doesn’t seem like the most serious of sins, but he was adamant that there would be none of it among his brothers.

As is characteristic, he made no bones about what he expected, saying, ‘above all, let not the evil of murmuring appear in the least word or sign for any reason whatever‘ (ch.34); yet he showed his compassion and understanding of human weakness by recommending (in ch. 35), that ‘servers receive each a  cup of drink and a piece of bread over the prescribed portion, that they may serve their brethren at the time of refection without murmuring and undue strain‘.

Benedict understood that a culture of murmuring would poison the spirit of fraternal love in a community.  He wisely advised his his monks not only to guard against murmuring individually but also to try to avoid giving others cause to murmur.

Murmuring is not the same as complaining (always to the right person or not at all!) and certainly not the same as speaking up against injustice.  Murmuring is voicing our discontent informally to the wrong people – to colleagues about superiors; to family members about work or school; to anyone who will listen about ‘the way things are done around here’.

Controlling our own tendency to murmur is one thing, but we have less control over the murmurings of others.  It’s hard to endure a murmuring culture and even harder to break that negative cycle and bring to it a positive outlook.  Hard, but not impossible: one person who never murmurs and tries gently to see the positive side can be the necessary leaven in a community.

Benedict’s feast is 11th July; a Sunday this year but let’s not ignore him because of that.  Since he found murmuring so objectionable, let him be for us the saint whose prayers will support us in our own efforts to ‘bless God and do not grumble‘ (ch 40).  Let his prayers support us as we try to avoid giving others cause to murmur and as we try to break down the habits of murmuring we encounter in our daily lives.

St Benedict of Nursia, pray for us.

 

 

* In chapters 23, 34, 35, 40 and 53.

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