In Ch. 72 of his Rule St. Benedict states that good zeal is to be fostered by monks with fervent love. Then he quotes St. Paul’s letter to the Romans: “They should each try to be the first to show respect to the other” [12:10]. They are to bear with greatest patience one another’s weaknesses of body and behavior and to compete with one another in obedience to one another. (RB 72:5-6) St. Benedict identifies good zeal as leading away from evil and toward God and everlasting life (RB 72:2). So, what is this “good zeal” exactly? It is an energetic passion that is aligned with God’s holy desire for what is right, true, just, and, above all, most loving. In the monastery, good zeal is visibly manifested most often in mundane and ordinary ways–a Sister descends the stairs just a little faster so as to open the Infirmary door for an elder member with a rollator, patient acceptance of the voice in choir that is slightly off pitch, time and energy volunteered to cover responsibilities of another member who is temporarily ill. Good zeal supplants the commonly human inclination for self-centeredness. It doesn’t disregard a healthy measure of self-care; rather, it is the energy that takes us above and beyond petty self-interest into a way of being that is genuinely self-giving. Good zeal is the spirit of the Risen Christ alive in one who believes and embraces the core elements of the Gospel.
Good zeal is what makes the Benedictine motto “ut in omnibus glorificetur Deus” (that in all things God may be glorified) possible. Good zeal expands our minds and hearts in subtle ways as we are emptied of self-seeking thoughts and behaviors. God’s good and loving will fills in the opened spaces and generates a spiritual energy capable of transforming ordinariness into Sacred Presence. The humble desire to glorify God in all things is all that is necessary. The rest is God’s work. This reminds us of Mary’s fiat, “may it be done in me according to your word,” and the Lord’s Prayer, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Good zeal is a reality that is very near to us, integral to life in Christ Jesus.
For our new website, we will be including some new voices of Sisters and Oblates in our regular blog posts. This will allow a rich tapestry to be woven over time. It will demonstrate and highlight good zeal as a cornerstone of the spiritual journey while also revealing its countless forms of manifestation in daily life. Some posts will be reflective in nature. Others will be educational. Some will highlight the lives of individual Sisters or particular aspects of a monastic vocation. But the underlying theme of good zeal will permeate throughout, encouraging, inspiring, and challenging us to become the best self that God desires for each of us.