The Family: A School of Sanctity
In the Rule of St. Benedict, he describes the monastery as a “school of sanctity.” When we think of a school, we have the concepts of teacher, student, and knowledge, which is passed on to the student. In spite of the very clear hierarchy established amongst the members of the monastery and the many teachers found amongst the monks, the only true teacher is Our Lord Jesus Christ. He teaches the monks sanctity, the only subject worth learning. In the Gloria in excelsis Deo…, we chant “… Tu solus Sanctus…” Jesus is therefore the only one that possesses sanctity and the only one capable of teaching that subject. Our Holy Mother the Church is like the mother of a family that teaches all of her children about the life of Jesus. Her main goal is to form in each one of us another Christ and to direct the steps of our life towards Him. The more we learn about the person of Christ, the more He sanctifies us. Whether we belong to the monastic family or to the Catholic family that forms our parishes, Our Lord is the one who communicates life, through the Church, to every family.
Christ has two ways of living on earth: the first was visible, when he historically lived amongst us 2,000 years ago, walking through Judea; the second is mysteriously invisible as He prolongs His life in the members of His Mystical Body, the Church. His visible life was completely turned towards this invisible life of grace, hidden like leaven in the depths of souls. He openly spoke of His upcoming passion and death as the means of granting us life. When His historical presence came to an end by His death on the Cross, His spiritual life of grace was beginning in the depths of souls. In a certain way, all that is found in His teaching foretells His death, which was the beginning of the life of the Church. His death on the Cross was the means He chose to penetrate our souls with the grace of His life. We are called upon to prolong the life of Christ by permitting Him to live His life within us. In order to accomplish this goal we must participate in His death by letting our “old man,” inclined to sin, die. When we read the gospels, we find Our Lord continually teaching us about the Kingdom of Heaven found within us. We are taught to fast, give alms, and pray in secret, where only the heavenly Father will see and reward His children. Like a treasure hidden in a field, Christ is hidden in our minds and hearts, dwelling mysteriously in us, living His life through our life, and sanctifying us daily.
Christ among the Doctors, c. 1560, by Paolo Veronese
Jesus continues to belong mysteriously to the history of this world, not in the same way as He did 2,000 years ago, but by living the lives of the members of His Church by means of His grace. Throughout the span of history, upon every continent, at every social level, He lives by grace in the secret of the hearts of men that are united to Him. He continues to teach His truth by the mouths of His faithful bishops, priests, catechism teachers, and mothers of families. He continues to pray through the desires of every baptized soul that truly seeks His kingdom. He continues to be victorious over the temptations of the devil in the faithful souls that cooperate with His grace to reject the suggestions of the enemy of mankind. He mystically continues to suffer and die in the souls of those persecuted Christians in the Middle East and across the globe. His life is mysteriously prolonged by the lives of today’s Catholics living in the state of grace. Every virtue or good work accomplished by the human soul is, in fact, an act accomplished by Our Lord Himself. “You can do nothing without me.”
St. Benedict calls the monastery a school of sanctity, which could be applied to the Catholic family as well as to the entire Church. Our Lord is the only man that is in Himself holy, He is therefore, the only one capable of teaching this subject. In His divine wisdom, He desires that man become the instrument of communicating grace to his fellow man. He has given the power and obligation of teaching to the members of the Church. The bishops and priests have a very grave duty to teach the truth to the souls hungering for God, but this duty is not exclusively reserved to them. The parents are the first educators of their children. They too must know the necessary doctrine and give the example of a moral life as a means of transmitting eternal life to their souls. Their family must also become a school of sanctity.