St. Monica, Archdiocese of Indianapolis
In the USCCB’s pastoral plan for ministry of young adults, “Sons and Daughters of the Light,” the opening three paragraphs speak to the rich diversity of young adults. They are in their twenties and thirties, are single, married, divorced, widowed, with children, in rural and urban areas with jobs and in school; they come from all over the world and have been brought up in the same town their entire lives. Young adults are recent converts, cradle-Catholics, discerners, skeptics and lukewarm Christians. The irony of the “definition” of young adults is that in an attempt to describe the category, there is a discovery of the great diversity it contains. The quest to define “young adults” yields unexpected results; instead of narrowing down the nature and needs of this population, a great diversity and undefinable quality is discovered.
In recent years, the United States church has taken great strides toward developing a proper ministry to this wide cross-section of the church. Dynamic programs have sprung up to meet the growing and changing needs of young adults, leadership roles have been offered to those desiring to serve the church, and “parish regulars” are becoming more willing to “turn over” roles of leadership to young adults.
With this in mind, the great challenge of young adult ministry, in all its rich diversity, lies in the rapid, unpredictable life of each young adult. As many are young professionals or newly married, the consistency of their day-to-day routine is seldom found. Late hours, intense school work and the prospect of young children of their own often dictate the life of these young adults. Therefore, developing parish programs to meet the individualized needs of these young adults is not without difficulty.
Perhaps because of this lack of stability and unpredictability in the life of these young adults, it is unsurprising that the two most desired things for this demographic are, as mentioned in the Basic Guide to Young Adult Ministry, “intimacy – to be loved and have others to love…[and] community(church related or not) that share their values and interests.”
Therefore, the purpose of this article is to introduce young adults to an outlet to meet these deep desires. This article does not propose to be an end in itself, but rather an introduction to a communal, spiritual life that will draw young adults together, bound in common through a regular and intimate life of prayer. 
Introducing the Rule
The life of the young adult is anything but stable. From undergraduate programs, to master’s degrees, to first, second and third jobs, the average young adult might find him or herself in four or five different cities in the span of just a few years. Circles of friends, daily routines and communities are in regular flux. From the surface, it might seem impossible to develop any stability at all.
In the search for any regular form of spiritual life, the young adult would do well to take the Rule of St. Benedict to heart. Without knowing the story or context of Benedict’s Rule, many a young adult might hear the “Rule of St. Benedict” and stumble at the word, “rule.” With such a demanding work schedule, the last thing any socially adjusted twenty-something might need is another set of rules. That being said, this Rule was developed to be a “living guide to the spiritual journey and to community living, rather than a legal document.” Indeed, the community of Benedict, itself, and the rule, were first developed for beginners to the monastic life.
In her own reflection on the Rule of St. Benedict, Esther de Waal describes the Rule and the vows taken in conjunction with it as meeting very basic needs of the human condition. “They are not, as they might seem at first glance, about negation, restriction and limitation,” but rather “they are based on a commitment which is both total and continuing…the paradox is that they bring freedom.” 
As a young adult, in the midst of regular chaos and instability, the Rule of St. Benedict provides a means for stability (on a human level), a common purpose (on the communal level) and an avenue toward a deeper and more intimate relationship with God (on the spiritual level).
Listen carefully, my child, to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart. This is advice from a father who loves you; welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice. The labor of obedience will bring you back to him from whom you had drifted through the sloth of disobedience. This message of mine is for you, then, if you are ready to give up your own will, once and for all, and armed with the strong and noble weapons of obedience to do battle for the true King, Christ the Lord.
As a young adult in just as many transitions as described throughout Young Adult pastoral literature, the stability of the Rule is certainly attractive. Yet, as mentioned above, the “rule” language does cause some hesitancy. In reading and reflecting on Benedict’s prologue, though, I am struck by the tenderness that runs through the text. Benedict is not looking to levy a cruel code of conduct as the holy disciplinarian, but rather seeks to lay a foundation of prayer and consistency, much in the same way a father would.
Benedict invites us to listen. He invites us to listen to the advice he shares, to the message of the community and the prayer that is formed through monastic life. It is important to note that he does not say “do” or “you must” but rather “listen.” The end of a Benedictine spirituality is not a long list of tasks and goals, but rather an open heart – one that will beat with the constancy of prayer found in union with Jesus.
As a young adult, the invitation to “listen” may, in fact, be more difficult to take to heart than the “rule.” While many a young adult might be adverse to yet another rule, their jobs, school, home, taxes and commutes are all filled with rules. There are rules for conversations and rules for walking. There are rules for dressing, for singing for playing sports and for cooking. Rules are not uncommon to young adults. Listening, however, is a different story. The chaotic daily life of young adults is filled with noise: music, instruction, to-do lists, lectures, meetings and emails. It might seem that we are listening constantly to the noise that hums throughout our day, but the listening that Benedict invites us to must not pierce the silence but rather by enveloped by it. Benedict’s invitation to listen cannot be fulfilled in this noise. We are not called to listen in the silence, but rather to the silence, itself.
In Esther de Waal’s reflection on the Rule, she sees his invitation to stability as necessary for “planting roots” and “growing an identity.” In the life of a young adult, the discovery and manifestation of identity is critical. In this rapid search for identity, though, young adults often find themselves scurrying between post-graduate service fairs, volunteer drives, career centers, pilgrimages, vacations, study tours and intense retreats. The irony in all of this is that in the frantic search for identity, the young adult has no time or consistency to plant any roots. Like a farmer who constantly uproots his crop upon “discovering” better soil, such young adults are never given time to grow into themselves.
“For it is impossible to say, ‘who am I?’ without first asking, “where am I?” The Rule of St. Benedict provides the stability needed to begin to answer these questions. Moreover, the Rule is not relegated to a lofty idealist pursuit of identity, but is grounded in the realistic quest for basic human needs. Indeed, Benedict, himself recognizes human need and human nature and in the context of his Rule encourages his brothers to follow these rules only to the best of their ability.
As Sons and Daughters of the Light and The Basic Guide to Young Adult Ministry both point out, young adults commonly desire to surround themselves with people who share their values and position in life. By living in a “community,” I have been given a concrete outlet to this desire. That being said, I know that most young adults are not afforded this opportunity; their search for authentic community is often hampered by working hours and domestic responsibilities.
Practicing the Rule on an individual basis will certainly develop a practice of stability in the life of a young adult, but abiding by it in a “community” – even in the loosest sense of the term – will deepen the roots that have already been planted. Throughout the Rule, Benedict constantly encourages his fellow monks to practice sincere hospitality and charity. Through the prayers and “rules” found throughout St. Benedict’s Rule, young adults may be able to develop a sense of community in relation to those with whom they come in to contact with every day. Though not sharing a living space, many young adults will have regular co-workers or colleagues. Therefore, the practice of seeing Christ in such people, bearing with them, and enduring in patience might lead a young adult to a deeper connection and “communal” relationship with Jesus, himself.
Throughout the Rule, Benedict makes constant mention of the office of prayer, and the sacred reading that should be done by the brothers. As De Waal describes in her commentary on the Rule, the practice of Lectio Divina  played a central role in the life of St. Benedict and in the context of his Rule. Encouraged to take a word from their reading with them throughout their work, the monks allow prayer to be the heart beat and rhythm of their days.
In the life of a young adult, where work (in the school or office) dictates most of the day, a great beauty can be discovered in allowing prayer to run throughout the entire day. Instead of compartmentalizing work, home and prayer, the Rule of St. Benedict invites young adults to turn the work they do into an avenue for prayer. While Benedict might not have seen the work itself as anything extraordinary, he did see the occasion for work as an occasion for prayer. Therefore, as a young adult praying with the Rule, one might be encouraged to take a word or phrase from Morning Prayer and mull it over throughout the day, perhaps returning to the source again at lunch, or a coffee break and continuing to ruminate on the message throughout the day. The Rule, itself, even encourages those monks working away from the monastery to take the Rule with them, and continue to have prayer flow through their day.
Living the Rule
This brief reflection on the Rule of St. Benedict is not supposed to be an end in itself, but rather seeks to function as a guide, that is, as something that points the reader to the source. To truly pray with the Rule, young adults are encouraged to read and apply the Rule to their own individual circumstances. As the Rule was intended to be a realistic guide for beginners, young adults should continue to treat it as such. Instead of seeking an earth-shattering, life changing moment in life, the Rule should be allowed to slowly transform the life of a young adult so that he or she is slowly brought into a deeper relationship with Jesus.
 Cusick, DeVries, 17-18
 For the purposes of this project, only Benedictine spirituality will be introduced. Had this been developed into a full guide, a variety of other popular prayer styles (Ignatian, Lectio, etc would have been introduced as well).
 Rule of St. Benedict, v. 1-3
 SDL, 9; Cusick, DeVries, 18
 Had this been developed into a full textual guide, the reader would be directed to a section on Lectio Divina in the life of a young adult.
 De Waal, 1995, 123-4; RB 48.11
 De Waal 1995, 132; RB 50.4
Cusick, John and Devries, Katherine, The Basic Guide to Young Adult Ministry. Orbis Books: Maryknoll, NY, 2001.
De Waal, Esther. A Life-Giving Way: A Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict. Liturgical Press: Collegeville, MN, 1995.
De Waal, Esther. Seeking God. Liturgical Press: Collegeville, MN, 1984.
National Conference of Catholic Bishops. Bishops’ Committee on the Laity, Sons and Daughters of the Light: A Pastoral Plan for Young Adult Ministry. USCCB: Washington, D.C., 1997.
Saint Benedict, ed. by Timothy Fry. The Rule of Saint Benedict. Liturgical Press: Collegeville, MN, 1992.
Swan, Laura. Engaging Benedict: What the Rule Can Teach Us Today. Ave Maria Press: Notre Dame, IN, 2005