No Security Outside of Family

In The Rule of Benedict Joan Chittister writes,

To be a member of a Roman family, the family whose structures Benedict understood, was to be under the religious, financial and disciplinary authority of the father until the father died, whatever the age of the children. To be disinherited by the father was to be stranded in a culture in which paid employment was looked down upon. To be punished by him was to lose all security of family, outside of which there was no security at all. To lose relationship with the father, then, was, literally, to lose one’s life.

Far from being unique to the 6th century Roman culture in which Benedict lived, this is how it was with virtually all pre-modern cultures in human history. Certainly it was true for the cultural provenance of the book of Ruth, in which Naomi loses not just her husband (Elimelech) but her two sons (Chilion and Mahron) as well.

It was also the case for the woman at Nain, whose story is narrated in Mark 9, and who, like Naomi, lost husband and son. And for St. Paul, who, for example, in Galatians 6 (and elsewhere) compares our life in Christ to being free children and heirs.

May it be today, then, that I live like the free son of God I am, resisting every yoke of slavery with which the world entices me.

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