It is amazing to hear and read Christian people spending so much time talking about Nutrition, which has become an idol of modern society. It’s a giant mystery, endlessly made darker and more complex by the scientists who act as if they actually have things figured out.
Why don’t Christians listen to St. Benedict’s teaching about what to eat and drink, and when? Why are the scientists given more attention than the saints?
It’s easy to see why once we read what he taught. That is the reason no one wants to listen to him! He taught that, for most of the year, Christians should eat one meal per day. He taught that a pound of bread and a selection of several dishes at that meal, with about 10 oz. of wine was satisfactory for health and work. Of course, if heavy manual labor was being done (i.e., agriculture, not office work) a second “supper” might be added if needed. He said that whenever the gardens provided fresh vegetables or fruits, they could be added to the table. He said that the meat of four footed animals should be abstained from.
There, that’s that. His recommendations became the norm for Christian society for the next 1000 years–until the scientists set out to correct his silly, uninformed errors. 500 years later, we are plagued with obesity, overeating diseases, and sexual immorality–all of which St. Benedict explained how to avoid.
The automatic answer from modern Christians is: “He was recommending a rule for monks”, but this is misleading. Today, the word “monk” refers to a member of a formal religious order. In 500 AD, there were no formal religious orders, but simply communities made up of Christians who volunteered to live according to a rule of life. The 17th century French bishop Bossuet said it was, “an epitome of Christianity, a learned and mysterious abridgement of all the doctrines of the Gospel, all the institutions of the Church Fathers, and all the Counsels of Perfection.”. It was not, therefore, meant to be a rule for men who were living in established religious orders, but for men–and women–who wanted to begin living according to the Gospel.
I say “begin” because St. Benedict’s rule was not intended to raise the bar of Christian self-discipline. St. Benedict’s rules were lenient and generous, intended, as he says:
“Whoever you are, therefore, who are hastening to the heavenly homeland, fulfill with the help of Christ this minimum Rule which we have written for beginners.”
Therefore, let us not kid ourselves with excuses about how impossibly strict the rule of St. Benedict is, but accuse ourselves of how ridiculously loose our lives have become. What is necessary for us in regard to food and drink is not mysterious, but simple. St. Benedict has assured us of such and calls us to give our attention to “the one thing necessary”.