I earned my undergraduate degree from a liberal arts school that was Christian. I liked it. It encouraged students to view the world and act in a holistic way. How does faith influence your business ethics? How does faith influence your understanding of the importance of the environment? How does a person’s faith influence political action? We wrestled with a lot of questions like that. One of my favorite courses was called Spiritual Pilgrims. The course encouraged a lot of practices and traditions that at the time were largely lost in the modern West. For example, we explored practices found in monastic life. (In the last ten years, we as a culture are paying more attention to mindfulness, whole living, and silence.) John McQuiston’s Always We Begin Again is one of the texts we used for the class. After a recent moved, I stumbled upon my copy and reread it to see what popped out in this different season of my life.
McQuiston was a commercial lawyer who was frustrated at how little his faith impacted his life. It didn’t make him better or worse – it didn’t seem to do anything. A friend acquainted him with the Rule of St. Benedict, which is basically a set of rules or principles for monastic life. The Rule was written in the sixth century. McQuiston “translated” the rules for modern times and the result is Always We Begin Again. It is not meant to be a phrase-for-phrase translation, but rather to fit the spirit of the original. It is not meant solely for adherents to any certain faith or religion. McQuiston’s book provides insight on virtues and practices like humility (key to the book), stewardship, and community. McQuiston also includes some sample meditations/prayers/thoughts, a sample schedule that incorporates the principles in the book, and a section of relevant quotes from other authors and texts.
The book is small in size and small in page count – my version has fewer than 100 pages. However, each sentence is profound. Here are three of my favorite passages about finding meaning not in one’s perceived desires of the moment, but in service to others:
“If you want to live the life that only you can live, do good for others, and when you have done good, you will have life abundantly.”
“It is a supreme transgression against one’s nature to lead a life that is unfaithful to one’s own best character. Accordingly, once the correct path is chosen, no departure from that course should be tolerated, for one would, in such a case, be doing a great wrong.”
“We must prefer nothing to the art of caring for others.”