Prayers, please, for the repose of the souls of Lillian Rumsey and
Sister Eucharia. We prayed for the latter last week and she has gone
home to God, also for the health of Linda, undergoing stem cell
transplants for leukemia and for the health of Dolores McNeil. While
you're at it, say one for me: it's the 44th anniversary of my
Confirmation. NRN JL
January 22, May 23, September 22
Chapter 5: On Obedience
The first degree of humility is obedience without delay.
This is the virtue of those
who hold nothing dearer to them than Christ;
who, because of the holy service they have professed,
and the fear of hell,
and the glory of life everlasting,
as soon as anything has been ordered by the Superior,
receive it as a divine command
and cannot suffer any delay in executing it.
Of these the Lord says,
"As soon as he heard, he obeyed Me" (Ps. 17:45).
And again to teachers He says,
"He who hears you, hears Me" (Luke 10:16).
Such as these, therefore,
immediately leaving their own affairs
and forsaking their own will,
dropping the work they were engaged on
and leaving it unfinished,
with the ready step of obedience
follow up with their deeds the voice of him who commands.
And so as it were at the same moment
the master's command is given
and the disciple's work is completed,
the two things being speedily accomplished together
in the swiftness of the fear of God
by those who are moved
with the desire of attaining life everlasting.
That desire is their motive for choosing the narrow way,
of which the Lord says,
"Narrow is the way that leads to life" (Matt. 7:14),
not living according to their own choice
nor obeying their own desires and pleasures
but walking by another's judgment and command,
they dwell in monasteries and desire to have an Abbot over them.
Assuredly such as these are living up to that maxim of the Lord
in which He says,
"I have come not to do My own will,
but the will of Him who sent Me" (John 6:38).
Several of us were talking with a Brother with a charge who was
expressing his frustration that people did not do what he asked. He
had tried to be polite, but his requests were ignored or excuses were
given at every turn. He was clueless as to why this was happening and
honestly upset. Finally, another monk interrupted him with one of the
nicest remarks I have ever heard made to a monastic. He said: "Wait a
minute, Brother, you don't understand. You're not like other people,
you do what you are told without further argument. For most people
being told to do something is merely a point to begin negotiations."
Sad, but true! Bluntly put, obedience doesn't really work until it
messes with your life, until it disturbs you and stirs up your
complacent, settled smugness. It's rather like a light switch. The
bulb doesn't go on until someone throws the switch. The potential is
always there, but no switch, no light. Potential light alone is not
The same could be said of poverty or any other monastic discipline.
Poverty as a potential has few teeth, but wait until you win the
lottery. Stability is no problem until your parents die and the
family home could be yours or a dream job opens up a thousand miles
away. Chastity is a lot easier until you fall in love. (And trust me,
you will quite likely fall in love, at least once and maybe more
times than that!)
On Monastic Life list, we have been talking about the difference
between apathy and detachment. This chapter offers a prime example:
one leaves one's own affairs, drops whatever one was in the midst of
and forsakes one's own will. That's detachment. Apathy, on the other
hand, truly doesn't care one way or the other. There is no ascesis in
apathy, because all is equally indifferent. It is the lack of
indifference, it is, paradoxically, the level of personal attachment
that makes detachment work. Detachment is active, apathy is passive.
Apathy is the uncaring state, detachment is the active struggle
against undue caring and a LOT of caring in our lives is undue!
Satan hates monastic life, so different aspects will chafe different
people, that's her only hope of success. Obedience may not bother one
who goes off the deep end over chastity. Poverty may be a simple
cinch for one who can scarcely endure stability. Having said this, if
obedience is your thorn, any words I use to praise it will merely
annoy. I know, because praise for the "gift" of celibacy drive me
wild! But obedience- and celibacy- are deserving of praise. They work
and when we allow them to work, they lead to immense freedom.
Obedience was the victim of a lot of word play in the 60's and 70's.
One must hope it was all sincere, but it was often misguided.
Beloveds, if you call it "coordination" or "dialogue" or "consensus"
you run a terrible risk of referring to a light switch more or less
perpetually in the off position. Always be wary of euphemism, it can
be a harbinger that something is askew. Euphemisms often stem from a
chip on the shoulder and a chip on the shoulder usually means wood
higher up- in the cranial regions! When any of those euphemisms
actually work, actually intervene in one's life dramatically, they do
so as obedience, plain and simple. One might as well just call the
rose a rose!
Love and prayers,
St. Mary's Monastery Petersham, MA