March 7, July 7, November 6
Chapter 30: How Boys Are to Be Corrected
Every age and degree of understanding
should have its proper measure of discipline.
With regard to boys and adolescents, therefore,
or those who cannot understand the seriousness
of the penalty of excommunication,
whenever such as these are deliquent
let them be subjected to severe fasts
or brought to terms by harsh beatings,
that they may be cured.
Please, folks, always be very careful to read the Holy Rule for the
ancient document it is. People who read this (and a few other
passages!) with 21st century ideas go right through the roof. We must
read in the context of history. Remember, too, that about 50 years
ago, beating children into compliance was still rather warmly thought
of as an approach. In the Rule, as in so many other things, we must
be careful of the mistake that looks critically back with the lens of
Actually, there is a much wider lesson in such attempts to read
things in context. Our own age can be terribly proud and
chauvinistic. We can think, as the Broadway tune affirms, that we
have "gone about as far as we can go" in terms of getting things
right. We can think we are the acme and zenith. Sigh....
Beloveds, if this is the acme, I will hate like hell to see the
decline. If this is the springtime, what must the winter be? Face it,
folks, not only is our own day not as hot as we might wish it were,
but many ages before us thought exactly the same things! And we look
back on them with scorn!
An example here. A friend of mine once ripped out at Leo XIII's
landmark social justice encyclical, "Rerum Novarum", for not using
inclusive language. Hello? It was written in the very late 19th
century, in Latin yet, (which is inclusive,) and no one at all that I
know of had any widespread concept of inclusive language at the time.
Such concerns were about 85 years away in time. It was a great
document of its time. It is a mistake to judge any such writing as a
document of OUR time. If we forget that, we cheat ourselves out of
the ineffable wisdom that the Holy Rule and many other ancient
Love and prayers,
St. Mary's Monastery Petersham, MA