Prayers, please, for Father Robert Hale, OSB Cam, on his 61st
birthday! Ad multos, multos annos, Roberto!
Prayers also for Claudia and her Dad, who is very close to death, and
for her sisters, who do not believe in an afterlife. Also, for Ian
and Dana and their family, a very tough time. God's will be done!
Thanks so much. NRN JL
April 21, August 21, December 21
Chapter 64: On Constituting an Abbess
Once she has been constituted,
let the Abbess always bear in mind
what a burden she has undertaken
and to whom she will have to give an account of her stewardship,
and let her know that her duty is rather to profit her sisters
than to preside over them.
She must therefore be learned in the divine law,
that she may have a treasure of knowledge
from which to bring forth new things and old.
She must be chaste, sober and merciful.
Let her exalt mercy above judgment,
that she herself may obtain mercy.
She should hate vices;
she should love the sisterhood.
In administering correction
she should act prudently and not go to excess,
lest in seeking too eagerly to scrape off the rust
she break the vessel.
Let her keep her own frailty ever before her eyes
and remember that the bruised reed must not be broken.
By this we do not mean that she should allow vices to grow;
on the contrary, as we have already said,
she should eradicate them prudently and with charity,
in the way which may seem best in each case.
Let her study rather to be loved than to be feared.
Let her not be excitable and worried,
nor exacting and headstrong,
nor jealous and over-suspicious;
for then she is never at rest.
In her commands let her be prudent and considerate;
and whether the work which she enjoins
concerns God or the world,
let her be discreet and moderate,
bearing in mind the discretion of holy Jacob, who said,
"If I cause my flocks to be overdriven,
they will all die in one day."
Taking this, then, and other examples of discretion,
the mother of virtues,
let her so temper all things
that the strong may have something to strive after,
and the weak may not fall back in dismay.
And especially let her keep this Rule in all its details,
so that after a good ministry
she may hear from the Lord what the good servant heard
who gave the fellow-servants wheat in due season:
"Indeed, I tell you, he will set that one over all his goods" (Matt.
Man, these chapters are a joy to read! Not a better way to call to
mind every slightest flaw in one's superior. They just do not measure
up to St. Benedict's ideal. No doubt, if we had people in authority
who did all this, we should all be better.... Ya-da, ya-da, ya-da...
Maybe yes, maybe no.
OK, now here's the real news, and I am afraid it is neither pretty
nor consoling: re-read the chapter and substitute "monastic" for
every time the word "abbess" occurs. Less than thrilling, right?
Make it worse, substitute any noun that refers to yourself or your
vocation. Try parent or teacher or nurse or supervisor. Whoops! The
whole process becomes stunningly less pleasant, doesn't it?
This one, like so many chapters on officials, is for all of us, not
just the Abbot. Nobody will ever measure up to this loftiness without
grace. While we are waiting for that grace to work, it may be useful
to remember how different people are. There will always be areas in
which you excel that another doesn't, there will always be those wwho
do better, those who do worse. What's common thread? No one is
perfect, no one can even come close without God's love and
Love and prayers,
Jerome Leo, OSB
St. Mary's Monastery Petersham, MA