Prayers, please, for the spiritual, mental and physical health of the following, for all who love them and all who take care of them:
Anthony and his wife, she is having surgery this Wednesday.
Craig, caught up in a very unfair lawsuit and now being smeared with lies but the other side in mediation, for the truth to triumph in this whole sad affair.
Lord, help us all as
You know and will. God's will is best. All is mercy and grace. God is never
absent, praise Him! Thanks so much. JL
April 7, August 7, December 7
Chapter 55: On the Clothes and Shoes of the Brethren
Let clothing be given to the brethren
according to the nature of the place in which they dwell
and its climate;
for in cold regions more will be needed,
and in warm regions less.
This is to be taken into consideration, therefore, by the Abbot.
We believe, however, that in ordinary places
the following dress is sufficient for each monk:
a cowl (thick and woolly for winter, thin or worn for summer),
a scapular for work,
stockings and shoes to cover the feet.
The monks should not complain
about the color or the coarseness of any of these things,
but be content with what can be found
in the district where they live and
can be purchased cheaply.
The Abbot shall see to the size of the garments,
that they be not too short for those who wear them,
but of the proper fit.
Let those who receive new clothes
always give back the old ones at once,
to be put away in the wardrobe for the poor.
For it is sufficient if a monk has two tunics and two cowls,
to allow for night wear and for the washing of these garments;
more than that is superfluity and should be taken away.
Let them return their stockings also and anything else that is old
when they receive new ones.
Those who are sent on a journey
shall receive drawers from the wardrobe,
which they shall wash and restore on their return.
And let their cowls and tunics be somewhat better
than what they usually wear.
These they shall receive from the wardrobe
when they set out on a journey,
and restore when they return.
I have heard US religious women speak of formerly
being "incarcerated" in the habit. Knowing the rules of more than a
few communities, I have no doubt that is true. I find that terribly,
immoderately non-Benedictine, way out of balance.
However, and this is certain to displease some, I find the usual
response of US Benedictine women to this problem to be equally
extreme and unwise. The best answer to too much habit is not no habit
at all, nor do I think that would be the moderate response to which
Benedictine hearts would most naturally incline.
Having said that, and underscoring that I am not incarcerated in the
habit, nor do I wish anyone else to be, let me embark on something
more than just a hymn of praise for the habit. It will, trust me, be
very much more of a love song.
My habit is not ALL of me, would that it were! I could greatly profit
from being ALL monk, but it is a large part of me. I have kissed
every piece while donning or doffing it, every single time for over
thirteen years now. I can assure you that those kisses are sincere, not
mindless. I love it deeply and the sense of privilege in wearing it
has never left me.
The habit doesn't advertise ME to the world, I would be
the first to tell you that would hardly be worthwhile or honest.
It DOES advertise my Benedictine heritage to the world and of that, I
am very, very proud, for that I am very, very grateful. I am no icon
of holiness, but our habit is. I am an icon-bearer and that is a
lofty thing, a humbling thing and yet a thing greatly desirable.
Ironically, I spend more time in secular work clothes than any of my
brothers here, though I am in habit, even in public, in Athol and
Boston, a lot more than would be usual in other US houses. Our custom
is to wear the habit everywhere. My brothers, for the most part, just
plain live in the habit, never taking it off, except to paint or do
heavy gardening. Being particularly susceptible to heat, I often
admire them in summer, when heat knocks me out and leaves me in
civvies most of the time I am not in choir or refectory! There IS a
penitential side to the habit, never miss that, though I often fail
on that count.
People have come to me in Boston really needing help who never,
ever would have dared approach me in an Oxford cloth button down
shirt, in the preppy style of lay clothes I admittedly love. Wouldn't
have happened. Couldn't have happened.
One of those people is dead now, gone to heaven a new Oblate, a
homebound and nearly blind woman in a wheelchair. She was sunning
herself in her wheelchair, outside her apartment in East Boston and
still had enough eyesight to recognize the habit and call out as I
walked by. Thank God I had my habit on that day! She became one of
our Communities greatest treasures. I got delegated to invest her as
an Oblate in her own apartment and she went to God BEFORE she could
make her Final Oblation. She made that in heaven. What a gift Teresa
was- and is- to us!
I could go on and on. There was a terribly sincere man on the Boston
Common whose question had just gotten dumped on by an insensitive
priest. He would never have known me otherwise. There was the
European woman who spoke very little English and felt safer asking a
monk for directions.
And yeah, the habit attracts drunks like a magnet, and no, that is
not often easy, but yes, it has sometimes edified other people on the
subway to watch me endure them with as much grace as I can muster. I
have OFTEN noticed empathetic eyes around me when someone chooses to
loudly and publicly dump all their bad experiences (or questions!)
of a Catholic past on me.
I would be the first to say that, wearing the habit, I do invite
that, even, to a certain extent, deserve it. I represent a flawed,
human Church, warts and all. I have many of my own, but I have often
had to answer for the Church's as well. That is as it should be!
I love the look of the habit on my brothers and my sisters. Each one
seems to wear it just a little differently. I am always put off by
groups that look so identical they could pass the most stringent
Marine inspection! Even in the old days when my Dominican teachers
were fully habited, I could always tell which was which from behind
by the different ways their veils fell.
There is, to me at least, great beauty in the habit, on others and
even on myself. Every now and then I am caught off guard by my own
reflection in a window or by my shadow and have to remind
myself: "That monk you see is YOU." Well, a little bit of him is and
I'm working on the rest, but it still never fails to alarm me, every
In choir, as no place else, does the habit sing to me. Our cowls
(cucullas to some of you,) are voluminous garments of prayer, mini-
enclosures, formal attire of serious business and great holiness. How
deeply proud I am to wear one. Whatever other choices others may have
taken about the habit, I honestly pity any of them without a choir
garment. It is a treasure of unity and joy.
I am, believe me, all too different from my brothers and sisters in
too many respects. (I'm working on that, too.) Our cowls, however,
cover all those things, no matter how briefly, and we are one in
heart and prayer and garb. It lends a dignity that the Office truly
deserves, and yes, I have said Office elsewhere in lay clothes,
plenty of times. Here, I would not be allowed to go to choir that way
and I am glad of it.
I am not judging others' options, but I wish real options were what
had everywhere happened. If you want to wear the habit, go for it, if
not, don't. Unfortunately, we have often split, house by house, into
two differing camps of "you must." That's too bad. And, to be always
and everywhere without the habit? I could never stand that, and I
know many who are still lay people for the same reason.
Love and prayers,
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