Prayers, please, for Pete, surgery yesterday, and for Frances,
cataract surgery today, and for her daughter Ellen, who's helping her
out. God's will is best All is mercy and grace. Thanks so much! JL
April 2, August 2, December 2
Chapter 51: On Brethren Who Go Not Very Far Away
A Brother who is sent out on some business
and is expected to return to the monastery that same day
shall not presume to eat while he is out,
even if he is urgently requested to do so
by any person whomsoever,
unless he has permission from his Abbot.
And if he acts otherwise, let him be excommunicated.
Some of us may recall childhood playmates who were not allowed to eat
at our homes or anywhere else, just at their own home. I know I do.
Our family considered her family a bit strange, a bit over the top in
caution, but one thing was very clear. They were a VERY close-knit
family. OK, I have known lots of close-knit families that were not
weird, but let's look at the positive side here.
That girl's family had a high level of what sociologists term
liminality. The term is used often to describe Hasidic Jews and the
Old Order Amish. It is the degree of difference from the rest of the
world that is undertaken voluntarily and its effect is to heighten
the connectedness of the group in question, to strengthen bonds.
Even though he could not have named it that, maybe liminality is
something of what St. Benedict is aiming at in this chapter. Surely
we ARE meant to be communal, to be cenobitic families that are very
closely bonded to one another. Surely a meal is one way of both
stressing that bond and limiting outside competitive ones. There is
also the problem- greater in St. Benedict's day than in our own- of
the monastic dining on heaven knows what that was forbidden.
These days, far less is forbidden to us dietarily as monastics, but
there are still dangers of monastics being wined and dined and
getting far too accustomed to "only-the-best-for-me-thanks!" We are
certainly allowed to eat out, but I think that it is significant that
we are ordinarily forbidden to eat in expensive places or in people's
homes without permission.
That's just our custom here. In many ways, it is very good, too.
Remember that we usually go out in our habits. I sure don't mind
being seen in Taco Bell or some family restaurant in my habit, but I
would be woefully embarrassed and ashamed to be seen so attired in
the Cafe Budapest, said to be the most expensive restaurant in
Boston. What kind of a statement would that make?
So yeah, Father Bede and I have delightedly picked clean more than a
bone or two at Redbones, the Somerville pub with the most awesome
barbecue combo to be had in metro Boston, but also yeah, it was the
$8 lunch special, not a pricey evening a la carte! And we always knew
that our first home was our own refectory. The food may not be five
star, but it is home.
That's what we are called to remember in this chapter. Our homes are
sacred, whether Oblate or Abbot Primate, we live in the houses of
God. To His dwelling place, others must never be preferred. Ask me
where I'd like to eat my last meal and the answer would be right here
at home, even if our most culinarily-challenged monk were cooking
that day. (Names have been omitted to protect the guilty, but some
reading this will be able to fill in the blanks!!)
Love and prayers,