Holy Rule for March 31
Prayers, please, for Mrs. C., Pat's Mom, in ICU after a fall and a cardiac arrest, on a ventilator, and for all her family. Many tests are normal, uncertain what happened to her. For God's best will here! Prayers for Steve, hoping to avoid spinal surgery for a ruptured disc, for Valerie, in a nursing home and rapidly declining after the death of a friend. Prayers for discernment for Ruth, a promotion has many pluses and minuses, including less family time, and for Jane, also discerning about taking a job which would change things quite radically for her, test for that job today. Prayers for Sylvia, trying to take her Mom and her children back to her Mom's homeland, Germany, for a visit and encountering lots of obstacles. Lord, help them as You know and will. God's will is best. All is mercy and grace. God is never absent. Alleluia! Thanks so much. JL
March 31, July 31, November 30
Chapter 49: On the Observance of Lent
Although the life of a monk
ought to have about it at all times
the character of a Lenten observance,
yet since few have the virtue for that,
we therefore urge that during the actual days of Lent
the brethren keep their lives most pure
and at the same time wash away during these holy days
all the negligences of other times.
And this will be worthily done
if we restrain ourselves from all vices
and give ourselves up to prayer with tears,
to reading, to compunction of heart and to abstinence.
During these days, therefore,
let us increase somewhat the usual burden of our service,
as by private prayers and by abstinence in food and drink.
Thus everyone of his own will may offer God
"with joy of the Holy Spirit" (1 Thess. 1:6)
something above the measure required of him.
From his body, that is
he may withhold some food, drink, sleep, talking and jesting;
and with the joy of spiritual desire
he may look forward to holy Easter.
Let each one, however, suggest to his Abbot
what it is that he wants to offer,
and let it be done with his blessing and approval.
For anything done without the permission of the spiritual father
will be imputed to presumption and vainglory
and will merit no reward.
Therefore let everything be done with the Abbot's approval.
St. Benedict uses the term "ought" to express the fact that a
monastic life is, by rights, one full-time Lent. Though "ought"
and "should" are commonly used as identical terms these days, they
are not synonymous. "Should" expresses a wish, "I should like some
coffee." "Ought" expresses a moral issue or obligation, "We ought to
help that woman."
In his use of the stronger, moral term, St. Benedict acknowledges
that a monastic's life is truly an obligation to a perpetual Lent.
Then he goes on to make one of his most sweepingly gentle and kind
allowances for human nature: "yet, since few have the virtue for
that..." The beauty of his adaptation is often lost, people quoting
only the first line of the chapter, reading it as pointing to a Lent
that never ends. Slangily put, what our holy Father is saying here
is: "OK, in a real world, monastics ought to live Lent all the time,
but since few of us can pull that off, let's shoot for pouring it all
on during Lent itself." That's a very different sentiment!
Benedictines have been known for many things, but harsh, physical
austerity, especially during the last several centuries, has not been
one of them. Sometimes in the past I think that has given some of us
a slight inferiority complex, since the world tends to rank Orders in
terms of their strictness, wrongly assuming that monastic life is
some kind of Olympics of penance. Happy the Benedictine who has no
such hang-ups! We are moderate and gentle, therein is our strength.
We are not the elite special forces of the Church nor do we pretend
to be. We leave the superstar status claims firmly alone. Quietly, we
know with surety that the local also-rans of the Church often do just
as well as any others, without all the fanfare! There is a certain
humility in our not even wishing to get involved in that "stricter-
than-thou" business. It is futile in more ways than one; even if we
could win it, it would not be valid. The Christian monastic's life is
not about trophies in harshness.
So, yeah, we balance, always balance. We moderate. That is our gift
from our Father Benedict. Enjoy that to the full, dear brothers and
sisters. We belong to a gentle and loving family!
Love and prayers,
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