NOW the Reading....I clicked send too fast...
January 20, May 21, September 20
Chapter 4: What Are the Instruments of Good Works
To fear the Day of Judgment.
To be in dread of hell.
To desire eternal life with all the passion of the spirit.
To keep death daily before one's eyes.
To keep constant guard over the actions of one's life.
To know for certain that God sees one everywhere.
When evil thoughts come into one's heart, to dash them against Christ
And to manifest them to one's spiritual mother.
To guard one's tongue against evil and depraved speech.
Not to love much talking.
Not to speak useless words or words that move to laughter.
Not to love much or boisterous laughter.
To listen willingly to holy reading.
To devote oneself frequently to prayer.
Daily in one's prayers, with tears and sighs, to confess one's past
sins to God, and to amend them for the future.
Not to fulfill the desires of the flesh; to hate one's own will.
To obey in all things the commands of the Abbess, even though she
herself (which God forbid) should act otherwise, mindful of the
Lord's precept, "Do what they say, but not what they do."
Not to wish to be called holy before one is holy; but first to be
holy, that one may be truly so called.
Why manifest one's evil thoughts to a spiritual mother or father?
Heavens, most in communions that practice Confession have trouble
enough stammering out our sins with a generic mention of evil
thoughts, let alone a detailed description of them!
By the time he wrote this, St. Benedict had no doubt listened to a
LOT of monastics' confess their evil thoughts. He knew the carefree,
breezy generalities of those who lacked depth and he also knew the
excruciating details of the scrupulous, who had too much depth! What
he must have had to listen to in those years! Why on earth would he
recommend a practice so difficult for both the father and the
Because it works, as AA and other Twelve Step members could readily
tell you. It offers an outside, objective opinion, a more impartial
estimation of one's progress or lack thereof and a chance to give
pertinent advice in the struggle. You can also get a fairly good
barometer of where a person's struggles are focused by knowing where
she is tempted. Satan does not waste time and effort, he does not
duplicate services. If you are doing a wonderful job of running
yourself to hell on a rail in a given area, you can be pretty sure
he'll leave you alone. Remember, there are the world and the flesh to
help him out. He delegates to one or the other!
Some of our evil thoughts DO come from us, and these may be very
informative, but others do not, and these also, give a better picture
of where we actually are. Real assaults of Satan that are terribly
noticeable usually come at a time when we are progressing. (Of
course, there are subtle ones day in, day out, but the biggies
usually mean we're doing SOMETHING right!)
AA knew they were offering a spiritual program of recovery to people
from all faiths, as well as to people of no religious background.
They knew some Churches had one-on-one confession, others did not, so
they included it in the 12 steps, stating that each must make known
to oneself, to God AND to another "the exact nature" of their wrongs.
Heavy stuff, there, but why?
Because God, wonderful though He is, often seems not talk back, or if
He does, to speak indirectly in ways that many of us miss. Because we
cannot tell from our own inventory what another person can tell us
about ourselves: we're too close to the subject to be objective!
AA just requires a one-time shot, what Catholics would call
a "general Confession" of all one's past sins. Many people dread it,
but I have never heard anyone come away from the experience without
praise for it. What a weight was lifted from them! Our fears and
shame are so terrible when they are horrible secrets to us alone.
They paralyze us, wholly or partially, but they ALWAYS impede us.
Break that panicky isolation, tell the worst and find that your
listener has at least not dropped dead of shock and you are on the
way to learning something wonderfully necessary. None of us are
hopeless, none of us are unlovable (or unloved!)
Especially when we are in the beginnings of monastic life or
recovery, we can look at others and think they have non-stick, Teflon
souls, that we are the horrible ones. There's a certain perverted
form of pride going on that tells us no one could be as wicked as we
have been. Not true at all! (Sinful pride, perverted or otherwise, never is true!)
It is inestimably wonderful to find that out. If we fail to hear that
message, many would succumb to the devil's tool which is far more
effective than many: discouragement. We would sigh and walk away.
For all of our Oblates who come from Christian traditions that do not
practice individual confession, I recommend it- so does St. Benedict!
If AA members can feel so freed and cleansed and uplifted by one
shot, think what a regular dose of such reality could do for one!
A word of caution, however, for those to whom such confession is new.
AA does not recommend that you spill your sins out to just anyone.
It can take time to find the right person. I firmly believe in the
sacrament of Confession, yet there are priests I would never dream of
confessing to unless I was really at death's door or had no other choice!
I often like to walk into a large church and just ask the Holy Spirit to send me the
right priest. This can be a bit of a lottery, but it has worked well
for me. On the other hand, just because one's local pastor is local
does NOT make him or her an automatic great choice. Follow your heart
and ask God to guide you!
Love and prayers,
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