Prayers, please, for John, colonoscopy on Monday, a regular checkup, but John had colon surgery in the recent past, so prayers are in order! Prayers for Tom, a good acupuncturist who treats a lot of HIV folks for free. Prayers of Deo gratias: Chris, homeless, for whom we prayed, went missing and has been found. Prayers for the happy death and eternal rest of Carmelita and Susan. Lord, help them 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 6, August 6, December 6
Chapter 54: Whether a Monastic Should Receive Letters or Anything Else
On no account shall a monastic be allowed
to receive letters, blessed tokens or any little gift whatsoever
from parents or anyone else,
or from her sisters,
or to give the same,
without the Abbess's permission.
But if anything is sent her even by her parents,
let her not presume to take it
before it has been shown to the Abbess.
And it shall be in the Abbess's power to decide
to whom it shall be given,
if she allows it to be received;
and the sister to whom it was sent should not be grieved,
lest occasion be given to the devil.
Should anyone presume to act otherwise,
let her undergo the discipline of the Rule.
Community, even in its Latin roots ( "com" meaning with and "unitas" meaning
unity,) is fully dependent upon unity. Do anything to threaten or destroy
that unity and you have threatened or destroyed the community itself. For this
reason, St. Benedict goes out of his way to explain why some exceptions must
be made on account of infirmity or weakness and also expressly forbids other
forms of favoritism. This chapter is a prime example of the Holy Rule giving
firm and adamant instructions about inequality.
St. Benedict has already made it clear that monastics are to be given
everything they need, truly need. He has even made some provision for those
whose weakness makes further consideration necessary. Remember, our Benedictine
poverty is based on lack of excess, not extreme want. If, through violating the
principles in this chapter, excess is allowed to creep in for a few, it will
result in hard feelings, jealousies and other unlovely traits that will strike
at the heart of common unity.
Such excess also damages the individual monastic receiving it. The
monastic struggle is stymied if one enters rich and, thanks to his
family, remains so, or if one enters poor and latches onto a
benefactor whose gifts make one rich by comparison. Just as oxygen is
necessary for fire, so is a certain equality necessary for community. We need
that community, because, as Benedictines, it is our way to God. We dare not
threaten it with "Animal Farm" adaptations that find us saying that "some
monastics are more equal than others."
What can Oblates glean here? Well, what about our attitudes towards
classism and the world at large? How smugly indifferent dare we be
about anyone in abject poverty, about any system or government that
keeps people in such dire straits? How do we assess our own economic
position in regards to sharing? How much above others do we allow ourselves to
be economically, socially? There are a wealth of deep questions here, and a
wealth of troubling answers in the unjust inequalities that abound in human
society when it is unaided by grace.
One aside to close. We ask permission before giving things to one
another and then tell the recipient we have permission, so that they needn't
ask again to keep the item. Shortly after I arrived here, the cellaress of
the Sisters' community gave me a postcard of Canada geese, because she knew I
liked them. This woman, who could by assigned charge move large sums of money
back and forth, approached me with the card and said: "I have permission to
give you this." I was impressed. It may seem silly to some, but I was truly
Love and prayers,
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