Holy Rule for August 7
Prayers, please for Claude, struggling to quit smoking, for Stavri, dealing with addiction and in a program to help himself, for Danny, struck by an SUV, whom we prayed for previously, he is still in a coma, but his eyelids are fluttering. His family are hopeful and thank all for their prayers. Deo gratias and thanks! April, the runaway foster child we prayed for has been found- continued prayers as she and her foster parents and social worker try to sort things out. Prayers for Fr. Peter, a fire chaplain, he collapsed at the scene of a fire with chest pains and shortness of breath, tests seem ok, but having a stress test to further diagnose. Prayers for Trisha, who badly needs a new job in a different line of work, and also for Jaylin, 6, with a brain aneurysm in ICU and for all her family. Lord, help them as You know and will. God's will is best. All is mercy and grace. God is never absent. 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
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 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 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 shorts 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 that really need help who never,
ever would have approached 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 time.
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 it is NOT pluralism at all. There
is a great deal of false advertising involved in praising pluralism to the
I have known people who were taunted, even treated with scarcely believable
meanness for wearing the habit, for choosing the "wrong" option ( when, in fact,
one option only was what was meant!) In years past, "optional" was often nothing
more than a euphemism for "abolished." 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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