Holy Rule for Sept. 8
[I mistakenly titled yesterday's post "Sept. 8", though it was really the 7th. Mea culpa...]
Prayers, for our monastery, St. Mary's, on our patronal feast, especially for more vocations. A happy birthday of the Mother of God to all!
Prayers, please, for Gary, who died of liver cancer, only a week after diagnosis, and for his 80 year old Mom and a good friend, Lori, who survive him. Prayers for Ted, an older fellow who is facing some tough questions for the first time in his life over some family problems. Prayers for Mary Lou, beginning her ministry in spiritual direction, and for all those she will serve and help. Holy Spirit, be their Guide- and ours! Continued prayers for all in Katrina's path, especially those in flooded areas. The water-borne illnesses they have been exposed to often have incubation periods of several weeks, and could even be fatal in the very young, the elderly and the immune-compromised. We have only seen the tip of the iceberg. 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
January 8, May 9, September 8
Chapter 1: On the Kinds of Monks
It is well known that there are four kinds of monks.
The first kind are the Cenobites:
those who live in monasteries
and serve under a rule and an Abbot.
The second kind are the Anchorites or Hermits:
no longer in the first fervor of their reformation,
but after long probation in a monastery,
having learned by the help of many brethren
how to fight against the devil,
go out well armed from the ranks of the community
to the solitary combat of the desert.
They are able now,
with no help save from God,
to fight single-handed against the vices of the flesh
and their own evil thoughts.
The third kind of monks, a detestable kind, are the Sarabaites.
These, not having been tested,
as gold in the furnace (Wis. 3:6),
by any rule or by the lessons of experience,
are as soft as lead.
In their works they still keep faith with the world,
so that their tonsure marks them as liars before God.
They live in twos or threes, or even singly,
without a shepherd,
in their own sheepfolds and not in the Lord's.
Their law is the desire for self-gratification:
whatever enters their mind or appeals to them,
that they call holy;
what they dislike, they regard as unlawful.
The fourth kind of monks are those called Gyrovagues.
These spend their whole lives tramping from province to province,
staying as guests in different monasteries
for three or four days at a time.
Always on the move, with no stability,
they indulge their own wills
and succumb to the allurements of gluttony,
and are in every way worse than the Sarabaites.
Of the miserable conduct of all such
it is better to be silent than to speak.
Passing these over, therefore,
let us proceed, with God's help,
to lay down a rule for the strongest kind of monks,the Cenobites.
First off, and briefly, there can be flaws in ANY kind of monastic, even the
cenobites and anchorites of whom St. Benedict writes so fondly. The anchorite
can sometimes be tempted to use solitude as an excuse for not doing good things
when solitude has little or nothing to do with the real, selfish reason. The
cenobite can shift focus to the community, or to its works ("We've got a school
[or retreat center, or hospital, or whatever...] to run here!") in such a way
that the primary search for God gets lost, along with the necessary examination
and self-reformation. The family Oblate can go overboard on demanding too much
solitude and the truly solitary single Oblate can neglect family for the wrong
reasons. There is always balance needed, always. It will be our lifelong
I have said before that all four kinds of monastic can quite unfortunately (and
stubbornly!) exist in all our hearts and usually do so!
That is very true, but today I would like to focus on the latter two unlovelies:
the Sarabaites and the Gyrovagues. Telling phrases in the description of both
point very clearly to all of us living in the developed Western world, whether
in cloister or not, and particularly to those of us in the U.S., alas. I
apologize to any of our international members for whom these problems are either
non-existent or minimal, but I think there is something important to look at
OK, beloveds, take off those terribly clouded lenses of consumerism and put on a
brand new prescription of reality glasses and read carefully again. Check out
some of the phrases in question and ask your heart deeply and honestly how your
Benedictine commitment comes into play in these areas. We are used to reading
about these undesirable monks as the others, let us bravely look at the ways
they are ourselves.
Those nasty Sarabaite parts of our hearts and wills "are as soft as lead" and
"still keep faith with the world" in their works. This tragically marks those
parts of us as "liars before God." But thankfully, God is ALWAYS merciful and we
can always keep trying, in fact we must keep trying: conversion of manners here!
How often do we surrender and bend to human respect or status? How often is our
religion one thing, and the rest of modern life conveniently under another
umbrella, as if more than one Gospel existed? Do we sell out to trends or
popular opinions too easily? Do we let our counter-witness to the bad sense of
the world be obliterated by embarrassed silence?
Remember that Scripture speaks of the world in two ways. One sense is the good
world, created by God as good and for the good of all, the creation we are bound
to love and cherish because God did so first. The other is the false world, the
one I am writing about here, the one which lies to us and leads us astray, the
secular values that have idols and the self as their gods. Not for nothing did
Jesus call Satan the father of lies and the prince of this world.
Ah, and those slimy Gyrovague parts of us, which our holy Father Benedict terms
"in every way worse than the Sarabaites." Now here is a ripe field to harvest
some info about our levels of consumerism! "They indulge their own wills and
succumb to the allurements of gluttony." Whoops! I've done them both a time or
two. How about you? Over consumption of food or material goods, one or both
can easily attack us all and usually can be relied upon to do just that!!
Out-of-control consumerism is a lie, a false view of reality. Jesus, Who is our
goal, is the Truth, the complete opposite of every falsehood. Ridiculous levels
of consumption and self-gratification are wrong, not only because they hurt us,
but because they hurt others, too. They destroy the balance of common good for
which God created the world to serve all people.
In the US (and many other Western nations,) the "bargains" which tickle our fancy
have surely, without a doubt, come at high cost to some one else, often in the Third
World, often the weakest and poorest. They also contribute to the unjust shifting of
wealth to the top few, since even bargains are sold with profit in mind, lots of it, and
not for those who work hardest.
Look, we need a certain amount of goods. Even St. Thomas Aquinas said a certain
amount of goods were necessary to work out our salvation. (Severe lacks would
mean we would, perforce, have to focus on simple survival, to work so hard to
stay alive that the spirit would be decidedly underfed.) But, as Christians and
as Benedictines, we need goods in moderation, in just and accurate levels which
truly accord to our state in life. This is by no means an argument against ALL
possessions, especially not for Oblates in the world. It is an attempt to see
through the clearer lens of truth, of Jesus, of simplicity.
How many times do we hear simplicity described as "elegant." It often is. Real
elegance, however, has an intrinsic relation to Beauty and Beauty to Truth, and
the ultimate standard of Beauty and Truth is Christ. The idea behind a simpler
lifestyle is NOT penance, but a closer approximation of yet another piece of the
wondrous Divine Puzzle which is our God. Every single time we
mirror truth, we mirror Christ. it is really that simple!
Love and prayers,
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- +PAXPrayers for Michael LoPiccolo, as he recovers at home from a surgery to correct bleeding. He is still pretty weak, so ardent prayers continued for this man who does so much for us and for the Holy Rule in cyberspace. And prayers for his wife, Genny, who is caring for him.Prayers for L., a return to the Church.Prayers for James, for his vocation to a monastery he is drawn to join. He is waiting to hear from them and is anxious.Deo gratias and continued prayers for Sue, recovering from her surgery. The initial prospects are that the tumor is benign, but awaiting the final biopsy results.