February 27, June 28, October 28
Chapter 21: On the Deans of the Monastery
If the community is a large one,
let there be chosen out of it
brethren of good repute and holy life,
and let them be appointed deans.
These shall take charge of their deaneries in all things,
observing the commandments of God
and the instructions of their Abbot.
Let men of such character be chosen deans
that the Abbot may with confidence
share his burdens among them.
Let them be chosen not by rank
but according to their worthiness of life
and the wisdom of their doctrine.
If any of these deans should become inflated with pride
and found deserving of censure,
let him be corrected once, and again, and a third time.
If he will not amend,
then let him be deposed
and another be put in his place who is worthy of it.
And we order the same to be done in the case of the Prior.
St. Benedict reverences seniority- a traditional monastic value- in
many places, but he also moderates that tradition, keeping it from
turning into ageism. When considering the appointment of these deans,
their worthy lives and teachings are the criteria, not their age.
Unspoken here, but nevertheless evident, is the demand that seniors
obey such young officials. There is no room for griping about
young "whipper-snappers" here!
A further check here is given by the insistence on personal holiness.
Granted, even in monasteries, the clever and manipulatively ambitious
sort can get around this and sometimes do, but what if all our
offices, in monastery AND Church went to really holy people? The
first objection (usually put forward by the ambitious who would be
overlooked under this system!) is that they would be TERRIBLE
administrators. So? The point there was what?
Next time you want a fun day-dream, try to picture a Church and Order
run entirely by the holy and wise. Wow! Now usually, day-dreaming is
an utter waste of time, but this one is not. After you have spent
some time envisioning all those things, go out and BE what you
dreamed. Be prepared to be a little lonely: none of us are likely to
see a Church run entirely by saints. But we can all make that dream
one person closer to coming true, by changing ourselves, by
incarnating the dream as best we can.
We spend so much time falling all over ourselves to point out that
holiness is not incompatible with so many vocations, even essentially
part of them, why not just include ecclesiastical bureaucracy in that
list? Revolution much? Kingdom of God! The radical holiness of saints
in charge would make the greatest secular revolutionaries look like
Cub Scouts and Brownies.
Love and prayers,