March 2, July 2, November 1
Chapter 25: On Weightier Faults
Let the brother who is guilty of a weightier fault
be excluded both from the table and from the oratory.
Let none of the brethren join him
either for company or for conversation.
Let him be alone at the work assigned him,
abiding in penitential sorrow
and pondering that terrible sentence of the Apostle
where he says that a man of that kind is handed over
for the destrucion of the flesh,
that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord (1 Cor. 5:5).
Let him take his meals alone
in the measure and at the hour
which the Abbot shall consider suitable for him.
He shall not be blessed by those who pass by,
nor shall the food that is given him be blessed.
The world's concept of punishment is alien to Benedictine values. The
world often sees punishment as nothing other than retribution. Few
today would think of prisons (at least in my country,) as places of
reform or moral rehabilitation. Quite the reverse! We want offenders
to pay and we want them removed from our view and out of harm's way.
We often even want them dead, but we do not much care whether or not
they reform. In fact, we have little faith that they will and even
less hope of that given the prisons we have warehoused them in. The
world wants problems removed, not solved, not converted.
With St. Benedict, there is no reason for punishment other than
correction and hope of conversion. Only when the hope of those are
gone does he demand expulsion. The familial nature of Benedictine
life means that we have to hold on as long as a possibility of cure
seems to exist. Like any family, we are committed to one another
through a lot of thick or thin.
However, and some families sadly know this, too, sometimes that hope
is dashed by the offender, the only one who has ultimate power in
this process. Once a monastic is corrected or punished, the real
outcome lies pretty much in the monastic's control. One can profit
from the correction and grow, or one can stubbornly rebel and wither.
Sometimes punishment may seem mean, but, believe me, it is really the
most necessary form of love at times. Charity could not leave such
wounds undressed. If it did, one would have a lot to answer for to
God one day. Real love does not ignore, real love does not take the
Love and prayers,
St. Mary's Monastery Petersham, MA