Br. Jerome: Reflection on the Holy Rule. July 24 (Yesterday)
Sorry, but my computer has now completely crashed and I will have to
re-format. That's why I missed yesterday. I will try to arrange with
Michael to impose on his kindness yet again to send the Rule out. When I
get back on line, I will most likely have a new address from AOL, so
please bear with me. In the meanwhile, I recommend to your good prayers
all of the intentions which I cannot now retrieve. If I can get to them
later, I will send them out. God is outside of time and our prayers are
never, ever late. Sorry for the inconvenience.
Love and prayers,
March 24, July 24, November 23
Chapter 44: How the Excommunicated Are to Make Satisfaction
One who for serious faults is excommunicated
from oratory and table shall make satisfaction as follows.
At the hour when the celebration of the Work of God is concluded in the
oratory, let her lie prostrate before the door of the oratory, saying
nothing, but only lying prone with her face to the ground at the feet of
all as they come out of the oratory. And let her continue to do this
until the Abbess judges that satisfaction has been made.
Then, when she has come at the Abbess's bidding, let her cast herself
first at the Abbess's feet and then at the feet of all, that they may
pray for her.
And next, if the Abbess so orders, let her be received into the choir,
to the place which the Abbess appoints,
but with the provision that she shall not presume to intone Psalm or
lesson or anything else in the oratory without a further order from the
Moreover, at every Hour, when the Work of God is ended, let her cast
herself on the ground in the place where she stands. And let her
continue to satisfy in this way until the Abbess again orders her
finally to cease
from this satisfaction.
But those who for slight faults are excommunicated
only from table shall make satisfaction in the oratory,
and continue in it till an order from the Abbess, until she blesses them
and says, "It is enough."
There is a LOT here for family and workplace, though one might not think
so at first glance. This chapter is not about kneeling and prostrations,
it is about asking for and receiving forgiveness.
The most important part of the puzzle here is that the offender accepts
correction, even punishment, and goes through the process to amend. If
the principles of mercy outlined here are employed without that VERY
important proviso, heartbreak and trouble for many can ensue. If the
offender walks off in a huff at the first sign of correction, this is
NOT about such a monastic at all.
One more really important point here. Especially in the really major
offenses, it is quite likely that more monastics are involved, not just
the Abbot and the offender. Still, St. Benedict does not include them in
the decision to forgive.
This is strikingly useful. The terms of forgiveness are NOT in our
hands, but in those of the Abbess. There is someone who has the
authority and right to say: "This is finished, we've got to move on!"
Wow! Now that's the sort of umpire or referee we could use in many areas
of life. It may not be available at your place of work (unless you
are the boss,) but it surely can be a big help in any family when a
parent assumes this role justly.
There is yet another bit of wisdom to be gleaned here that has nothing
to do with body language 1,500 years old. St. Benedict establishes a
system for the contrite one to actually make amends, to ask for
forgiveness and receive it. Sad to say, I have known, both in my own
monastic life and in the lives of others, people who would not forgive
or forget. "There is NOTHING you could do that would ever make me
This is a horrible thing, but truthfully, after a certain point, it is
no longer the fault of the one who originally goofed, but of the
monastic who refuses to forgive, who bears a grudge. This is a much more
serious issue than
kneeling or not kneeling in choir, more detrimental to community than
stretching out by the door for a week or so. This is cancerous.
Nobody is asking anyone to be so purblind stupid as to hold their hands
firmly on the same hot stove twice, but if Christians don't forgive when
asked, our common life cannot go on, and common life is an integral part
of Christianity. When people accept correction and
ask for forgiveness and try to mend, we must honor that somehow.
People confuse forgiveness with total memory block. Total memory blocks
are impossible for most people, maybe not even very healthy: we received
the gift of memory from God for a good reason. I can assure
you that there are people in my life who will never make me cry the
second time. Some added protection has been afforded by me that
But we still have to live with such people, for all 7x70 times they ask
to be forgiven. Maybe we will never be able to be as vulnerable with
them again, but we have to establish at LEAST civility, and hopefully
even more than that. And, who knows, maybe, in time (long time!)
most of our original innocence and vulnerability will return. Maybe. But
those things do take time. To refuse outright to forgive is to guarantee
that the good things about reconciliation for both parties will never
happen at all. We are denied the "luxury" of such refusals
by both Gospel and Rule.
Love and prayers,
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