Br. Jerome: Reflection on the Holy Rule. Jan 8
Please, please pray for our good Brother Jerome who is stricken with
an extremely nasty dose of viral stomach flu and for the other Monks
at St. Mary's and the Sisters at St. Scholastica Priory who may also
ill. Lord, help us as You know and will. God's will is best.
All is mercy and grace. God is never absent, praise Him! Thanks so
Brother will catch up on today's prayer requests as soon as
possible. In the interim please bless me with them at:
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.
What are the two major things that St. Benedict dislikes about the
bad types of monk? They have no stability and they follow their own
wills. Obedience is the essence of monastic struggle, and we will be
touching on it throughout the Holy Rule. Stability, while getting
lots of mention, deservedly takes a lesser role in the Rule, even
though it has become a vow for Benedictines, so it might pay to take
a closer look at stability right at the beginning of our reading of
The Desert Fathers said: "Stay in your cell and your cell will teach
you everything." Real cinch, right? Wrong! Don't picture staying in
one's cell like a personal day from work, when you sleep as late as
you like, get dressed at noon (if then!) and decide you can eat for
the day without leaving the house to go to the store or, for that
matter, without leaving the couch. That's not what this is about.
Monastics, whether in the world or in the cloister, could tell you
that the cell, the home can be paradise, but it can also be hell, a
furnace of nearly impossible heat. In fact, for many of us, it has
been both at one time or another, and maybe, just maybe, it isn't
done switching roles yet! Times of paradise are nice, they can swell
the heart with gratitude and love, but every spouse, parent, child
and religious knows that we cannot stay on the mountaintop forever,
like Peter, we may not pitch tents there.
The furnace, now there's a fetching little image! But it is
essential, too. Benedictine life seeks to lead us to God. For every
single one of us, that means cleaning out a lot of imperfection. We
may start out eagerly wanting to be like "gold tried in the furnace,
seven times refined," but it's a safe bet that early on, after a time
or two in that inferno, we'll be trying to bargain for less, maybe
four or five times refined at most! It's no debutante's ball in
Hate the furnace/gold imagery? Can't blame you there, especially if
you live in the North and furnaces are tricky and expensive worries!
Try a sauna. Still hard, still challenging, still sweats a LOT of
gunk out. However, make sure you jump in the cold water right after
the sauna, just so you don't think all this stuff is REALLY a spa!
The fact is, for Benedictines, stability, whether of cloister or
geography or of heart, is a major piece of the puzzle. It's the
ability to stick with it, stay in there, keep trying. It is the
fixedness, not just of place, but of heart and will. It is more than
just not moving around.
A consumerist society is fueled by desire, change and variety. Small
wonder that it encourages us to be always moving, always seeking the
novel, always distracted: it's profit base depends on that and,
whatever else may be said, consumerism is a greedy little devil.
Stability flies in the face of all these falsehoods. It tells us
that "rut" and routine are two very different things for us. The
routine, the mundane, the everyday and predictable are precisely the
arenas in which we must strive and win in the spiritual life.
Stability teaches us that. Our fleeting hells have heaven within them
and our Edens can turn into Dead Seas in a flash. Stability forces us
to stick with it, to weather those changes, to know EVERY side of
life and love and heart and place. No wonder St. Benedict loved it
so! It is the courage of which monastics are made!
Love and prayers,