Holy Rule for Feb. 28
My Dad, Jerome, died on Feb. 29. Hence, most years it is a toss up whether
one remembers his anniversary on the last day of February or the day after the
28th. Whichever, I hope you will remember him in prayer. He was a profound
influence on me, even though I lost him when I was not quite 11. His example
went a long way to making me the guy who send this series of reflections to
Prayers, please, for Father N., a priest who is having a hard time in his
parish, and could use prayers for God's protection of his vocation during this
dark time in his life. Prayers, too, for Jean, undergoing surgery for
non-melanoma skin cancer near the bridge of her nose, and for Al, her husband.
Prayers for Janice, recently diagnosed with terminal cancer, and for all her
family, especially her niece, Barbara. Bob in Hawaii, the liver transplant for
whom we have been praying, has been diagnosed with fibrosing cholestatic
hepatitis, not a good thing at all after a liver transplant. Prayers for him and his
wife, and for their son, still recovering from foot surgery in FL. Prayers
for Carol and her students, tough getting back to school after vacation.
Prayers for Terry, in pain from a gallbladder that must be removed; doctor's also
just discovered a tumor on her kidney. Prayers for her and her family.
Prayers for Ann on her upcoming retreat. Lord, help us all 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
February 28, June 29, October 29
Chapter 22: How the Sisters Are to Sleep
Let each one sleep in a separate bed.
Let them receive bedding suitable to their manner of life,
according to the Abbess's directions.
If possible let all sleep in one place;
but if the number does not allow this,
let them take their rest by tens or twenties
with the seniors who have charge of them.
A candle shall be kept burning in the room until morning.
Let them sleep clothed and girded with belts or cords --
but not with their knives at their sides,
lest they cut themselves in their sleep --
and thus be always ready to rise without delay
when the signal is given
and hasten to be before one another at the Work of God,
yet with all gravity and decorum.
The younger shall not have beds next to one another,
but among those of the older ones.
When they rise for the Work of God
let them gently encourage one another,
that the drowsy may have no excuse.
Hastening "yet will all gravity and decorum" has prompted many a
community joke, many a wry comment as one ran most ungracefully,
parts of the habit flapping wildly in the breeze, to whatever the
bell was about to make one late for! St. Benedict far antedates the
Three Stooges, but he still took precautions to ensure that we would
not look EXACTLY like Moe, Larry and Curly when we went to choir or
dinner! Admittedly, some of our human tendency still arises to give a
partial glimpse of that comedic trio, but, as always, the picture is
The idea of sexual temptations being thwarted by a lamp burning and
fully clothed juniors interspersed among seniors has been mentioned,
but there is also another very pragmatic rationale. First off, the
young, even in monasteries, tend to giggle. No point in turning grand
silence into a noisy slumber party!
Even more importantly, the elderly may have problems during the night
if their health is declining. Hale and hearty (and hopefully easily
awakened!) juniors nearby promise them assistance, if needed. Of
course, if you want a humorous take on the knives issue, it may have
been to prevent mayhem and murder of snorers, an idea which has
occurred to many light sleepers!
Of course, dormitory sleeping is a thing of the past in our Order
today, but its nice to see that thoughtfulness behind its original
expression in the Holy Rule. There's a bit of the mother in St.
Benedict, going out of his way to mention a small detail like not
sleeping with knives. It is worthy of note, however, that St.
Benedict, as always is MODERATELY maternal, not neurotically so! He
doesn't get all bent out of shape, but he cares greatly and deeply.
One of the most beautiful images in this passage is the exhortation
to "gently encourage one another" at the hour of rising. Remember
that the strictest silence of all prevailed at this time. Now picture
the monastics gently encouraging one another! With no words, there
had to be a lot of touch, a lot of gentle smiles, a lot of warmth and
care expressed NON-verbally.
A very good idea of how loving a monastic is can be had by disturbing
their silence (or sleep, I imagine!!) Is the reaction cross and
withering? Watch out for that one! Is there a smile, even a warm one,
a reaction of sweetness? Well, when silence is over, that is a
monastic to whose words you may want to listen carefully.
One species of Australian eucalyptus keeps the ground around itself
clear by emitting a toxic substance that renders other growth
impossible. Sad to say, but sometimes monastics in community (or in
families, or in workplaces!) can engage in a very similar toxicity.
There is a terrible facial message that says: "Don't even come near
me- with anything at all!" We need to watch ourselves carefully for
Everyone has bad days, now and then. Good communities and good
families know how to spot them in each other. If, however, those
days get strung together for some time and fairly often, something is
very, very wrong. Either the monastic doesn't belong in community or
they do belong in treatment. The monastic life, in cloister or
marketplace, is not the proper arena for eucalyptus toxicity!
Love and prayers,
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