Prayers, please, for the health of Jude and David, for peace and
safety for all in watr zones. God's will be done. Thanks so much.
April 6, August 6, December 6
Chapter 54: Whether a Monastic Should Receive Letters or Anything Else
On no account shall a monastic be allowed
to receive letters, blesssed tokens or any little gift whatsoever
from parents or anyone else,
or from her sisters,
or to give the same,
without the Abbess's permission.
But if anything is sent her even by her parents,
let her not presume to take it
before it has been shown to the Abbess.
And it shall be in the Abbess's power to decide
to whom it shall be given,
if she allows it to be received;
and the sister to whom it was sent should not be grieved,
lest occasion be given to the devil.
Should anyone presume to act otherwise,
let her undergo the discipline of the Rule.
At first glance, it might seem that there is little or nothing for
Oblates in the world in this chapter. Not so! However, we shall have
to look a bit deeper and pick about a bit...
OK, remember the Abbot holds the place of Christ in the community.
Now look again. The monastic is to rely on and look to no one but
Christ, and to receive nothing more or less than what is needed,
unless the Abbot, in Christ's place grants it. Remember the chapter
about no monastic defending another, taking another into their
special protection? One can easily see that this is covered here,
too. No one should ever be able to say: "I am well-off and secure
because Sister X. is my ally." Sister X. takes care of zero. God
takes care of all!
We can have such a distorted of view of our own income and property.
We can think we have "earned" what we have and can therefore use it
with impugnity. Not so, and not Christian teaching, either. All goods
are held with stewardship for the common good of all. No ownership is
outright and exclusive, except for the sad ownership of our sins.
No matter what our skills or gifts or how we have developed them, no
matter if we were born with inherited comfort, no matter at all! ALL
of that came from God, every bit. We are literally nothing at all but
beneficiaries. All that we have or hope to have is nothing more or
less than a windfall from God and His mercy.
Now that is what this chapter is really all about, and it applies to
everyone within the cloister and without. St. Benedict wanted to use
these principles to focus his disciples on the truth that everything
utterly everything comes from Christ, not from Sister X. or the lucky
stroke of having wealthy family or friends elsewhere.
Every Benedictine heart, beloveds, must examine itself by what we
learn from this passage in the Holy Rule. Absolutely nothing
whatsoever is ours, everything comes from God. Never take more than
we need, never share less than we ought to share. Freely, fully have
we all received all that we have from God. No less freely should our
hearts let it go, spread it around to others.
Make no mistake that there are at least two ways to react to the
array of God's giftings. One is grateful largesse, a truly holy
detachment from things as we honestly desire others to share in our
blessings. (This is as true of the spiritual goods as it is of the
material!) The other, a most pathetic one, is stinge and miserliness,
a panicky, insecure fear that another might get more or have it
easier than oneself. Nothing I can think of is more unbecoming to any
who have received magnificently, yet we can all think of tragic
examples of just such reactions. Guard very, very carefully against
this last pitfall. I have seen it ensnare many a cloistered monastic,
no one is exempt, and it will throw a dreadful cancer into one's very
Love and prayers,
jeromeleo@... St. Mary's Monastery Petersham, MA