Prayers, please, for Pete, eye problems, for David Burton's Mom,
Barbara, heart cath today, and, of course, for David himself as he
turns FIFTY. God's will be done! NRN Thanks, JL
April 9, August 9, December 9
Chapter 56: On the Abbess's Table
Let the Abbess's table always be with the guests
and the pilgrims. But when there are no guests,
let it be in her power to invite whom she will of the sisters.
Yet one or two seniors must always be left with the others
for the sake of discipline.
Let me give you a bit of pragmatic application here. I don't know if
this is true everywhere, but in both houses I have actually lived in,
the monks tended to eat rather fast. Secularly speaking, I have a
reputation for being a fast eater when dining alone, even I have
sometimes wondered about how good that is for digestion! Here,
however, with no conversation to slow me down at all, the monks eat
like the wind and I am always the last one, even when gulping down as
fast as I can. This has resulted in my learning to take less and
finish whatever I really need at the guesthouse! Sigh...
Anyway, the upshot here is that guests often dine more slowly than
the monastics and we all get up together for grace. If the guests are
where the Abbot can see them, it is easier to check on who's done and
who isn't. We wait for them to finish. (At least 99% of the time. I
have known especially slow guests to win at this face-off once or
twice! We finally just said grace and left them to finish...)
Monastics (like children or spouses!) can be dreadful creatures of
habit, you should pardon the pun... I can tell you that sometimes
that waiting seems interminable. I can also tell you that it is good
for us, for all of us, and this applies equally to families. We
allow, even enable the guest to inconvenience us to a certain extent.
That's part of our hospitality, part of receiving Christ, often in a
considerably distressing disguise.
Oblates in families, trust me on this one, I know company can
sometimes be a pain. I have had company most of the time for the last
seven years. While I relish the occasional days when the house is
empty, they are fewer and farther between each year. The message here
is not only for guests in our homes, but for others in general, at
work, when shopping or (horrors!) driving. Let others put you out a
bit. Adopt a courtesy that is greater than the world's.
I used to work the desk in a public library. From that and from my
hospital and teaching years, I can tell you that a courteous,
hospitable, Christian attitude of charity can stand out, really touch
people. You don't have to be obnoxiously preachy, in fact, that has
the opposite effect! The subtle grace and love of courtesy will lead
a lot of people to wonder about you and what motivates you. Some of
the braver ones will one day even ask. And there is your chance! Go
slowly and gently, but tell them why.
Love and prayers,
jeromeleo@... St. Mary's Monastery Petersham, MA