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Holy Rule for May 9

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  • Br. Jerome Leo
    +PAX Prayers, please, for Fr. Bob, who gave me the job at the wonderful mission I write about today, and for all the people there. The little Church is now
    Message 1 of 6 , May 9, 2007
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      +PAX

      Prayers, please, for Fr. Bob, who gave me the job at the wonderful mission I write about today, and for all the people there. The little Church is now sadly closed, but what a beautifully important chapter in my life it was and is.

      Prayers, please, for an African woman divorcing her abusive husband and living in a battered women's shelter. She is Christian, but his family is putting some kind of voodoo curse on her and it frightens her. Prayers for her strength and may God and St. Michael protect her from all Satan's wiles. Prayers for Bruce, currently separated from his wife by continents and oceans apart emotionally, for a saving grace for their marriage, also for his career and financial prospects, as he really needs a job which will utilize his talents better. Prayers for Alix in her Oblate discernment. prayers for Peg, as she continues to mend from her surgery.

      Al, for whose green card`process we have prayed before, has lost his sponsor at the last minute. He has an interview with another school, so prayers that he get the job so they can sponsor him.

      Prayers for Coleen and Jim, on their wedding day: long life and many graces! Deo gratias, little Ellie for whom we prayed is home and doing well. Monica is still being tested for cancer treatment plans, so continued prayers for them both. Prayers for D., severe mental illness. 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

      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:
      those who,
      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.

      REFLECTION

      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 is taken as a vow by Benedictines, so it might pay to take
      a closer look at stability right at the beginning of our reading of
      the Rule.

      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 there!

      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 ice 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.

      The summer I left the seminary, I was 36 lived in an idyllic place,
      way out in the country, only a few miles from the West Virginia
      border. Gorgeous! Geese and goats right next door, a small garden, a
      tiny Byzantine Church on the property that I took care of and where I
      was cantor.

      That last summer, when I decided not to go back, I fell
      in love. Not just a little, a LOT, way head over heels. We're talking
      triple WOOOF! here. The idyllic surroundings became even lovelier,
      they sang and all seemed right with the world. I was in Eden and
      I was NOT going to be alone. Or so I thought...

      When the romance angle all blew up in my face, I was every bit as
      inconsolable as I had recently been ecstatic. The same place looked
      ugly and boring and hot, I couldn't care less about the geese and
      goats I loved and I let the garden go to pieces. Why? Perception. It
      was the same Eden, my eyes and heart had changed.

      Stability teaches us that. Our fleeting hells have heaven within them
      and our Edens can turn into Dead Seas overnight. 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!

      I failed the test of that lovely rural stability twenty years ago,
      but my heart still remembers the nights I sat on the porch and watched the
      thousands of fireflies' swirling progress upward on the field beside
      me, a nightly Theophany, a manifestation of God. They made me think
      of souls, rising on the last day. Awesome! Sure I am that I did not
      belong in the priesthood then, but oh, how wrong I could be
      when disenchanted with that place. My heart goes back there still and
      I pray for that community every single day of my life.

      Love and prayers,
      Jerome, OSB
      http://www.stmarysmonastery.org
      jeromeleo@...
      Petersham, MA





      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Br. Jerome Leo
      +PAX Prayers, please, for the spiritual, mental and physical well-being of the following, fo all thei loved ones and all who care for them: Eva, for success in
      Message 2 of 6 , May 8, 2008
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        +PAX

        Prayers, please, for the spiritual, mental and physical well-being of the following, fo all thei loved ones and all who care for them:

        Eva, for success in her college courses.

        Beverly, 60, post-op brain cancer and now on radiation, with another brain surgery to follow.

        Jim, 57, hip replacement on the 13th, other hip to be done next month.

        Deo gratias! Chris, for whom we prayed some while ago, has received a donor heart, transplant went well; special prayers of thanks for the donor and the donor's family for this wonderful gift of life.

        Prayers, please, for Fr. Bob, who gave me the job at the wonderful mission I
        write about today, and for all the people there. The little Church is now sadly
        closed, but what a beautifully important chapter in my life it was and is.

        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

        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:
        those who,
        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.

        REFLECTION

        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 is taken as a vow by Benedictines, so it might pay to take
        a closer look at stability right at the beginning of our reading of
        the Rule.

        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 there!

        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 ice 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.

        The summer I left the seminary, I was 36. I lived in an idyllic place,
        way out in the country, only a few miles from the West Virginia
        border. Gorgeous! Geese and goats right next door, a small garden, a
        tiny Byzantine Church on the property that I took care of and where I
        was cantor.

        That last summer, when I decided not to go back, I fell
        in love. Not just a little, a LOT, way head over heels. We're talking
        triple WOOOF! here. The idyllic surroundings became even lovelier,
        they sang and all seemed right with the world. I was in Eden and
        I was NOT going to be alone. Or so I thought...

        When the romance angle all blew up in my face, I was every bit as
        inconsolable as I had recently been ecstatic. The same place looked
        ugly and boring and hot, I couldn't care less about the geese and
        goats I loved and I let the garden go to pieces. Why? Perception. It
        was the same Eden, my eyes and heart had changed.

        Stability teaches us that. Our fleeting hells have heaven within them
        and our Edens can turn into Dead Seas overnight. 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!

        I failed the test of that lovely rural stability over twenty years ago,
        but my heart still remembers the nights I sat on the porch and watched the
        thousands of fireflies' swirling progress upward on the field beside
        me, a nightly Theophany, a manifestation of God. They made me think
        of souls, rising on the last day. Awesome! Sure I am that I did not
        belong in the priesthood then, but oh, how wrong I could be
        when disenchanted with that place. My heart goes back there still and
        I pray for that community every single day of my life.

        Love and prayers,
        Jerome, OSB
        http://www.stmarysmonastery.org
        jeromeleo@...
        Petersham, MA









        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Br. Jerome Leo
        +PAX Prayers for the happy death and eternal rest of Joanna, terminal liver cancer, and Jim, lung cancer and for all who will mourn them. Prayers for the
        Message 3 of 6 , May 9, 2008
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          +PAX

          Prayers for the happy death and eternal rest of Joanna, terminal liver cancer, and Jim, lung cancer and for all who will mourn them.

          Prayers for the spiritual, mental and physical health of the following, for all their loved ones and all who treat or care for them:

          Mildred, lung cancer.

          Marie, brain tumor, possible cancer

          Nancy, 50's, brain cancer, given 1 month to live, and for her two distraught sons.

          Bon, doing meth and other drugs. Spiralling BIG time. He went to a 12 step meeting but he has no faith, not even in an abstract "higher power" let alone a personal God. He doesn't think life is much worth living.

          Aria, for her conversion, she has begun living with a man.

          Joe, in his 60's, diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer.

          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

          January 9, May 10, September 9
          Chapter 2: What Kind of Person the Abbess Ought to Be

          An Abbess who is worthy to be over a monastery
          should always remember what she is called,
          and live up to the name of Superior.
          For she is believed to hold the place of Christ in the monastery,
          being called by a name of His,
          which is taken from the words of the Apostle:
          "You have received a Spirit of adoption ...,
          by virtue of which we cry, 'Abba -- Father'" (Rom. 8:15)!

          Therefore the Abbess ought not to teach or ordain or command
          anything which is against the Lord's precepts;
          on the contrary,
          her commands and her teaching
          should be a leaven of divine justice
          kneaded into the minds of her disciples.

          REFLECTION

          It will no doubt come as a great relief to other cranky types like
          me to note that the leaven gently kneaded into the minds of certain
          disciples often seems to have a downright under-whelming effect. A
          hallmark of us curmudgeonly types is impatience: we do not suffer
          fools gladly, the miracle is that we endure them at all. Most of all,
          we want those fools FIXED, right now, or yesterday at the latest! The
          tragedy of this is that, in assuming we can recognize fools so
          terribly well, we completely miss the fool at work in ourselves, to say
          nothing of the Gospel injunction against calling others fools.

          God uses human means to accomplish His will, as my favorite
          professor, Dr. Jean Ronan, so often said. Ah, but the abbacy scores
          doubly on this maxim. A very human abbot is elected by a very human
          community. Quite often, abbots are elected to counteract each other.
          The human community gets tired of the very human tendency of an abbot
          to stress one thing above others. Hence, tight reins are often
          replaced with loose ones and vice versa.

          It is also worthy of note that, within about three years, roughly the same
          number of people will be sorely complaining about either extreme
          or the lack thereof! Abbot Fidelis of St. Leo used to say that the first three
          years of abbacy are like Holy Week for Christ: they begin with "Hosanna!",
          then there is silence, and the third year it's "Crucify him!" There's
          a lot of truth to that rueful chuckle...

          Much that will be said of the abbot in the Holy Rule requires
          tremendous faith, from both the superior and the monastics. The lofty
          things said require grace to bring them fruition and grace is also
          necessary to see those fruits. This all boils down to a LOT of faith
          and trust on the part of all.

          Those human means which God uses are often quite firmly addicted
          to extremes. The extremes then vex a majority to the opposite extreme.
          (I know this is the Marxist dialectic and I know it is not always true, but it
          does have a kernel of application.) Usually, sometime after we are all so
          fatigued with polarization that we have briefly stopped watching, a median
          virtue ensues!

          And what about that leaven that I couldn't notice having much effect?
          Well, neither I nor anyone else knows, save the person and God. Some
          die, some leave before the effect is seen. Leaven works. It may work
          slowly, it may work in a variety of ways, but all leaven does
          something sooner or later!

          Faith and trust in God's Divine Mercy require that we have a LOT of patience
          with bread cast on waters in tremendous hope! It is our vocation to scatter such
          bread, not necessarily to see its results. God judges our efforts, not our
          results. Often an apparent failure turns to triumphal joy and salvation in the very last
          instants of a life, when the workings are known to God and the souls alone.

          Love and prayers,
          Jerome, OSB
          http://www.stmarysmonastery.org
          jeromeleo@...
          Petersham, MA



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