Prayers, please, for A., depressed and suicidal and for R., who is
trying to help. God's will be done. Thanks so much! NRN JL
April 12, August 12, December 12
Chapter 58: On the Manner of Receiving Sisters
When she is to be received
she promises before all in the oratory
fidelity to monastic life
This promise she shall make before God and His Saints,
so that if she should ever act otherwise,
she may know that she will be condemned by Him whom she mocks.
Of this promise of hers let her draw up a document
in the name of the Saints whose relics are there
and of the Abbess who is present.
Let her write this document with her own hand;
or if she is illiterate, let another write it at her request,
and let the novice put her mark to it.
Then let her place it with her own hand upon the altar;
and when she has placed it there,
let the novice at once intone this verse:
"Receive me, O Lord, according to Your word, and I shall live:
and let me not be confounded in my hope" (Ps. 118:116).
Let the whole community answer this verse three times
and add the "Glory be to the Father."
Then let the novice prostrate herself at each one's feet,
that they may pray for her.
And from that day forward
let her be counted as one of the community.
If she has any property,
let her either give it beforehand to the poor
or by solemn donation bestow it on the monastery,
reserving nothing at all for herself,
as indeed she knows that from that day forward
she will no longer have power even over her own body.
At once, therefore, in the oratory,
let her be divested of her own clothes which she is wearing
and dressed in the clothes of the monastery.
But let the clothes of which she was divested
be put aside in the wardrobe and kept there.
Then if she should ever listen to the persuasions of the devil
and decide to leave the monastery (which God forbid),
she may be divested of the monastic clothes and cast out.
Her document, however,
which the Abbess has taken from the altar,
shall not be returned to her, but shall be kept in the monastery.
The Church approves religious rules. This is the basis for asserting
that our Holy Rule is inspired by the Holy Spirit, because the Church
gave its seal of approval. The Church, however, is indubitably older
and often wiser (in SOME respects, but by no means ALL!) than
monastic life. It predates every form of optional religious
commitment. It is the blessing of the Church which makes official
monastic life possible for any and all of us.
This is just a prelude to saying that the wisdom of the Church long
ago stopped people from making solemn vows, a life-long commitment
difficult to break, right out of novitiate. Not only does this longer
program protect people, to a certain extent, from making a mistake,
it also spare the monastery from having a lot of jerks with chapter
votes running the show. There are many, many I have known who left in
simple vows that I remain eternally grateful for the fact that they
were never chapter members!! What a zoo that would have been!
A year may well have been enough in St. Benedict's time. People had
vastly shorter life spans, it was a bigger chunk of their lives. They
also had to grow up more quickly and their options were fewer by far
than those of our own day.
Oblates, therefore, can garner a few kernels of truth in this chapter
about committment, that bugbear of the baby boomer generation and
beyond. Modern people find it terribly hard to commit, some never
manage it at all. As such, a bit of wisdom older than our own age may
be very useful in our everyday lives.
Whether it's a marriage or engagement or job or volunteer chairperson
position, don't jump at things. Read the Rule, so to speak, three
times at least! Look, look, look as mindfully as you can at the truth
and reality of the situation. I have a friend who has suffered
terribly in relationships which he ALWAYS insists are just wonderful
and worth the effort, any effort, no matter who can see otherwise. He
clings to this denial until they dump him and I DO mean clings. His
head is eternally (I have never known another this bad,) in the sand,
invincibly trapped in ignorant denial. Kindly recall what part of
one's anatomy is bared to the world at large when one's head is in
the sand... Small wonder that his friends and I can tell otherwise.
Benedictines are not people afraid of commitment, but we live in a
world where many are. Our witness here must be care and balance. We
must resolutely walk BETWEEN the extremes of foolhardy haste and
crippling fear. In the world of today, that is no small witness and
no easy task. Pull this one off, and you have a done a service to
many, not just to yourself!
Love and prayers,