A most blessed Solemnity of All Saints to everyone! Happy feastday to
everybody, it is a namesday for all of us!
March 2, July 2, November 1
Chapter 25: On Weightier Faults
Let the brother who is guilty of a weightier fault
be excluded both from the table and from the oratory.
Let none of the brethren join him
either for company or for conversation.
Let him be alone at the work assigned him,
abiding in penitential sorrow
and pondering that terrible sentence of the Apostle
where he says that a man of that kind is handed over
for the destruction of the flesh,
that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord (1 Cor. 5:5).
Let him take his meals alone
in the measure and at the hour
which the Abbot shall consider suitable for him.
He shall not be blessed by those who pass by,
nor shall the food that is given him be blessed.
OK, here's a meditation that fits the feast today: How many of those
Saints we are celebrating today once found themselves under this
stringent punishment and now find themselves in heaven's bliss?
Probably more than one or two! Punishments like this are a wake-up
call. Not everyone will take that call, but no doubt many who are
whooping it up in heaven today would gladly give witness to the
wisdom of doing so!
Saints are perfected, not perfect. The final product is very
different from any point that came before. Punishments like today's
chapter suggests are dreadful as end points, but they are not at all
so as wake-up call, as points on the way. On the contrary, in such
cases they can have great beauty.
We have different ways of giving wake-up calls today. I remember a
priest whose Abbot walked unannounced into his rectory and
said: "Pack a bag, Father, you are going into treatment for alcohol
today at Guest House. Right now!" In his case, as in so many, that
drastic step worked, thanks be to God. He died a very changed man.
The error, however, and it is often made out of cowardice, is not to
give ANY wake-up calls at all. Dump the penal code in the Holy Rule
and let the failing monastics figure it out for themselves. This
approach is utterly wrong. In the first place, it woefully fails
charity. Genuine love often obliges us to do unpalatable things. To
shirk that demand is terribly wrong. Secondly, the monastic mired in
whatever delusion of sin or illness of addiction has, more often than
not, lost the ability to see clearly. That's what the community and
superior must do for such a monastic. To fail to help such a one to
awaken to the Light that is there for all is a horrible thing.
We must always remember that Christ came to call the sinners, not
simply the just. We can pay a lot of lip service to that concept
without realizing that it could be rendered as: "Christ came to call
those monastics who need excommunication, not those who don't." Get
the picture? The ones we most roundly judge (in spite of Jesus'
insistence that we never do so!) are the ones for whom He came. To
deny them any opportunity to wake up and get with the program is
awfully short of genuine love.
St. Benedict himself says that he wrote his Holy Rule "for
beginners." Well, folks, check out any skating rink and watch the
beginners there. You won't have any trouble figuring out who they
are. Their arms are awkwardly outstretched in futile attempts at
balance. They wobble, they're clumsy and inept. They fall down a LOT.
To assume that, in our brave new world, all monastics have lost that
clumsy ineptitude of beginners is a tragic mistake. We are all
beginners and we will all die beginners. That's just the way the
monastic struggle is. Daily we begin again...
Love and prayers,
Jerome, OSB jeromeleo@... Petersham, MA