Good Friday, Apr 18
Prayers, please, for Michael, suicidal and depressed, also for Marie,
his sister. Also for Louis, in prison for drugs and for Kim, married
outside his Church. Thanks so much. God's will be done! NRN JL
+ + + + Please note that I am following the custom of the American
Cassinese Congregation, whose Ordo states that the 3rd degree of
humility is the Holy Rule reading for Good Friday. I don't know if
other Congregations follow this custom, but I'd love to know.... JL
Chapter 7: On Humility
The third degree of humility is that a person
for love of God
submit himself to his Superior in all obedience,
imitating the Lord, of whom the Apostle says,
"He became obedient even unto death."
Few things can be more annoying to our self-centered, false hearts
than a reminder to compare our sufferings to the Cross of Jesus
Christ, but nothing can be more accurate a standard. Face it,
beloveds, we WANT our pains, hurts, rejections et al. to matter much
more than they do. We often want them to be the axis on which the
world of others reverently turns with hushed compassion. The silence
of the Cross is the surest antidote to this poison, the sole Truth
which can abort this lie.
The Cross of Jesus Christ is firmly planted in every monastic heart,
we place it their when we begin our struggle and put our hands to the
plough. It is there, whether we look at it or not, and we avert our
glance from it only at great peril. It is the only standard by which
our obedience, humility and silence can be judged. Nothing less will
do. Anything less will destroy our efforts.
It is no accident that St. Paul compares obedience to Jesus' death on
the Cross, nor that St. Benedict embraces that concept and reinforces
it centuries later. We must be so careful that obedience is never
relegated to the impotent and harmful level of clever manipulation to
get another to order what we wanted anyway. Clever names for this
process have arisen in our post-modern age, but they all hide the
fact that obedience often (in fact, optimally!) means that we are
decidedly not in control.
Use the Passion as a standard. If you are in greater control of what
your obedience entails than Jesus was on the way to Calvary, or
whipped in a dungeon, or spat upon and crowned with thorns, something
is quite possibly very wrong. If your frenzied defense is markedly
greater than that of Jesus before Pilate, when so much less is at
stake, something IS wrong. There is acceptance in Christ and there
ought to be in us, too. He begged to be spared the Cross, but He bore
it silently when it was inevitable.
Use the Agony in the Garden as a standard, too. Yes, Jesus did ask
deliverance from His Father. But only once, only briefly and the
matter ended when the answer was no. I have known monks and nuns who
would stop at virtually nothing to get their own way, who often got
their way with or without permission. Think of where we would all be
today had Jesus chosen that road, instead of the Cross.
Remember that all of our crosses are tailor-made and that none of
them will ever equal His cross. Recall, too, that Jesus has known
from all eternity exactly the world in which we would live and placed
us at this admittedly sometimes quite disagreeable point in history
for reasons of the deepest love and infinite mercy. We live (I
sometimes shudder to think...) in precisely the optimal times for our
Being tailor-made, we should be very careful not to add to our
crosses! The involuntary penances are the best. Messing around with
skipping pain meds and the like is not a good idea. Our pride can
very well make our proper cross so heavy that we will surely fall.
Masochism is not the way of Jesus. As always, there is balance.
Never, never for an instant fear that God will not give us enough to
Know that "enough" varies from age to age, too. People quite commonly
died of pneumonia (called by old timer RN's "the old man's friend,")
before the 1940's advent of penicillin. To avoid its relief now would
be a grievous sin. What once was high-tech, even undreamed of
treatment, has now become ordinary means. People were expected to
tough out depression stoically in the 1950's, whether they could or
not! To try that now would be to court disaster.
May we all take our tailor-made crosses to the Cross of Jesus Christ
today at 3pm. In the anguished hush of His death, may we remember,
today and always, how the smallness of even our greatest crosses
compares. Beloveds, comparing a hangnail to the falling Twin Towers
would not begin to be as pathetic. There is an infinite standard
here, one to which we are all called.
Love and prayers,
Jerome Leo, OSB
jeromeleo@... St. Mary's Monastery Petersham, MA