January 11, May 12, September 11
Chapter 2: What Kind of Person the Abbess Ought to Be
Therefore, when anyone receives the name of Abbess,
she ought to govern her disciples with a twofold teaching.
That is to say,
she should show them all that is good and holy
by her deeds even more than by her words,
expounding the Lord's commandments in words
to the intelligent among her disciples,
but demonstrating the divine precepts by her actions
for those of harder hearts and ruder minds.
And whatever she has taught her disciples
to be contrary to God's law,
let her indicate by her example that it is not to be done,
lest, while preaching to others, she herself be found reprobate (1
and lest God one day say to her in her sin,
"Why do you declare My statutes
and profess My covenant with your lips,
whereas you hate discipline
and have cast My words behind you" (Ps. 49:16-17)?
"You were looking at the speck in your brother's eye,
and did not see the beam in your own" (Matt. 7:3).
Whether one is abbot or parent or teacher or supervisor, one of the
dangers to be most carefully watched is the teaching by example. No
matter how careful one is with one's words, unless one is equally
careful with one's actions, those governed or taught will very soon
be affected, for good or ill! If this amount of vigilance seems to be
superhuman, it is! No one can do it without grace or prayer. Since
sadly few ever have sufficient recourse to either grace or prayer-
abbots included, at times- the potential for harm here is very great.
What we think is innocent, our children will tend to believe. They
might ignore our words, but they are astute observers of our actions,
which are far more eloquent. If parents do not practice their faith,
the chances of their children ever doing so are all but nil. Barring
a miracle of grace, it ain't gonna happen. Hence, we must ask
ourselves very careful questions about what we want to extinguish in
those who follow us and why. We must ask ourselves if we want
to "courageously" defend to God all that we have taught implicitly.
These are tough questions, but they are rooted in a very healthy
A superior or parent who is a control freak will do great harm to the
ones in their care. A superior or parent or boss who mistakenly think
that they are above the law will teach their subjects that they, too
are above the law. Often such a superior will be astounded at how
well their subjects have learned the lesson when they finally rebel.
Of course, rebellion is only possible if a few are left healthy
enough for it, and that often does not happen. Sad...
Parents and superiors and employers and teachers all need to know
when to let go. That requires a great maturity and a lot of prayer
and grace. It is something so nearly beyond human capability that
natural gifts alone rarely provide for it. Leave the plants in the
hothouse too long and they will not thrive in the garden. Leave them
there too short and they will be killed by the first stray frost.
Seedlings have to be "hardened off" by leaving the flats out in the
sun for a few days and bringing them in at night. Break the balance
in the system and one courts disaster.
The terrible, truly terrible thing about power is that insofar as it
is related to the ego, to the self, it is likely to fail. Power
exercised in true service and selflessness will reap a harvest of
undreamed proportions. Unfortunately, the same may be said about
power which is nothing but an extension of one's own neuroses or
worse onto others.
Love and prayers,