January 12, May 13, September 12
Chapter 2: What Kind of Person the Abbess Ought to Be
Let her make no distinction of persons in the monastery.
Let her not love one more than another,
unless it be one whom she finds better
in good works or in obedience.
Let her not advance one of noble birth
ahead of one who was formerly a slave,
unless there be some other reasonable ground for it.
But if the Abbess for just reason think fit to do so,
let her advance one of any rank whatever.
Otherwise let them keep their due places;
because, whether slaves or free, we are all one in Christ (Gal. 3:28)
and bear in equal burden of service
in the army of the same Lord.
For with God there is no respect of persons (Rom. 2:11).
Only for one reason are we preferred in His sight:
if we be found better than others in good works and humility.
Therefore let the Abbess show equal love to all
and impose the same discipline on all
according to their deserts.
A word of comfort here for parents, especially for parents of
children who loudly proclaim that "Mom always liked you best!" or
something of the sort. Switching his point of reference from the
Abbot, who holds the place of Christ, to God Himself, St. Benedict
points out that even with God, one is found better because of good
works AND humility.
As wide as the indubitable panoply of guilt trips that parents can
throw and sometimes do, there is an equal or perhaps even greater
repertoire of guilt trips that the recalcitrant child (of any age!)
can throw right back. They hurt so badly that it is terribly hard for
the parent, as a feeling person, not to pay attention to them. It is
so important, however, for the parent to be balanced and adult and
realize that guilt trips in anyone's hands, parent or child, are
false. They are nothing more than a deflection of light from one's
own faults. And we all need that light, even more so if we catch
ourselves trying to shine it elsewhere.
Children can be right, but children can easily be wrong, too. The
same is true of parents, hopefully, though not always, to a lesser
degree. When one can see a child is wrong and be fairly certain of
it, it is terribly important not to cave in to the child's demands.
Doing so will leave the kid with a conviction that this sort of
nonsense works, that it is useful. This conviction may follow the
child throughout life. Because its foundations are so imbedded in
formative years, later attempts at confrontation in adulthood may
never root it out. Be awfully careful about agreeing to games your
children set up for you in this regard. It could do you and them a
great, great deal of harm.
Guilt has a place and has a validity, but guilt trips, a distortion
of reality, do not. They are games, risky and false. They are painful
games, so it is hard for us to recall, in the midst of our pain, that
what is basically going on has as much bearing on reality and truth
as an evening of Monopoly or Scrabble or chess, and is quite probably
even less real!
Humility is truth. Jesus said "I am the Truth." See the connection?
Even though terribly hard and hurtful at times, humility denies us
the luxury of taking guilt trips seriously. Humility means we will
neither throw them nor catch them with any degree of credibility. We
cannot, if humble, buy into falsehood. That's hard to do sometimes,
but it is our call.
Love and prayers,