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Apr 25

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  • russophile2002
    +PAX Prayers for travelers today: Barb to Holland, John and Anne to Scotland. Safe and holy trips for all! Bepp, for whom we prayed a couple of days ago fell
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 25, 2003

      Prayers for travelers today: Barb to Holland, John and Anne to
      Scotland. Safe and holy trips for all! Bepp, for whom we prayed a
      couple of days ago fell because she had suffered a stroke. Since she
      has had both knees replaced a while back, she may never walk again.
      Serious prayers for Bepp! God's will be done! Thanks! NRN JL

      April 25, August 25, December 25
      Chapter 67: On Brethren Who Are Sent on a Journey

      Let the brethren who are sent on a journey
      commend themselves
      to the prayers of all the brethren and of the Abbot;
      and always at the last prayer of the Work of God
      let a commemoration be made of all absent brethren.

      When brethren return from a journey,
      at the end of each canonical Hour of the Work of God
      on the day they return,
      let them lie prostrate on the floor of the oratory
      and beg the prayers of all
      on account of any faults
      that may have surprised them on the road,
      through the seeing or hearing of something evil,
      or through idle talk.
      And let no one presume to tell another
      whatever he may have seen or heard outside of the monastery,
      because this causes very great harm.
      But if anyone presumes to do so,
      let him undergo the punishment of the Rule.
      And let him be punished likewise who would presume
      to leave the enclosure of the monastery
      and go anywhere or do anything, however small,
      without an order from the Abbot.


      Lay people, in St. Benedict's time and for centuries afterward, were
      more cloistered in the sense of media isolation than most religious
      are today, especially so in rural areas. We have to put ourselves
      into their perspective to see what St. Benedict is saying here. There
      was no postal service, let alone electronic media of any sort.
      Couriers and outriders, official or self-appointed were the only
      sources of news. Gossip and hearsay were the only news media
      available to most. It was, in comparison to our own day, a rather
      cloistered world.

      Today's active Benedictine educator or health care provider or parish
      minister could ill afford being so out of touch, much less Oblates in
      the world with jobs and families. Still, it is important to see that
      St. Benedict stressed this value as strongly as he did and try to
      find out why he did so.

      Fast forward to a Benedictine value we haven't mentioned much lately,
      but a central one: purity of heart. Purity of heart is the focused,
      singular monastic way of searching for God, of the spiritual
      struggle. Purity of heart, as Kierkegaard said, really IS to will one
      thing. For the Benedictine, that one thing is God, union with God.

      A very old monastic principle, one more alive in the East today than
      in the West, held that whatever did not help one in the monastic
      quest was actually harmful. Under that theory, there was no middle
      ground of neutrality. It helped you become a better monastic or it
      didn't. If it didn't, it wasn't considered extraneous, it was
      considered harmful, even evil. Since St. Benedict doesn't say that
      things heard from outside "can" cause great harm, but rather that
      they flat out do cause it, it may be to this earlier concept that he

      Our lives and vocations are so varied and our differences are so
      wide, but our quest is the same. Somehow, each of us, in every
      milieu, has to find a way to carve out a little bit of that isolation
      for ourselves. I love Ann McPhillips' phrase: "gatekeepers of our
      hearts." Face it, we live in an age where we can easily be in touch
      with virtually everything and it is not always good for us.

      What St. Benedict was aiming at was knowledge of outside events. We
      look at knowledge as always good, but it is not necessarily so.
      Knowledge can change us, upset us, disrupt us. Sometimes these
      stirrings are good, but other times they can get carried away.

      I became a REAL news junkie after the war began in Iraq. I am sure
      others could say the same thing: my heart was at there most of
      the time for a LONG time. Much of that was good, much
      of it was prayerful, but not all. I got carried away at times. I
      didn't need ALL the data I channel-surfed for and got.

      When I got carried away, my focus was distorted, if not destroyed.
      THAT'S what St. Benedict was worried about. I think the war is a
      perfect example of the fact that some knowledge actually removes us,
      in a sense, from our place and leaves us riveted, even gored on the
      tragedy. Prayer for the victims is one thing, obsession quite another.

      It's about focus, it's about the times in one's life that one must
      carve out for oneself, times in which "only one thing is needful."
      When a symphony of things become needful, purity of heart is drowned
      out. Maybe we have noisy families or lives, maybe we honestly cannot
      get the respite we seek. That's when we have to really struggle to
      build it in our hearts, to find God, as Teresa of Avila did, among
      the pots and pans.

      Our hearts may, in truth, be the only monasteries we have, the only
      gates we shall ever keep, but that does not matter. God knew from all
      eternity exactly the environments in which we would have to seek Him
      and He tailor-made them for us, even though in the midst of them,
      that may be hard to see at the time. He knows what He is about. We
      need to build that "one thing needful" as a place within us. For many
      of us, that will be the only desert to which we can ever fly.

      Love and prayers,
      Jerome, OSB
      jeromeleo@... St. Mary's Monastery Petersham, MA
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