March 3, July 3, November 2
Chapter 26: On Those Who Without an Order Associate with the
If any sister presumes
without an order from the Abbess
to associate in any way with an excommunicated sister,
or to speak with her,
or to send her a message,
let her incur a similar punishment of excommunication.
The principle here goes well afield of monastic excommunication.
Tempting though it often is, at some very real point one cannot (and
ought not!) be able to "protect" another from a parent or abbot or
teacher or spouse. For better or worse, the one charged by God with
the care of the child or monastic or student or partner really bears
that charge, in ways that we cannot interfere with.
In the inner city, I have taught children whose home lives were so
pathetic that one was honestly tempted to line their parents up and
shoot them. It seemed the only way out. Thankfully, it was not
feasible, because it only SEEMED to be the only answer, the only
help. Things look that way when we forget God is in charge, when we
think we control more of destiny than we actually do, when we fail to
trust Him to always, always bring good out of evil, if only we ask
Him and let Him.
This chapter was written for those who had already gone through all
the earlier stages. They wound up in the ultimate form of monastic
exclusion. At that point, one must leave the monastic and Abbot to
themselves and pray. We are not called to play good cop/bad cop any
longer. We must stand back in prayerful silence. God gave the
monastic and the superior and the Abbey to each other. It is folly of
the richest sort to assume He didn't know what He was doing. God also
gave the parent and child, boss and employee, and the spouses to each
Remember, I said "at some point" one must do nothing but pray. There
are plenty of ways to be genuinely helpful before that point is
reached and one ought to do so. I surely tried to love my students
who broke my heart with their pain, but at some point I was helpless.
God gave X this parent and God is not mean. Cannot be. Will never be.
I had to trust Him at that extreme and pray for the best, which is
all God works for anyway. And God works MUCH more efficiently than I
Our railing at the seeming harshness of this chapter can cover
another very important fact. Sometimes WE are the seemingly
malevolent torturers and we don't even see that. Rare is the person
who can truly judge themselves with the standards they cavalierly
apply to others! Even worse, it often happens that we are BOTH the
torturer and the innocent victim, doing it most hatefully within,
where none can enter. Our own flawed and fallen hearts trash our own
pathetic souls, beating them up with all kinds of useless
recrimination and self-loathings. Whoops! Not what we would have
first noticed, is it? Yet we lock the doors of that torture chamber
with the key that locks out even God: free will. We and we alone can
thwart God in our own regard. Scary power, isn't it?
Check out the times we have "excommunicated" ourselves, check out the
times we have damnably placed ourselves beyond any help from anyone.
The injustice there is much harder for us to see, but it is terribly
I love Gerard Manley Hopkins; he is my all-time favorite poet. I
think he and I had more than a thing or two in common, not least
which were the tendencies to depression and beating oneself up with
extreme efficiency. Here's what he wrote that sings to my heart, and
I hope to yours as well.
"My own heart let me more have pity on; let
Me live to my sad self hereafter kind,
Charitable; not live this tormented mind
With this tormented mind tormenting yet."
Pray for the awful excommunications that you CANNOT help and look
ever so carefully for those you and you alone can relieve, those of
your own soul and heart! God alone can bring good from evil, any
evil. Ask Him, let Him. He will never fail.
Love and prayers,
Jerome, OSB jeromeleo@... St. Mary's Monastery