Prayers, please, for Eva, in hospice and sinking fast, and for her son, Dave, and all their family.
Prayers, too, for Jerry and his daughters, Danielle and Dana, and their
Philip had a serious stroke and needs prayers . Lib and Dot, both elderly are under the weather right now with colds (that can be serious with both of them so please pray for them as well). Lord, help us all as You know and will. God's will is best. All is
mercy and grace. God is never absent, praise Him! Thanks so much. JL
March 18, July 18, November 17
Chapter 39: On the Measure of Food
We think it sufficient for the daily dinner,
whether at the sixth or the ninth hour,
that every table have two cooked dishes
on account of individual infirmities,
so that he who for some reason cannot eat of the one
may make his meal of the other
Therefore let two cooked dishes suffice for all the brethren;
and if any fruit or fresh vegetables are available,
let a third dish be added.
Let a good pound weight of bread suffice for the day,
whether there be only one meal or both dinner and supper.
If they are to have supper,
the cellarer shall reserve a third of that pound,
to be given them at supper.
But if it happens that the work was heavier,
it shall lie within the Abbot's discretion and power,
should it be expedient,
to add something to the fare.
Above all things, however,
over-indulgence must be avoided
and a monk must never be overtaken by indigestion;
for there is nothing so opposed to the Christian character
according to Our Lord's words,
"See to it that your hearts be not burdened
with over-indulgence" (Luke 21:34).
shall not receive the same amount of food as their elders,
and frugality shall be observed in all circumstances.
Except the sick who are very weak,
let all abstain entirely
from eating the flesh of four-footed animals.
The Benedictine golden mean is that of the Lord Himself: we avoid
over-indulgence because it burdens our hearts. This is true of any
over-indulgence: food, drink, property. Our hearts are truly burdened
by our excess, weighed down, kept from flight. Our hearts lag and
fall with the awful results of having ourselves in charge of them!
For those in the developed countries, this chapter on food can be a
very good starting point of surrender. The Western nations in general
and the U.S. in particular are spoiled rotten with food. Our notoriously poor
diet choices are to blame for many health risks and I confess that I am
just as guilty as anyone, even if I am trying to do a little better. Might
not food be one of the healthiest and most logical places for ascetic striving to
The questions of diet raised here were looked at in purely monastic
terms, as self-denial and penitential living. No one knew about
cholesterol or fiber or many of the illnesses associated today with
eating habits. Wasn't in their vocabulary. No quadruped meat was just
a red herring between Cistercians and Benedictines, each arguing an
opposite point solely on grounds of monastic observance. In every
monastic writing I have ever encountered, abstinence from meat is
always viewed as a voluntary deprivation, a means, like fasting, to
subdue the body and its more earthy side.
Fast forward to 2008. Red meat tastes great. I love it. NOTHING like
a medium rare prime rib! Sadly, that is true in more than one sense,
especially if, like me, you eat all the fat! Today we know that the
eating habits encouraged here are worth a lot more than simple
asceticism, they are healthy. Given that, something a lot more
binding than the Holy Rule bids us look more closely: the 5th
commandment, which insists that we not kill ourselves, either, that
we guard our health.
Granted, the times of meals stated here do not fit very well into a
40 hour week of work and school. Not to worry. Our call here is to
adapt. The content of monastic meals can be a big boon to health.
Less meat, more beans, less beef, more chicken, buy decent bread and
eat more of it. Or make your own! (Remember that bread machine that
hardly got used after Christmas?) These are things one can gradually
introduce to a family, too, provided one is a good cook. An extra
meatless day or two a week is hardly noticed if you serve really good
fare. Try dishes from the peasant cuisines of the world that stretch
a very little meat a very long way.
This Benedictine-inspired diet will not only be better for you and
your family, it will benefit the planet, too. Grain-fed beef makes a
horrible dent in the ecology and economy of the world, to say nothing
of throwing effort and harvests into cattle that could feed starving
Remember that earlier injunction about treating the goods of the
monastery as sacred vessels of the altar? Well, the greatest goods
any monastery or family has are its members and the planet that
supports them. To own that fact is the beginning of a Benedictine
ecology. Our diets are excellent places to make choices healthy for
us and all the planet.
We need our hearts (figuratively and literally!) in this struggle. A
starving heart is just as crippled as a surfeited one. We need to
find the balance- and that is often hard. But, with God's help and
mercy, we can do all!
Love and prayers,
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