Blessed John XXIII picked this date to be crowned as Pope, because of
his love for St. Charles Borromeo, whose feast it is. That was in
1958, 44 years ago, if one wants to feel a bit old becuase of
remembering the day so clearly or a bit young because he so far
predates one's birth! Say a prayer to both of them for all of us! JL
Chapter 28: On Those Who Will Not Amend after Repeated Corrections
If a sister who has been frequently corrected for some fault,
and even excommunicated,
does not amend,
let a harsher correction be applied,
that is, let the punishment of the rod be administered.
But if she still does not reform
or perhaps (which God forbid)
even rises up in pride and wants to defend her conduct,
then let the Abbess do what a wise physician would do.
Having used applications,
the ointments of exhortation,
the medicines of the Holy Scriptures,
finally the cautery of excommunication
and of the strokes of the rod,
if she sees that her efforts are of no avail,
let her apply a still greater remedy,
her own prayers and those of all the others,
that the Lord, who can do all things
may restore health to the sister who is sick.
But if she is not healed even in this way,
then let the Abbess use the knife of amputation,
according to the Apostle's words,
"Expel the evil one from your midst" (1 Cor. 5:13),
"If the faithless one departs, let her depart" (1 Cor. 7:15)
lest one diseased sheep contaminate the whole flock.
The Holy Rule and its author, St. Benedict, are tremendously kind,
insisting that we go all the way we possibly can and even a bit
beyond with the erring. All that love and care and sorely tried
patience is absolutely necessary before this point, "the knife of
amputation," is reached. This, too, is a great and important part of
mercy, though we may not easily see that at first.
It is tremendously unkind, unloving and unmerciful to hang onto a
person to whom we can no longer offer hope of treatment or genuine
help. There are times when such played out relationships become
terribly toxic to the sufferer and to all concerned. There are times
when nothing is left but, as AA would put it, to let that person hit
bottom. Even that may or may not work, but we sometimes have nothing
else to apply. To continue forbearance at such a time is merely to
enable, to actually participate in the person's self-destruction. Al
Anon (sp.?) could tell you a lot about the wisdom of enabling.
This is so hard for us, to finally, seemingly "give up" on someone.
In truth, we never do that. We still pray, we must, but we must also
have the humility to admit that we no longer be of useful help, that
we are even likely to harm further by enabling. That is an affront to
our natural pride: we OUGHT to be able to heal ANYTHING, ANYONE...
Sigh... But we aren't. We are also wounded, also imperfect, little
better or more capable than the poor sufferer for whom we erroneously
think we can be a healing god from the sky.
St. Benedict is NOT saying to give up on the person- I still pray
for people who left decades ago and probably should have done so. I
have no idea where they are or what they're doing, but I do know the
monastery didn't seem to be the place that was most helpful to them,
nor were they particularly a gift to the community. What St. Benedict
is saying is that we must have the wisdom and humility to stop trying
things that don't work, for the good of all concerned, including
ourselves. When this point is reached, no one can help but God. He
can always do so, but to wait for Him to do it in a situation already
mired beyond hope in dysfunction is not a great notion. Fix what you
can and pray for the rest.
Love and prayers,
Jerome, OSB St. Mary's Monastery Petersham, MA