Holy Rule for Sept. 1
+++NOTE: My e mail server was down for a while yesterday and I seem to have lost some messages. If you sent a prayer request that you do not see here today, please resend, as I may not have gotten it. JL
Prayers, please, for all those traveling on this Labor Day weekend in the US, for safe trips and returns home.
Prayers for the happy death and eternal rest of Steve's parents, on what would have been their 61st anniversary.
Prayers for Jane and Tom, that their relationship deepen accoding to God's perfect will.
Deo gratias! Baby Damon is home from the hospital. The fluid around his
heart is almost gone.
Natalie's father is still on dialysis and has been
"upgraded' to 50/50.
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
January 1, May 2, September 1
L I S T E N carefully, my child,
to your master's precepts,
and incline the ear of your heart (Prov. 4:20).
Receive willingly and carry out effectively
your loving father's advice,
that by the labor of obedience
you may return to Him
from whom you had departed by the sloth of disobedience.
To you, therefore, my words are now addressed,
whoever you may be,
who are renouncing your own will
to do battle under the Lord Christ, the true King,
and are taking up the strong, bright weapons of obedience.
And first of all,
whatever good work you begin to do,
beg of Him with most earnest prayer to perfect it,
that He who has now deigned to count us among His children
may not at any time be grieved by our evil deeds.
For we must always so serve Him
with the good things He has given us,
that He will never as an angry Father disinherit His children,
nor ever as a dread Lord, provoked by our evil actions,
deliver us to everlasting punishment
as wicked servants who would not follow Him to glory.
The Prologue is the most tender and loving of beginnings. Always,
always, always keep this loving Father that writes here in mind as
you read the rest of the Holy Rule. This and the epilogue are the key to
it all, and the key to the saintly personality and tenderness of our
holy Father Benedict.
The Holy Rule can seem so lofty that it sometimes turns people away.
They think: "This is for those really holy people, not for me. I'll
bet it's easy for saints like them, but I couldn't even dream of
trying." Wrong on both counts and St. Benedict makes that clear. We
return "by the labor of obedience" and if we are not one of those who
has "to do battle" against our own will, he makes it abundantly
certain that he is not talking to us.
If, in fact, there is anyone for whom the Rule is a cinch, and I
doubt that very much, then it was not written for them. It was
written for us who struggle, for us for whom it is NOT easy, to help
us in a battle that sometimes wears us out.
St. Benedict also makes his point that our distance from God is due
to our "sloth of disobedience." Yet he doesn't tell the slothful to
quit because they are worthless, he tells them they are the very ones
for whom he is writing this Rule! This is the Rule for the fallen and
beginners, this is an entry level position which can advance us to
great sanctity, but it *IS* an entry level position!
This is the door and gate for all. This is most decidedly NOT a Rule
just for monks and nuns in monasteries. Were that so, no provision
for Oblates would ever have been made. No, this is a Rule for all who
wish to try to become better and because they have made that
intention, God "has deigned to count us among His children." There is
no more us-and-them here. Just by beginning, we become part of the
How many of us who were not in the advanced reading group as children
secretly got the suspicion that the whole class was really for the
wonder kids, not for us, that we were somehow extraneous and just
tagging along to whatever was REALLY going on? Well, the Holy Rule is
quite direct about stating that this time, it is not about wonder
kids: the center of its focus is the rest of us! Now there's a
refreshingly upside down and all too rare world view!
Love and prayers,
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
Prayers, please, for the happy death and eternal rest of Br. Tobias, OSB, for his monastic community, his family and for all who mourn him.
Please pray that the US Congress and the new administration will respect all human life, from conception till natural death.
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
January 20, May 21, September 20
Chapter 4: What Are the Instruments of Good Works
To fear the Day of Judgment.
To be in dread of hell.
To desire eternal life with all the passion of the spirit.
To keep death daily before one's eyes.
To keep constant guard over the actions of one's life.
To know for certain that God sees one everywhere.
When evil thoughts come into one's heart, to dash them against Christ
And to manifest them to one's spiritual mother.
To guard one's tongue against evil and depraved speech.
Not to love much talking.
Not to speak useless words or words that move to laughter.
Not to love much or boisterous laughter.
To listen willingly to holy reading.
To devote oneself frequently to prayer.
Daily in one's prayers, with tears and sighs, to confess one's past
sins to God, and to amend them for the future.
Not to fulfil the desires of the flesh; to hate one's own will.
To obey in all things the commands of the Abbess, even though she
herself (which God forbid) should act otherwise, mindful of the
Lord's precept, "Do what they say, but not what they do."
Not to wish to be called holy before one is holy; but first to be
holy, that one may be truly so called.
The first four on today's list are not very palatable to many modern
ears, but, like all of the Instruments of Good Works, they are
important, they are interrelated and each one helps one fulfill the
others. Arguably, one could say that the focus of the first four is
the fifth: "To keep constant guard over the actions of one's life."
We have largely "gotten over" dreading Judgment. We went from a
paralyzing, Jansenistic, scrupulous fear of it right into a smug
assurance that everyone passes the test with honors. Well, there's got to
be truth hidden between those two false extremes somewhere!
I know, beyond any doubt that I shall be both delighted and very,
very embarrassed and ashamed to meet God face to face, to find that
my faith has been confirmed. Ah, joy at the confirmation, but oh,
crushing shame at the simultaneous confirmation of how very far short
of Him I have fallen, through choice, through laziness, through
negligence, through sin.
One can dread that realization without thinking that God is some
intrinsically mean sort, just waiting for one to trip up, hunting for the
slightest loophole to nail us. Quite the opposite is the truth! God's awesome
Divine Mercy seeks every possible way to bring us to Himself and
His rewards of bliss. Every possible way!!
Let us admit that we have been all too good at tripping
on our own: God has no need to duplicate services there! Fearing
judgment is part and parcel of knowing who we are. We have all
sinned. And I know I have failed faith, hope and love, again and again
and again, usually with no more excuse than selfishness.
We keep goals in sight while training. Forget the Olympic gold and
you will quite likely forget why you are training so hard. For us,
between now and the "Olympics" of death, it is only the training that
matters. It is also good to recall that, as Benedictines, our goal is
NOT simply to "pass", but to stand on the podium.
That's not because we are any better, it is only because
we ourselves have added great holiness to our goal. Why else embrace
the Rule? Keeping "death daily before our eyes," we are ALWAYS at
the Olympics, thanks to our vow of conversion of manner of life, we
are daily in training, every minute, in fact.
All of these four lead to the fifth, keeping guard over one's
actions, or mindfulness. Here is a great connection between the
Benedictine way and the Buddhist way.
The Buddhists have a saying that monastics can preach a sermon just
by the way they walk. That's what the care of mindfulness can do!
Just wait till we get to the 12th degree of humility, which says that
the monastics' humility will shine through their outward appearance,
whether walking or sitting or working or praying.
Love and prayers,
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]