February 1, June 2, October 2
Chapter 7: On Humility
The fourth degree of humility
is that he hold fast to patience with a silent mind
when in this obedience he meets with difficulties
and even any kind of injustice,
enduring all without growing weary or running away.
For the Scripture says,
"The one who perseveres to the end,
is the one who shall be saved" (Matt. 10:22);
"Let your heart take courage, and wait for the Lord" (Ps. 26:14)!
And to show how those who are faithful
ought to endure all things, however contrary, for the Lord,
the Scripture says in the person of the suffering,
"For Your sake we are put to death all the day long;
we are considered as sheep marked for slaughter" (Ps. 43:22; Rom.
Then, secure in their hope of a divine recompense,
they go on with joy to declare,
"But in all these trials we conquer,
through Him who has granted us His love" (Rom. 8:37).
Again, in another place the Scripture says,
"You have tested us, O God;
You have tried us a silver is tried, by fire;
You have brought us into a snare;
You have laid afflictions on our back" (Matt. 5:39-41).
And to show that we ought to be under a Superior,
it goes on to say,
"You have set men over our heads" (Ps. 65:12).
Moreover, by their patience
those faithful ones fulfill the Lord's command
in adversities and injuries:
when struck on one cheek, they offer the other;
when deprived of their tunic, they surrender also their cloak;
when forced to go a mile, they go two;
with the Apostle Paul they bear with false brethren (2 Cor. 11:26)
and bless those who curse them (1 Cor. 4:12).
Be careful how you read this fourth step of patience. It is an ideal,
presented in its most flawless form. The danger for schleps like me
is that it can give one an image of a perfect, 1950's sitcom Mom:
shirt dress and pearls, cookies and milk always forthcoming in a
kitchen as clean as a surgical suite and never a hair out of place.
Full make-up on rising and wears hat and matching gloves to shop.
PUHLEEEZE! That would make one gag and retch. Real patience in action
is not at all like that.
Patience in action is a fierce struggle. Never think it's easy for
others and there is therefore something wrong with you: it isn't easy
for anyone. One of the biggest flaws of the "I'm OK and you are
not..." school of ministry is that it makes people think exactly
this. "It's easy for her and there's something terribly wrong with
me." Neither is true.
Please drop that TV image of perfect models, who flit from flower to
flower in life beamingly, fraught with about as much stress as a
butterfly in a climate-controlled greenhouse in full bloom. That
image will harm you. The Holy Rule and most of Scripture were not
written for such brainless, clueless potted plants. They were written
for real, average people, halt and lame, battle-scarred plodders like
you and me, for people who have weathered life, but barely. Honey,
there may be cookies and milk, but you'll probably have to get the
plate yourself and brush aside a LOT of blood, sweat and tears to
find one. Oh, and please drink the milk fast and take as much as you
can... the fridge broke today.
Patience is surely one of the most important fuels that perseverance
runs on, but don't be surprised if it often is not very high octane!
Neither should it surprise you if your engine is not a slant V-8, but
rather a 4 horsepower lawnmower that has trouble starting. Patience
is ENDURANCE, not ease. It may, after years of struggle, confer a
great peace and serenity, but it rarely, if ever, feels like that in
the middle of things.
Brother Patrick Creamer, OSB, of Saint Leo Abbey in Florida, taught
me patience and perseverance. He was able to do so because he was so
transparent about his own struggles. Many others tried to tell me how
hard it was, but their lack of candor made me dismiss their warnings
as tokenism. It certainly didn't seem to be hard for them. I couldn't
believe them. Patrick, my mentor, was so very different.
Patrick entered the monastery in 1954, when he was 40, after a long
career at sea. He missed being at sea so much (and for so long!) that
it magnified many of the every day crosses of monastic life. Abbot
Marion who loved brothers and had a very tender spot for them, used
to send Patrick to the beach for a weekend now and then, in years
when that sort of thing didn't often happen. +Marion was wise enough
to know he'd lose Patrick if he didn't get a salt air fix now and
Even the beach trips were not enough alone. Patrick told me he was
tempted to leave every single day for ten years. Patrick, when I
lived with him, literally stayed packed with a hidden suitcase for
years and boasted of his ability to be gone in an hour. As a novice,
my heart used to be selfishly in my throat. I wanted him to go, if
that was what he was supposed to do, but I really didn't want to lose
him. He even left for a while once, when he was over 60, to San
Francisco, yet! Didn't take. One of the most clerical of the older
priest monks, who was hardly noted for his fondness for brothers,
wrote Patrick a personal letter begging him to come home. Astounded,
Patrick did just that.
I am breaking no confidence if I also tell you that, during the worst
of those years, Patrick joined AA and has been faithfully sober for
decades, helping scores of alcoholics who have come to him, because a
transparent broken person usually can. I can also tell you that
Brother Patrick finally decided to stay: when he was 83!!! What a
witness of hope that was to me, to others struggling like me.
Please, let us all be given patience. But when we get it, however
little at a time, let NONE of us be TV Moms. Let us all be Patricks,
let us show others how terribly hard, yet doable it can be. Patrick
holds forth from his infirmary room most of the time now. A steady
stream of visitors has not waned. On the head of his bed and on the
shaving mirror over his sink are two small notes, written in his own
inimitable hand: "Lord, let me come to You." They broke my heart the
first time I saw them. I still don't want to lose him. But I know how
right he is and how richly he deserves that embrace for which he
Love and prayers,
Jerome LEO, OSB (again and again you'll see why I took the second
jeromeleo@... St. Mary's Monastery