February 2, June 3, October 3
Chapter 7: On Humility
The fifth degree of humility
is that he hide from his Abbot none of the evil thoughts
that enter his heart
or the sins committed in secret,
but that he humbly confess them.
The Scripture urges us to this when it says,
"Reveal your way to the Lord and hope in Him" (Ps. 36:5)
"Confess to the Lord, for He is good,
for His mercy endures forever" (Ps. 105:1).
And the Prophet likewise says,
"My offense I have made known to You,
and my iniquities I have not covered up.
I said: 'I will declare against myself my iniquities to the Lord;'
and 'You forgave the wickedness of my heart'" (Ps. 31:5).
A caution here: the Holy Rule uses the Septuagint version's numbering
of the Psalms, not the Hebrew. Since most Bibles today use the latter
system, even many Catholic editions, you might find that the Psalm
referred to in this passage, which I strongly recommend you read
through, is 32, not 31.
Psalm 31 (32) is a wonderful exposition of sin and forgiveness. It
begins by recounting the joy of one whose sin has been forgiven, then
proceeds to unfold how concealing sin affects one and confessing sin
heals one. In vv. 3-4, immediately prior to the 5th verse St.
Benedict quotes, we find the following: "I kept it secret and my
frame was wasted. I groaned all the day long for night and day Your
hand was heavy upon me. Indeed, my strength was dried up as by the
How do we know- or think we know- when a person is hiding something?
There are all kinds of human, natural signs, verbal and nonverbal
messages, body language, the whole lot! This is far afield of
theology. We're talking crime novels here! There is something rooted
in our human nature that makes guilty concealment affect both our
behavior and others' perceptions.
Guilty secrets control us, they rob us of our freedom, they destroy
our peace. Long before one's frame is wasted (though that, too will
eventually happen,) one's mind and spirit are trashed, laid low by
the relentless fear of discovery. It's very true that one can run,
but not hide.
What the guilty one is fleeing is within herself, and
travels right along with her. Ever see a news clip about a fugitive
who successfully hid for decades and then was caught? I wonder what
kind of life they had in the meantime, a life never free, a life that
always had to fear. This garbage is not what Jesus called us to.
We cannot be Benedictines without serenity and peace. It will not
happen. The tracks of our lives have a reasonable number of railway
switches that must be set correctly, or we will wind up stalled on a
siding. This confession is one of those switches.
One may not belong to a tradition which practices sacramental
confession, but all of us need the abscesses of our secret guilt
lanced and drained somehow. AA, a spiritual program which can fit
itself to any religion or no religion, insists that without
confession to at least one other person, our faults are likely to
rule us forever.
What keeps us chained to our dirty secrets is lack of faith, lack of
trust: no one will love me if they know this, not God, not anyone.
Well, the ending verses of Psalm 31(32) deal quite neatly with this
"Many sorrows have the wicked, but those who trust in the Lord,
loving mercy surrounds them. Rejoice, rejoice in the Lord, exult, you
just! O come, ring out your joy, all you upright of heart!" (Ps.
Not only does God forgive, but the guilty one now freed is accounted
as among the just and the upright of heart, without any further ado.
Now THAT is divine mercy!
And just as a wicked trick to see how many read till the end, today
is my 54th birthday. Say a prayer for me, please!
Love and prayers,
jeromeleo@... St. Mary's Monastery