Holy Rule for Oct. 4
Many of our lives have been touched for the better by Francsicans- there are so many of them! Prayers for them all on the feast of St. Francis.
Prayers for Brie, on her 27th birthday, ad multos annos and may blessings.
Prayers for Mary, living alone and dusffering from depression.
Prayers please for a single mom who faces yet another court date with her former abusive husband. It seems this case is never going to end.
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
February 3, June 4, October 4
Chapter 7: On Humility
The sixth degree of humility
is that a monk be content
with the poorest and worst of everything,
and that in every occupation assigned him
he consider himself a bad and worthless workman,
saying with the Prophet,
"I am brought to nothing and I am without understanding;
I have become as a beast of burden before You,
and I am always with You" (Ps:22-23).
It is easy to miss the hardest word in this reading. Our eyes fly
right away to the ones we want to argue with- and these days many
want to argue with them! Slyly stuck into the first line is the
demand that the monastic "be CONTENT with the poorest and worst of
everything." The connection this time is not to obedience, but to
other virtues in humility's service: simplicity and stability.
Contentedness does not bide its time for a jump to something better,
does not merely undergo, but accepts rather matter-of-factly.
Contented monastics aren't hunting for or wondering about something
else, usually it doesn't even occur to them. Truly contented people,
in monasteries or in marriage or in the world do not spend a lot of
time on "what if?" or "what next?". In the 70's a lot of people loved
the popular phrase on posters: "Bloom where you are planted." Quite
possibly they never stopped to think exactly what that meant: being
contented enough to blossom in any circumstance. Whoops! A little
more teeth to that version!
I know from personal experience: stability with divided attention,
with tons of Plans B, C, and D, simply is not very effective. It is
better than nothing, to be sure, but it is nearly nothing when
compared with its power once all those distractions are dropped. We
often cannot drop them all at once, but we must try to stay rooted,
ever more and more rooted.
I know one great monk who told me, at 83, that
he had finally decided to stay! There was not even a hint of irony of
twinkle in his voice. On the other hand, I have known monks who were
happy as clams and completely contented in their forties. It is a
different struggle for each of us.
Truly contented simplicity and stability are powerful, counter-
cultural witnesses to offer this age. Materialism, consumerism and
the short attention span rule. A consumerist society is actually
fueled by provoking discontent: how else can superfluous consumption
Every time one person, family or monastery gets even
partially free of those constraints it is a powerful witness to those
still bound. Most of us truly do not "need" more. The Holy Rule can
teach us that, but not if we look at it through the lenses we have
hauled along with us from the 21st century world. Those lenses are
completely invested in our reaching the opposite- and false-
Two cautions here. Good ole Gulf coast Florida boy that I am, I can
tell you that when one goes crabbing with a big floating washtub full
of blue crabs tied to your belt, you never have to put a lid on it.
Why? Because whenever one crab gets close to crawling out, the others
will pull it down. Don't be surprised if this happens to you!
Lots of people LOVE consumerist enslavement, or at least think they do!
The other, equally important consideration is that simplicity is NOT just
a way to save money- though it will free up plenty. The goal is not
to hoard what you have saved, but to spread it around or, as St.
Elizabeth Seton said: "Let us live simply, so that others may simply
As to the "bad and worthless workman" line, where I expect there'll
be a lot of dissent, well, that isn't St. Benedict or me. You'll have
to argue with Jesus Himself on that one. He said that after we have
done ALL that was commanded us, we should say we are nothing but
unprofitable servants. Being God, I don't imagine He was mistaken.
Love and prayers,
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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,
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