Prayers, please, for Tom, thyroid biopsy, and for Ellen and Mike and
all their family and for Mike's mother, who is dying, also for Pete,
carotid artery blockage on the good side of his brain- the other side
damaged by a stroke, and for Betsy, his wife. Thanks so much! God's
will is best! NRN JL
February 5, June 6, October 6
Chapter 7: On Humility
The eighth degree of humility
is that a monk do nothing except what is commended
by the common Rule of the monastery
and the example of the elders.
I am a much bigger fan of early Sinatra than I am of his later
career. One of the hits of his closing years, which was also recorded
by Elvis, was "My Way." It quickly became the defining anthem for
many in the rather egocentric late 20th century. Actually, though
both men sang it as an apologia/defense for their lives, by the time
they got around to recording it, an apology in the more usual sense
might have been much more in order. Couple these two guys with a
third, Tony Bennett, in an imaginary trio for another hit, "I've
Gotta Be Me" and you have the secular rationale of the self in a
nutshell. I really love Tony Bennett, and I used to own a copy of his
recording of "I've Gotta Be Me", but now I rather wish he'd passed up
on that one.
Both songs take the healthy notion of self and elevate it to a level
of distortion and falsity. Like any heresy, they erroneously elevate
a part of truth to being the whole truth and that spells trouble. Our
selves are wonderful, unique, precious gifts, so are children. Leave
either unbridled and malformed and you will regret it.
Humility forms rightly because it is truth. Like the Gospel itself,
humility is the exact reverse of many a worldly tune. The real,
objective truth lies in the paradox, in the tension of yes AND no to
many things which the world would accept unquestioningly as "YES!"
So, here comes the 8th degree. It's message is that it is most safe
to assume that doing it one's own way is neither right nor terribly
bright. We may find that sometimes we are right, but even there, so
long as the action is morally neutral, the wise course is subjection
to the common mind. Benedictines swim in schools, it's our nature to
In fact, even doing it someone else's tested, tried and true way
makes no sense. God calls us to the house and the observance that
will best suit us. If we have made a mistake in hearing Him, He will
somehow gets us to transfer (unless we STILL can't hear Him!)
Otherwise, let things alone.
A recurrent malady in the history of the American Cassinese
Congregation (and heaven knows how many other congregations!) has
been Trappist fever. It plagued Archabbot Boniface Wimmer, founder of
the Order in America in his day, and it has resurfaced repeatedly in
the years since his death. Now, Boniface Wimmer is not likely to be
canonized any time soon, but he did not deserve a lot that was heaped
on him by Trappist wannabes. He was a great missionary and a great
builder. He may not have been in the top ten monastically speaking,
but literally thousands of monastics have followed his road without
plunging into the depths of perdition.
Want to be a Trappist? Do so. Want to join St. Vincent's? Do so. Want
to combine the two? Get lost! Mercifully, for all concerned, it was
the "get lost" position that prevailed. We come to the monastery, to
the Rule, to be taught, not to teach them. We come to be directed,
not to direct, to be formed, not to form.
If we allow all those things to happen to us in humility we quite
likely WILL be elements of change for the better in the community's
history, but that change will be one planned by God, not ourselves.
Love and prayers,
jeromeleo@... St. Mary's Monastery