Holy Rule for Dec. 2
Prayers, please, for the spiritual, mental and physical health of the following, for all their loved ones and all who take care of them:
Jim's daughter-in-law, have a gastric bypass operation today.
Alexandria, in the hospital from probable Shaken Baby Syndrome.
For Alexandria's siblings - all in state protective custody. For
Alexandria's parents, the father who admitted to "doing something".
For distraught uncles who care very deeply for them all.
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
April 2, August 2, December 2
Chapter 51: On Brethren Who Go Not Very Far Away
A Brother who is sent out on some business
and is expected to return to the monastery that same day
shall not presume to eat while he is out,
even if he is urgently requested to do so
by any person whomsoever,
unless he has permission from his Abbot.
And if he acts otherwise, let him be excommunicated.
Some of us may recall childhood playmates who were not allowed to eat
at our homes or anywhere else, just at their own home. I know I do.
Our family considered her family a bit strange, a bit over the top in
caution, but one thing was very clear. They were a VERY close-knit
family. OK, I have known lots of close-knit families that were not
weird, but let's look at the positive side here.
That girl's family had a high level of what sociologists term
liminality. The term is used often to describe Hasidic Jews and the
Old Order Amish. It is the degree of difference from the rest of the
world that is undertaken voluntarily and its effect is to heighten
the connectedness of the group in question, to strengthen bonds.
Even though he could not have named it that, maybe liminality is
something of what St. Benedict is aiming at in this chapter. Surely
we ARE meant to be communal, to be cenobitic families that are very
closely bonded to one another. Surely a meal is one way of both
stressing that bond and limiting outside competitive ones. There is
also the problem- greater in St. Benedict's day than in our own- of
the monastic dining on heaven knows what that was forbidden.
These days, far less is forbidden to us dietarily as monastics, but
there are still dangers of monastics being wined and dined and
getting far too accustomed to "only-the-best-for-me-thanks!" We are
certainly allowed to eat out, but I think that it is significant
that, in my monastery, we are ordinarily forbidden to eat in expensive places or
in people's homes without permission.
That's just our custom here. In many ways, it is very good, too.
Remember that we usually go out in our habits. I sure don't mind
being seen in Taco Bell or some family restaurant in my habit, but I
would be woefully embarrassed and ashamed to be seen so attired in
the most expensive restaurant in Boston. What kind of a statement
would that make?
Our homes are domestic churches, they are temples. However humble,
they are the banquet halls of a great King.That's what we are called
to remember in this chapter. Our homes are sacred, whether Oblate or Abbot
Primate, we live in the houses of God. To His dwelling place, others must
never be preferred. Ask me where I'd like to eat my last meal and the answer
would be right here at home, even if our most culinarily-challenged monk were
cooking that day. (Names have been omitted to protect the guilty, but some
reading this will be able to fill in the blanks!!)
Having said that we all dwell in domestic temples, banquet halls of
the Greatest King, let us also take care to invite others to share that
tremendous grace. The simplest meal in such a setting, provided the host sees it
for the splendor of God's
presence that it truly is, is a rich blessing for the guests,
indeed. And we are, after all Benedictines: hospitality is one of our
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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