Prayers, please, for Fr. Robert of Spencer, better prognosis now, but
still must have aorta surgery later this month, also for Jan, failing
badly, and for Peggy, whose Mother, Elizabeth has just died and for
Peggy's daughter, who has had extensive abdominal surgery. Prayers,
too, for Fr. Charles, on the 25th jubilee of his ordination. God's
will is best! Thanks, all! NRN JL
[This portion seems to beg for division into two parts, so I have
that in the reflection.]
February 9, June 10, October 10
Chapter 7: On Humility
The twelfth degree of humility
is that a monk not only have humility in his heart
but also by his very appearance make it always manifest
to those who see him.
That is to say that whether he is at the Work of God,
in the oratory, in the monastery, in the garden, on the road,
in the fields or anywhere else,
and whether sitting, walking or standing,
he should always have his head bowed
and his eyes toward the ground.
Feeling the guilt of his sins at every moment,
he should consider himself already present at the dread Judgment
and constantly say in his heart
what the publican in the Gospel said
with his eyes fixed on the earth:
"Lord, I am a sinner and not worthy to lift up my eyes to heaven"
(Luke 18:13; Matt. 8:8);
and again with the Prophet:
"I am bowed down and humbled everywhere" (Ps. 37:7,9; 118:107).
Alcoholics Anonymous jokes about what they call "Two-steppers," that
is, people who decide to jump right from Step 1, acknowledging their
problem, to Step 12, carrying the message to others, with nothing in
between! Wrong! Doesn't work that way...
Benedictines often see a similar mistake in novices and humility.
Bingo, they go right to the twelfth degree with nothing to build
their external humility on but the images of Hollywood. Such
individuals are usually well-intentioned enough, but one look at
their demeanor will tell one that there is probably a very badly worn
tape of "The Nun's Story" among the things they left at home! (I'm
not knocking the film, I loved it, too! But it WAS Hollywood and it
is not real life! Close runners-up of the same ilk would be "In This
House of Brede" and "The Song of Bernadette" and "Come to the
Monastic life will do a lot of things but sorry, it will never make
you Audrey Hepburn, Jennifer Jones, Diana Rigg or Loretta Young!
People who learn that have a chance to stay, people who don't often
leave because no monastery fits the Hollywood model, though they
often keep looking for one that does!
Second Section of the Reading:
Having climbed all these steps of humility, therefore,
the monk will presently come to that perfect love of God
which casts out fear.
And all those precepts
which formerly he had not observed without fear,
he will now begin to keep by reason of that love,
without any effort,
as though naturally and by habit.
No longer will his motive be the fear of hell,
but rather the love of Christ,
and delight in the virtues
which the Lord will deign to show forth by the Holy Spirit
in His servant now cleansed from vice and sin.
This crucially important second part is why none of those Hollywood
roles quite make it AND why the first section is spared from
Jansenism. (Jansenism, you may recall, was a heresy which held that
we could NEVER be worthy, NEVER do enough penance and so forth. In
its sad extremes, it harked to a sort of Pelagian attitude, implying
that we might be able to do something if we did enough harsh stuff!
But, of course, even that would never be enough. It was a rather mean
idea of God.)
Humility is NOT affected, not presupposing, hence efforts to LOOK
humble when one is not so will fall woefully short of the mark. No
Academy Awards for this one! When they call for the envelope, it will
be empty! Genuine humility is the most unself-conscious thing in the
world. It produces the external demeanor without any further ado,
because the person actually (and usually unwittingly!) BECOMES the
truth they are striving to live. Humility shows up in the face, in
everything, just as years of bitterness or years of love often do.
You couldn't hide humility if you wanted to, but you don't need to,
because the true humility is rarely even noticed and those who are
less humble tend to discount the really humble as nobodies. In one
sense, they are quite right! Both would agree on that!
If one never gets to the joy and love of the end of this passage,
there will be no reason not to look artificially rather glum over
sins that one probably doesn't believe at heart are great anyhow.
This is where some monastics miss the mark. They can stop at the
perpetual gloom and dread point, without realizing the contemplative
joy and love beyond that.
Monasticism is true, but the Gospel is more so. Neither Jansenism nor
perpetual gloom would play very well with Matthew, Mark, Luke or
John. That means they wouldn't play well with St. Benedict, either,
as his second portion surely guarantees. Love and joy and humility
are an inseparable trio! When fear is cast out, gloom goes right
along with it!
Love and prayers,
jeromeleo@... St. Mary's Monastery
February 11, June 12, October 12
Chapter 9: How Many Psalms Are to Be Said at the Night Office
In winter time as defined above,
there is first this verse to be said three times:
"O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth shall declare Your praise."
To it is added Psalm 3 and the "Glory be to the Father,"
and after that Psalm 94 to be chanted with an antiphon
or even chanted simply.
Let the Ambrosian hymn follow next,
and then six Psalms with antiphons.
When these are finished and the verse said,
let the Abbot give a blessing;
then, all being seated on the benches,
let three lessons be read from the book on the lectern
by the brethren in their turns,
and after each lesson let a responsory be chanted.
Two of the responsories are to be said
without a "Glory be to the Father"
but after the third lesson
let the chanter say the "Glory be to the Father,"
and as soon as he begins it let all rise from their seats
out of honor and reverence to the Holy Trinity.
The books to be read at the Night Office
shall be those of divine authorship,
of both the Old and the New Testament,
and also the explanations of them which have been made
by well known and orthodox Catholic Fathers.
After these three lessons with their responsories
let the remaining six Psalms follow,
to be chanted with "Alleluia."
After these shall follow the lesson from the Apostle,
to be recited by heart,
and the petition of the litany, that is "Lord, have mercy on us."
And so let the Night Office come to an end.
There is an unfortunate and perennial heresy among would-be
liturgists, even some Benedictines, which holds that if it's long,
its good. Not so, and quite evidently not so to St. Benedict, either.
The order he prescribes for Vigils is almost exactly half the length
of the Roman cathedral Office of his time.
St. Benedict was very serious about monasticism, but he also wanted
to shorten the Office, which was obviously of central importance to
him. Why? I think he aimed, once again, at balance, at moderation and
at gentleness. His monastics were farmers, not wealthy cathedral
prelates with servants and benefices. They would have dropped rather
quickly from fatigue had he imposed the Roman Office of the time on
There is a great message of moderation here for Oblates. St. Benedict
knew perfectly well that if his monastics were too long at Matins and
Lauds, the cows would be bellowing in pain from distended udders,
waiting for the high church milkers to finally arrive. See the
operative principle here? The Office is PART of one's life, a
terribly important part, but ALL of one's work and life is prayer.
Figuratively speaking, if your life and primary vocation has left you
with cows to milk, for heavens sake (literally!) go milk 'em!
Our Office, for every monastic, from Abbot Primate down to newest
Oblate novice, must be a harmonious part of our life. We are not
called to the excesses of Cluny, whose monks were in choir most of
the time, adding ever more and more gee-gaws and trinkets to the
Office. If one's children or spouse or work calls one to do less,
answer that call. No one is called to be a choir athlete, at it all
the time. Do what you can and bless God for what you cannot! He knows
what He is about.
In long dealings with Oblates I have frequently heard this issue
raised: saying the whole Office. That is fine, and some lives,
notably single ones, might make it possible. Other lives, lives
founded on sacraments like marriage, might well not. Trying to amend
one's primary, sacramental vocation to be a monastic in the world
misses the point. That primary vocation is part and parcel of HOW one
becomes a monastic in the world. Tamper with it and you mess up the
Love and prayers,
jeromeleo@... St. Mary's Monastery