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Holy Rule for Dec. 23

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  • Br. Jerome Leo
    +PAX Prayers, please, for the spiritual, mental and physical health of the following, for all their loved ones and all who take care of them: a promising young
    Message 1 of 29 , Dec 22, 2008
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      Prayers, please, for the spiritual, mental and physical health of the following, for all their loved ones and all who take care of them:

      a promising young lady being led astray by
      pagan influences and for her father who feels frustrated, fearful and
      guilty because of his lapses in her upbringing.

      Deo Gratias: Frank, for whom we prayed is responding to treatment and is no longer in immediate danger. Tests are still required to find out all of what's wrong, though.

      Len, severe heart problems and now unexplained bleeding (sub rosa-bowel, nose, some in abdomen).

      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

      April 23, August 23, December 23
      Chapter 65: On the Prior of the Monastery

      To us, therefore, it seems expedient
      for the preservation of peace and charity
      that the Abbot have in his hands
      the full administration of his monastery.
      And if possible let all the affairs of the monastery,
      as we have already arranged,
      be administered by deans according to the Abbot's directions.
      Thus, with the duties being shared by several,
      no one person will become proud.


      But if the circumstances of the place require it,
      or if the community asks for it with reason and with humility,
      and the Abbot judges it to be expedient,
      let the Abbot himself constitute as his Prior
      whomsoever he shall choose
      with the counsel of God-fearing brethren.


      That Prior, however, shall perform respectfully
      the duties enjoined on him by his Abbot
      and do nothing against the Abbot's will or direction;
      for the more he is raised above the rest,
      the more carefully should he observe the precepts of the Rule.


      If it should be found that the Prior has serious faults,
      or that he is deceived by his exaltation and yields to pride,
      or if he should be proved to be a despiser of the Holy Rule,
      let him be admonished verbally up to four times.
      If he fails to amend,
      let the correction of regular discipline be applied to him.
      But if even then he does not reform,
      let him be deposed from the office of Prior
      and another be appointed in his place who is worthy of it.
      And if afterwards he is not quiet and obedient in the community,
      let him even be expelled from the monastery.
      But the Abbot, for his part, should bear in mind
      that he will have to render an account to God
      for all his judgments,
      lest the flame of envy or jealousy be kindled in his soul.

      REFLECTION

      The overwhelming majority of us, myself included, are never going to
      be a Prior or Prioress. Firm grasp on the obvious there!! What,
      however, may we glean from this chapter? There are at least several
      possibilities.

      First, even if your position gives you a certain level of honor,
      never be so stupid as to believe it, to become proud, to take
      yourself far too seriously. Cling to a self-knowledge of your
      limitations, your sins and failings, especially when being praised.

      Yes, we are human, yes, it is nice to hear those things, yes,
      sometimes they are even close to the truth, but praise, rank and
      honor can be awful traps. Like crack cocaine, they can addict us the
      first time we really give in to them. Great caution is in order here.

      Second, every commitment to Christ, Baptism, Oblation or Profession,
      obliges us to a higher standard of self-control. The Holy Rule,
      because speaking of a superior official, uses the phrase "raised above the
      rest." This is given as a reason to more carefully observe the Holy Rule.

      We should read therein that ANY commitment which separates us
      and sets us further apart for the service of God means that we must
      more carefully observe the precepts of the Rule. Even though it can
      be quite annoying to hear, how often someone will say, immediately
      after a litany of transgressions the person has committed, "And she
      is an OBLATE!" (Or Franciscan Third Order, or whatever.) People
      expect more of us because of our religious inclinations and we should
      not disappoint them.

      Third, and perhaps most important of all, no one, save God alone, is
      indispensable. No one. Want to see the change that your removal from
      the scene will effect? Stick your forearm into a bucket of water, and
      then pull it out. Same thing, folks, the waters close right in and
      things go on quite nicely. The higher water level while our arm was
      there was only illusion anyway. This fact can work in happy concert
      with the above warning about taking ourselves too seriously. Usually,
      when we THINK we're hot stuff, we aren't, and even if we truly are at
      some point, it is FAR better not to know that, and a LOT easier for
      the spiritual struggle.

      Yes, we ARE important, we are infinitely important to God and, as a
      result, to each other. But what makes us so is holiness and love and
      struggling for virtue, not power. What makes us most like Him is
      humility.

      Love and prayers,
      Jerome, OSB







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    • Br. Jerome Leo
      +PAX O King of the nations [Gentiles] and Desired of all, You are the cornerstone that binds two into one: Come, and save humankind whom You formed out of
      Message 2 of 29 , Dec 22, 2008
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        "O King of the nations [Gentiles] and Desired of all, You are the
        cornerstone that binds two into one: Come, and save humankind whom
        You formed out of clay."

        The antiphons before today were heavily Jewish in their Messianic
        content and this one begins that way, but then presents a radical
        stumbling to Israel's usual position. The Jews of Jesus' time were not
        exactly noted for rabid ecumenism. Their customary ecumenical stance was, alas,
        rather closely akin to that of the Catholic Counter-Reformation: "Someday
        they'll all come crawling and groveling to us on OUR terms." Sadly, the New
        Israel can, at times, all too closely resemble the Old in some respects.

        No problem for the Jews with "King of nations" (Jer. 10:7) or the
        Desired of all, (Hag.2:8) these fit the old pattern comfortably.
        There is even a cornerstone tradition in Isaiah 28:16, but "as the
        foundation of Sion," not a union with all peoples. The jarring note
        is in "the cornerstone that binds the two into one." This is
        definitely not the way Israel expected the Gentiles to "wake up and
        get with it." This is God Himself being the binder, even part of the
        bond, the very cause of unity. This is that perfect union which does
        not make those united feel smaller or less, because God Himself is
        thrown into the breach of union.

        Just as Christ has broken down the walls dividing us from the Father,
        so is He also the cause and source of our unity with all humanity.
        This is very Pauline, expressed in both Eph.2:14 and Gal.3:29 as
        Christ being the peace between Jew and Gentile. That wall, humanly
        speaking, between Jew and Gentile was very high. Jews could not eat
        with Gentiles, many civil observances of foreign lands were
        proscribed for them and their refusal to follow these was a source of
        frequent persecution. In Mosaic law, Jewish nationality was conferred
        by birth from a Jewish mother. The children of a Jewish man and a non-
        Jewish wife would not even be Jews, a fact still true today.

        The quote from Galatians has further applications to human
        unity: "There is no such thing as Jew and Greek, slave and free, male
        and female; for you are all one person in Christ Jesus. But if you
        thus belong to Christ, you are the issue of Abraham and so heirs by
        promise." Here we see not only the wall dividing Jew and Gentile torn
        down, but even the customary way of becoming Jews and heirs to the
        promise overthrown. No Jewish male could confer birth membership in Israel.
        It travelled through the mother. Christ makes it clear that He unites
        all in a new dispensation, one which supersedes the old. It is
        significant that a role limited to women, in an age that scorned
        them, is ascribed to Jesus by St. Paul, hardly the greatest fan of
        women himself, without so much as a shrug of apology.

        The Old Israel cherishes promises and waits for their fulfillment.
        The New Israel, in its delight that the Messiah has come, often
        forgets that it, too, must wait for the fulfillment of the promise
        and that the waiting is terrible, painful frustration. No one can
        look at the quote from Galatians and smugly assume that we are there.
        Anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, religious hatreds,
        misogyny and misandry color our world and sometimes even our Church.
        Hate crimes fill the news all too often. (Once would be too often...)
        We have made a stab at slave and free, but little more than that.

        What we miss is that these changes have already been effected,
        perfectly, in Christ. The unity, the equality, promises are here:
        they are REAL. All that impedes their full realization is just that:
        their "real-ization" and discovery in our human hearts. The way to
        bring about the promise is to live as if it were already here:
        because it is! If every person did that, even to their own personal
        cost and detriment, you would see changes in our world and churches
        literally overnight.

        Lastly, there is a reality check that is not too palatable to our
        modern ears, the reminder that we were formed out of clay. Several
        decades of self-affirming pop psychology in the late 20th century may
        have done their work a bit too well in some of us. The Latin "limus"
        which is here rather flatteringly rendered as "clay" has the more
        common sense of "mud, slime, or mire." Even if we now realize that
        the creation of humanity was not a literal case of God making patty-
        cake with clay, the message here is quite clear. The most cursory
        examination of conscience will reveal how close to our origins we can
        often slip. (You potters out there should pardon the pun...)

        If this reflection may have inflamed a few, please do not blame Abbot
        Lawrence. Most of this was me, after reading Parsch.






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      • Br. Jerome Leo
        +PAX Prayers, please, for the spiritual, mental and physical health of the following, for all their loved ones and all who take care of them: Brittany,
        Message 3 of 29 , Dec 23, 2008
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          Prayers, please, for the spiritual, mental and physical health of the following, for all their loved ones and all who take care of them:

          Brittany, continued healing from dental surgery.

          Margaret who is in denial about melanomas that are greatly concerning the specialist

          Wyn who is having a series of scans for problems in her throat and neck .

          Peter and Ann on their 36th wedding anniversary

          Deo gratias: Bill who had a heart attack is doing better. He had 2 stints put in and there was no lasting damage from the heart attack. He is on a strict do nothing regimen which his wife will enforce.

          Lord, help us all as
          You know and will. God's wi;; is best. All is mercy and grace. God is never
          absent, praise Him! Thanks so much. JL

          April 24, August 24, December 24
          Chapter 66: On the Porter of the Monastery

          At the gate of the monastery
          let there be placed a wise old woman,
          who knows how to receive and to give a message,
          and whose maturity will prevent her from straying about.
          This porter should have a room near the gate,
          so that those who come may always find someone at hand
          to attend to their business.
          And as soon as anyone knocks or a poor person hails her,
          let her answer "Thanks be to God" or "A blessing!"
          Then let her attend to them promptly,
          with all the meekness inspired by the fear of God
          and with the warmth of charity.

          Should the porter need help,
          let her have one of the younger sisters.

          If it can be done,
          the monastery should be so established
          that all the necessary things,
          such as water, mill, garden and various workshops,
          may be within the enclosure,
          so that there is no necessity
          for the sisters to go about outside of it,
          since that is not at all profitable for their souls.

          We desire that this Rule be read often in the community,
          so that none of the sisters may excuse herself
          on the ground of ignorance.

          REFLECTION

          Modern monasteries in our Order rarely have gatehouses, let alone
          porters waiting at them. In one way, that's too bad, because one
          often sees visitors come to a monastery without a clue as to where to
          go first, or how to contact someone. On the other hand, it would
          wasteful to employ one person full-time at such an endeavor in our
          smaller communities of today, since whole days may go by in many
          places with few or none needing assistance.

          What we have today is the phone, and phone manners are how this best
          translates into modern life for both Oblates and professed. I have
          certainly known monks who have answered the phone with an attitude
          that vaguely said: "You've got some nerve putting me out like this,
          disturbing me, etc." One certainly wouldn't want to call such a
          monastery twice. If one had never called one before, it is unlikely
          that one would want to try another, to go for 2 out of 3, just in
          case. See the responsibility we have?

          When a phone or doorbell rings, whether in a great Benedictine abbey
          or an urban Benedictine apartment, we have the opportunity to
          practice the hospitable grace that the Holy Rule requires of all.
          Dorothy Day's friend and mentor, Father Hugo, used to say that we
          love God as much as the one we love the least.

          That would readily translate here. I LOVE to see certain guests arrive,
          look forward to it as soon as I hear they are coming. Those are not the
          receptions on which I should judge my hospitality. The tough-to-love
          ones are.

          The point here is that we ARE Benedictines, whether our answering
          style of door or phone makes that evident or not. I might not like to think
          so, but the anonymity of just saying "Hello," one the phone, without my
          name or title does not entitle me to be harsh or gruff or rude. All of us are
          bound by something Benedictine within us to be kind and gracious to all
          who call or visit.

          Someone who calls the guesthouse for the first time can be driven
          away or attracted by the way they are dealt with on the phone.
          A vocation could driven away by a smartingly cold response. To
          risk alienating someone because of our own moods might mean that we
          cheat someone out of a spiritual respite they sorely need.

          I can't tell you how many people who just called us out of nowhere in the
          last 12 years have become real members of our family, greatly
          beneficial to themselves and to us. Anyone of those first experiences
          could have been irreparably soured by a cranky phone manner. Look at
          what all of us would have lost had that happened.

          Love and prayers,
          Jerome, OSB
          http:www.stmarysmonastery.org
          jeromeleo@...
          Petersham, MA






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        • Br. Jerome Leo
          +PAX Since the 24th is First Vespers of Christmas, actually beginning the solemnity, today s antiphon is the last of the great O Antiphons. The Roman Church
          Message 4 of 29 , Dec 23, 2008
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            Since the 24th is First Vespers of Christmas, actually beginning the
            solemnity, today's antiphon is the last of the great O Antiphons. The
            Roman Church formerly made more extensive use of the Jewish custom of
            beginning feasts the night before, spanning sunset to sunset, but now
            reserves that practice for Sundays and solemnities. Too bad, in a
            way. First Vespers of many lesser feasts used to be a joy, and it was
            a further connection to our Jewish roots.

            A bit of trivia, for which I am indebted to Joyce, who learned it in a
            Dominican
            college in the 50's. If you take the first letters of the second words (after
            the initial O,) which begin each antiphon, you get the acronym: SARCORE.
            Read backwards, on Dec. 24, that spells "Ero cras" Latin for "Tomorrow I
            will be (there)".
            Now some monastic of the Middle Ages must have had a lot of time on his (or
            her!)
            hands to figure that one out.


            "O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the Expected of Nations and their
            Savior: come, and save us, O Lord our God!"

            Emmanuel- God with us- this was a radical fulfillment of the
            Messianic prophecies which the Jews had never dreamed would happen: a
            divine Messiah. Though the promises all refer to and fit Jesus, the
            Messiah expected by the Israelites was not divine. To their
            reasoning, none could be literally divine, really the Son of God.
            Their expectation of a saving ruler did not assume that God would
            share His very nature and essence with the Anointed One.

            Emmanuel reflects an entirely Christian and entirely new theology,
            one of Incarnation and an immanence hitherto unknown. God with us,
            sharing every hardship of humanity in His own flesh, dwelling not in
            a Temple spiritually, but as flesh and blood among humanity, wishing
            to remain with us until the end of time. This is a dramatic contrast
            to the affection, yet distance with which the Lord was regarded in
            the Old Testament.

            Emmanuel- God with us- it finally springs the liturgical construct
            of "waiting" all these weeks and admits that we knew He was there all
            along. Advent has that flavor, of a pretended waiting for Him Whom we
            know to have already arrived. We place ourselves in the shoes of
            those who had Him not in order to better appreciate Him Whom we have
            had all along.

            We hail Christ as King and Lawgiver (Isaiah 32:22,) and echo the
            dying words of Jacob in Gen. 49:10, " The scepter will not pass from
            Judah, nor a ruler form his thigh, till He comes that is to be sent.
            He is the expectation of the nations." We ask Him to save us. The
            Latin "Salva" , the imperative form of "to save," is related
            to "salus", health, wholeness. We are asking for a holistic well-
            being of mind, soul and body when we thus ask to be saved. We
            are, in fact, asking to finally be made perfect, fully whole and sound,
            something only God can do!

            Lastly, we no longer beat around the bush, (burning or otherwise!) We
            come right out and directly call Jesus "our Lord and our God." It is
            the crowning acclamation of faith to a long season of expectation.

            A blessed late Advent and Christmas to you all. I have enjoyed
            sharing these with you because I truly feel they are the best poetry
            left in the liturgy of the West, even beating out the now pared-down
            Exultet at Easter!









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          • Br. Jerome Leo
            +PAX A very blessed and holy Christmas to you all. May Christ bring each of us ever closer and closer to Himself. Prayers, please, for the spiritual, mental
            Message 5 of 29 , Dec 24, 2008
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              A very blessed and holy Christmas to you all. May Christ bring each of us ever closer and closer to Himself.

              Prayers, please, for the spiritual, mental and physical health of Jim, who had prostate surgery in April now undergoing chemo because they were not able to get it all. He is tired and weak continually, now, but still in good spirits. And for all his loved ones and all who take care of him.

              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

              April 25, August 25, December 25
              Chapter 67: On Brethren Who Are Sent on a Journey

              Let the brethren who are sent on a journey
              commend themselves
              to the prayers of all the brethren and of the Abbot;
              and always at the last prayer of the Work of God
              let a commemoration be made of all absent brethren.

              When brethren return from a journey,
              at the end of each canonical Hour of the Work of God
              on the day they return,
              let them lie prostrate on the floor of the oratory
              and beg the prayers of all
              on account of any faults
              that may have surprised them on the road,
              through the seeing or hearing of something evil,
              or through idle talk.
              And let no one presume to tell another
              whatever he may have seen or heard outside of the monastery,
              because this causes very great harm.
              But if anyone presumes to do so,
              let him undergo the punishment of the Rule.
              And let him be punished likewise who would presume
              to leave the enclosure of the monastery
              and go anywhere or do anything, however small,
              without an order from the Abbot.

              REFLECTION

              Rare is the person who can manage to stay employed without at least a
              slightly different persona at work. We are one thing there, because
              we have to be, but when we clock out, much, if not all of the work
              persona is shed. In fact, we usually have a whole repertoire of
              different selves, being one thing with our grandmother and quite
              another with a childhood friend we have known all our lives, one
              thing with the promising new date and quite another with the spouse
              of many years!

              Secular society has enlarged upon this tendency to its own ends.
              Because the tendency is so deeply rooted in us, we may fail to see
              its dangers when carried to extremes. Thanks to a society often
              glaringly unassisted by revelation, we have the unhappy concept of
              different umbrellas, different sets of ethics to cover different
              areas of life. "Hey, religion is fine if you want it, but this is
              BUSINESS!" or "I may be a Christian, but this is public service. I
              was elected by a constituency that expected me to leave some of that
              Gospel stuff at the door." Well, folks, such notions do not always
              wash well. In fact, they really don't wash at all.

              The message of the Holy Rule and of the Gospel is that there is one
              umbrella, period. There is one persona, period. Granted, in the
              latter, shades and gradations may last throughout most of our
              struggling lives, but the goal is clear. All monastic, all Christian,
              all the time. One heart, one umbrella, one Lord, one faith, one
              baptism.

              That work persona that we drop when we clock out, the totally free
              and other person we are on days off or on trips away can be an OK
              notion in relation to work. Wouldn't we find someone who was a
              salesperson or teacher or secretary or manager ALL the time to be a
              dreadful drip? The concept fails, however, when it is applied to
              vocations, to any vocation at all. One does not take a vacation from
              being married or a parent or ordained or a monastic.

              Do I hear loud screams in cyber-space as I mention BALANCE again?
              Sorry, but it is true. There is a balanced way to be under one
              umbrella all the time that we must strive to achieve. Yes, I am
              different with different friends, we all are, we have to be, charity
              demands that. But there is a commonality between all the threads of
              our behavior. We are monastics. We are freer within defined limits.
              It is to the balance of those defined limits that this chapter refers.

              At Petersham, we still follow this custom of prayer for one who will
              be away overnight. The prayers are said in the refectory, after
              grace. One is blessed leaving and returning, while kneeling in the
              center of the ref. It's just a way of saying, as a community, that we
              all know that maintaining that one umbrella can be tough, especially
              when one is away alone. We want to support each other with our
              prayers, we want our brother to know that our hearts are with him all
              the way.

              Love and prayers,
              Jerome, OSB
              http://www.stmarysmonastery.org
              Petersham, MA





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            • Br. Jerome Leo
              +PAX Prayers, please, for the spiritual, mental and physical health of the following and for all their loved ones and all who take care of them: Herb s wife,
              Message 6 of 29 , Dec 25, 2008
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                +PAX

                Prayers, please, for the spiritual, mental and physical health of the following and for all their loved ones and all who take care of them:

                Herb's wife, ovarian cancer.

                Ian, brain tumor, prognosis uncertain

                Continued prayers for Michael, discharged to his home, for healing of his renal problems.

                Prayers, please, for all who have lost someone dear over the holidays. It
                can be so awful for them and then the pain can recur year after year. Prayers,
                too, for all those addicts for whom this season of feasting in food and drink
                can be a particularly trying time of temptation. May God bless and strengthen
                them all. 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

                April 26, August 26, December 26
                Chapter 68: If a Sister Is Commanded to Do Impossible Things

                If it happens
                that difficult or impossible tasks are laid on a sister,
                let her nevertheless receive the order of the one in authority
                with all meekness and obedience.
                But if she sees that the weight of the burden
                altogether exceeds the limit of her strength,
                let her submit the reasons for her inability
                to the one who is over her
                in a quiet way and at an opportune time,
                without pride, resistance, or contradiction.
                And if after these representations
                the Superior still persists in her decision and command,
                let the subject know that this is for her good,
                and let her obey out of love,
                trusting in the help of God.

                REFLECTION

                Buried in chapters whose names may throw us off there are usually
                gems, one just has to dig a bit more carefully. Granted, impossible
                tasks are rarely asked of anyone these days, much less Oblates who
                live outside the monastery, but there is a beautiful method given
                here which has the widest of applications.

                Most interpersonal conflict arises from one being or feeling wronged.
                Escalation often follows when one tries to express their displeasure
                to the offender. Even people who are truly wrong do not enjoy being
                humiliated or treated as if they were nothing. Upset by another's
                actions, it is easy to lose one's cool. When both parties blow up, a
                relentless cycle of discord is born.

                The method given here for approaching one's superior is a masterpiece
                of crisis intervention and prevention for almost any situation in
                life:

                "...in a quiet way and at an opportune time, without pride,
                resistance, or contradiction."

                We ought to carve that on the walls of every mediation center in the
                world, on the doors to every marriage counselor and above every
                complaint desk (or, as they euphemize them these days, "Customer
                Service," but what's in a name?)

                Look at what is called for here: composure and calm, timing, respect
                for the other person (Gandhi would even say love for the foe,) non-
                violence and non-contentiousness. Use this approach with
                disagreements and many of them will melt away. One reason Gandhi's
                non-violence worked was that he employed all of these things, the
                opponent was never denied her worth or dignity. When his followers
                pared the list, they failed. This is the recipe for lasting results,
                not for a temporary subjugation.

                Jesus, of course, gives us a three step process to redress wrongs: go
                to the person alone, if that doesn't work go with a witness, if even
                that fails, then haul them up before the whole assembly. We can
                consider ourselves absolved if we follow all those steps and may feel
                justified, but if we undertake ANY of those steps, especially the
                first one, without the calm prescribed by St. Benedict, our effort is
                all but guaranteed to fail. We can sputter out: "I went to her and I
                got NOWHERE!" Ah, yes, but HOW did you go? "He wouldn't even listen
                to the whole community!" Neither would you, if made to feel that
                small and worthless in public.

                Very often our manner of dealing with others says a great deal about
                how we esteem ourselves. A balanced dignity and self-love is shown in
                the Holy Rule's approach. It will go a longer way toward ending
                conflict than a "wronged prima donna" move. Sometimes prima donnas
                of either gender are filled with angry self-hatred.

                Watch people fight and it will be easy to see that many consider any
                slight or offense against themselves to be THE original sin. Sigh...
                Give people like that a lot of room. Being wrong is not a capital
                offense, everybody does it at one time or another. People who
                demonstrate anything else by their actions damage their own standing
                in the group as well, and rightly so.

                Remember that every disagreement hurts the whole group. A family at
                dinner with two not speaking is a tense affair. You cannot calm a
                child by saying "This is between your Father and me! It has nothing
                to do with you." But it does, it really does. A community in choir
                after a huge blow-up between two members is not an exquisite taste of
                mystical prayer. Everybody suffers. That's why fixing these fender-
                benders is so important and why St. Benedict gave us a way that is so
                very likely to achieve results.

                Now THAT'S creative peacemaking!

                Love and prayers,
                Jerome, OSB
                http://www.stmarysmonastery.org
                Petersham, MA



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              • Br. Jerome Leo
                +PAX Prayers for the happy death and eternal rest of Br. Philip, who died Christmas Eve, and prayers for the brothers at Weston Priory. Prayers, please, for
                Message 7 of 29 , Dec 26, 2008
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                  Prayers for the happy death and eternal rest of Br. Philip, who died Christmas Eve, and prayers for the brothers at Weston Priory.

                  Prayers, please, for the spiritual, mental and physical health of the following, for all their loved ones and all who take care of them:

                  a baby born to a drug addicted Mom, up for adoption by the courts.

                  Linda, completed round two of chemo well, four more to go.

                  Victoria's Dad, off life support, but not expected to be discharged till New Year's, and for Victoria's visit with him.

                  Lord, help us all as You know and will. God's will is best. All ismercy and grace. God is never absent, praise Him! Thanks so much. JL

                  April 27, August 27, December 27
                  Chapter 69: That the Monks Presume Not to Defend One Another

                  Care must be taken that no monk presume on any ground
                  to defend another monk in the monastery,
                  or as it were to take him under his protection,
                  even though they be united by some tie of blood-relationship.
                  Let not the monks dare to do this in any way whatsoever,
                  because it may give rise to most serious scandals.
                  But if anyone breaks this rule,
                  let him be severely punished.

                  REFLECTION

                  We are all supposed to bear one another's burdens. That should be
                  more than enough help for anyone, if we actually keep that principle.

                  A big problem with becoming the protector of another, self-appointed
                  or otherwise, is that it destroys one's peace needlessly. When I was
                  a novice, there was one other novice I really did not want to lose.
                  He was not the brightest bulb on the tree and I went out of my way to
                  protect him from himself. In time, he came to resent this and I was
                  so busy worrying about covering or preventing his foibles all the
                  time that I spent little time focusing on my own novitiate. Of
                  course, he left. He was supposed to leave. I, however, could not see
                  that at the time.

                  This isn't just about monasteries, it's about any human group. Taking
                  someone under our wing can result in all sorts of false assumptions.
                  It can fool us into thinking we can really control events more than
                  we can. It can lead us, a la Mother Hen, to seek to control the one
                  under wing in very unnecessary and unhealthy ways. Its most common
                  error is also one of its most dangerous ones: it leads us to think in
                  terms of "us-and-them." There is no "them" in a healthy monastery or
                  family or Christian community, only an "us".

                  As usual, what the Holy Rule insists we avoid is an extreme. This
                  chapter is NOT saying we should not look out for one another, just
                  that no one should presume that the job is hers alone. Good families
                  protect all their members, but it is a corporate activity, something
                  in which all participate. Destroy that balance and the others will
                  notice quickly. It upsets the inner peace, both of the individual and
                  the group.

                  Part of any monastic's struggle, in cloister or in the world, is the
                  painful facing up to ourselves, that confrontation with our own
                  flaws. This difficult self-knowledge is essential to the monastic
                  way. Trying to protect someone from this process is counter to the
                  very reason they came. It not only harms them, it harms us. It
                  keeps us so busy with another's affairs that we can avoid looking
                  at our own failings: a distraction we may perilously cherish!

                  Merton once told his junior monk students that there is an
                  existential place of loneliness in every monk that no one can touch,
                  and that this is the way it's supposed to be, that no one should try
                  to reach it. That's where the struggle goes on, that's where there is
                  only God and the self. That's the arena in which the action happens.

                  Every person, every employee, every spouse and child has a similar
                  place: it is the place of great potential learning and growth. Our deep
                  respect for one another must stand away from that space. Becoming
                  self-appointed guardians of another violates that space.

                  Love and prayers,
                  Jerome, OSB
                  http://www.stmarysmonastery.org
                  jeromeleo@...
                  Petersham, MA




                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                • Br. Jerome Leo
                  +PAX Prayers, please, for the spiritual, mental and physical health of the following, for all their loved ones and for all who take care of them: Alex and
                  Message 8 of 29 , Dec 27, 2008
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                    Prayers, please, for the spiritual, mental and physical health of the following, for all their loved ones and for all who take care of them:

                    Alex and Brie, strains on their relationship owing to a move by Alex to another state.

                    Ann and her family, especially her Mom, in rapidly declining health and her daughter, Jesse, and her new grandson and for Ann and her son.

                    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

                    April 28, August 28, December 28
                    Chapter 70: That No One Venture to Punish at Random

                    Every occasion of presumption
                    shall be avoided in the monastery,
                    and we decree that no one be allowed
                    to excommunicate or to strike any of her sisters
                    unless the Abbess has given her the authority.
                    Those who offend in this matter
                    shall be rebuked in the presence of all,
                    that the rest may have fear.

                    But children up to 15 years of age
                    shall be carefully controlled and watched by all,
                    yet this too with all moderation and discretion.
                    All, therefore, who presume
                    without the Abbess' instructions
                    to punish those above that age
                    or who lose their temper with them,
                    shall undergo the discipline of the Rule;
                    for it is written,
                    "Do not to another what you would not want done to yourself" (Tobias
                    4:16).

                    REFLECTION

                    "Every occasion of presumption should be avoided in the monastery."
                    This is about a lot more than saying who can punish whom. This is
                    pointing out that, whenever there are more than one to be considered,
                    absolute freedom cannot exist. This is about central authority, yes,
                    but it is also about the total way one conducts oneself in a home or
                    group that others share.

                    Ever think about your first home away from your parents house? It was
                    probably different in a lot of ways, especially if you lived there
                    alone. Heady freedom that! I recall my own first place very well and
                    fondly. However, I can assure you, I could not have lived as I did
                    there had I been in a family, with younger siblings at home. (OK, it
                    was 1969, so go figure...)

                    Even alone, however, I was not free to play my stereo at undue
                    volumes at 3 AM. We live on a common planet, at some point ALL of our
                    lives touch others. When they do, control of some sort is necessary
                    if people are to live in peace.

                    There is a great and treacherous myth of individualism among
                    Americans and, to a lesser extent, I think, among all Western
                    European cultures. Non-western cultures often have a much more highly
                    developed sense of sharing and commonality. The American nonsense
                    of "God-bless-the-child-that's-got-his-own" does justice to neither
                    God nor the child!

                    Schweitzer pointed out that Europeans found the Africans lazy,
                    because they would not work to a point of exhaustion without need.
                    They worked all right, but when the work was done, they quit. They
                    had a casual and natural attitude to work, proper to their own
                    economic system, that drove the Europeans nuts, because the latter
                    had more of a 40-hours-a-week-and-then-you-rest notion. Both
                    Schweitzer and I tend to side with the natives on this one!

                    That myth of total freedom, of self-sufficiency being able to buy one
                    the right to any activity is totally wrong. Even at 20, in my richly
                    bohemian digs that I called "Shackri-la", I was not totally free. I
                    didn't know it well enough back then, but I wasn't. I had no right to waste
                    water or leave lights on all night or drive drunk. My fantasy might have
                    been chronologically appropriate as Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco,
                    but hey, even there, even then, people were not morally free in any absolute
                    sense. None of us are.

                    Every presumed domain of our control exists on a planet shared by
                    billions. No one of us is an island. Our complete interdependence is
                    not only objective fact, it is our only hope. You might never have
                    read this chapter as an ad for ecological consciousness, but look at
                    the first line again. We are ALWAYS in this with others and that
                    always means responsibilities to "...not do to another what one would
                    not have done to oneself."

                    Love and prayers,
                    Jerome, OSB
                    http://www.stmarysmonastery.org

                    Petersham, MA













                    [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                  • Br. Jerome Leo
                    +PAX Prayers for the happy death and eternal rest of Robert and for all who mourn him. Prayers, please for the spiritual, mental and physical health of the
                    Message 9 of 29 , Dec 28, 2008
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                      Prayers for the happy death and eternal rest of Robert and for all who mourn him.

                      Prayers, please for the spiritual, mental and physical health of the following, for all their loved ones and all who take care of them:

                      Salome and her Mom, taking care of her Mom is becoming nearly full-time for Salome and many difficulties arise.

                      Brittany, that she complete her dental work smoothly and stay well.

                      Frances an elderly woman who is in the hospital with serious medical problems.

                      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

                      April 29, August 29, December 29
                      Chapter 71: That the Brethren Be Obedient to One Another

                      Not only is the boon of obedience
                      to be shown by all to the Abbot,
                      but the brethren are also to obey one another,
                      knowing that by this road of obedience they are going to God.
                      Giving priority, therefore, to the commands of the Abbot
                      and of the Superior appointed by him
                      (to which we allow no private orders to be preferred),
                      for the rest
                      let all the juniors obey their seniors
                      with all charity and solicitude.
                      But if anyone is found contentious,
                      let him be corrected.

                      And if any brother,
                      for however small a cause,
                      is corrected in any way by the Abbot or by any of his Superiors,
                      or if he faintly perceives
                      that the mind of any Superior is angered or moved against him,
                      however little,
                      let him at once, without delay,
                      prostrate himself on the ground at his feet
                      and lie there making satisfaction
                      until that emotion is quieted with a blessing.
                      But if anyone should disdain to do this,
                      let him undergo corporal punishment
                      or, if he is stubborn, let him be expelled from the monastery.

                      REFLECTION

                      OK, now we're getting into radical. Any human group, from the
                      military to a kindergarten at recess expects one to obey the leader.
                      But each other? Give me a break! How many jobs would you have quit if
                      you had to obey all of your co-workers? Yet St. Benedict calls such
                      obedience a "boon", a wonderfully good thing.

                      Well, giving a break is exactly what is intended here. The Kingdom of
                      God, which the Holy Rule seeks to guide us to, is ruled by love, not
                      hierarchy per se. It includes a hierarchy, yes, but that, too, is
                      founded on love. The Kingdom of God strives for peace and serenity.

                      The quickest way to soften an environment and let peace flourish is
                      to keep people more or less happy, and the quickest way to do that is
                      to give in to their legitimate wishes whenever possible. So long as the
                      matter at hand is morally neutral, why not give way?

                      Now we're getting to the heroic stuff. There are ulterior benefits to
                      obeying the boss, but another peer? What's the big deal there? The
                      big deal is love, the big deal is forgetfulness of self, the big deal
                      is the abdication of control issues.

                      Monastic struggle will not free one who is attached to control. It
                      will thwart the good of the struggle. Don't beat yourself up too
                      badly on this one if you live in the world, because many, many
                      monastics in cloisters fail it as well. It is one of Satan's
                      sneakiest tricks and he enjoys its effectiveness immensely. What
                      could be better than something the poor victims hardly notice at all,
                      that eats up their hard work like a ravenous cancer? Very, very handy.

                      I am tempted to say that anyone who is addicted to control- at any
                      stage of monastic life- ought to be set to cleaning bathrooms until
                      the feeling passes. Hey, that would be a great idea, but most
                      monasteries do not have that many toilets. Sad, but true.

                      Rather than worry about the pathetic individuals so addicted, who can
                      make life so unpleasant for those they live with, why not just focus on
                      changing ourselves? We can be part of the solution. We can go out of
                      our way to make life easier for each other. We can pray for those who
                      don't.

                      A horrible truth of monastic life is that if one waits for everyone
                      to get perfect (according, of course, to one's own standards!) the
                      result will be futile and frustrated stagnation. Community we may be,
                      but all on the same page we shall never be till heaven, and maybe not
                      even there!

                      It's a snap to be a pain. Anybody can pull that off with no effort at
                      all. Lots of folks do, all the time! The harvest, however, is
                      isolation and loneliness, which result in bitterness that only fuels
                      the vicious cycle.

                      In contrast, it is a bit difficult at first to be easy, but it is
                      ALSO addictive when done right! One will soon be hunting for ways to
                      be easy, because every drop of water makes the ocean a tiny bit less
                      salty. The harvest, too, is far more precious: a growing warmth that
                      makes one ever more gentle, more open, more loving and glad to be so.
                      The harvest is joy and love, not the lie of possession and bitterness.
                      You may not change the world alone, but the change in yourself will be
                      awesome and dramatic. That alone will go farther still to improve the
                      world, to build up the Mystical Body of Christ.

                      It is very unlikely that you will ever be able to cure a control
                      freak. Give them a lot of room, because (harsh saying here!) they can be
                      truly a danger to your serenity. Cultivate among your peers an attitude
                      of complete non-control, of nearly total indifference to detail,
                      rather like the old peace poster that said: "What if they gave a war
                      and no one came?".

                      Maybe, just maybe, the wizard might one day wake up to actually see
                      that Oz is not with her! That's about your only hope. People like
                      this can profit us by being crosses and we can grow from praying for
                      them, but getting sucked into their hopelessly false view of reality
                      is a fatal mistake.

                      Love and prayers,
                      Jerome, OSB





                      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                    • Br. Jerome Leo
                      +PAX Prayers, please, for the happy death and eternal rest of Donna, and for her husband, John, and all who mourn her. Prayers for the spiritual, mental and
                      Message 10 of 29 , Dec 30, 2008
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                        Prayers, please, for the happy death and eternal rest of Donna, and for her husband, John, and all who mourn her.

                        Prayers for the spiritual, mental and physical health of the following, for all their loved ones and all who take care of them:

                        Doris and Normand. Doris has been diagnosed with cancer in her liver, stomach and brain. Her reactions to chemo have been bad and doctors have given her 1 month to live. Her husband Normand is in the advanced stages of Alzheimers.

                        Baby Charlie is just three and half months old. He is to undergo tests this coming week to determine whether the tumor in his liver is operable. Please keep Charlie, his brother, Jack, and his mom and dad- Hayley and David - in your prayers

                        Alma and her family. She is close to death; fpr her happy death and eternal rest and for all who will mourn her.

                        Bill, who's been ill for some time, but was just diagnosed with bone cancer. He has been away from the Church for many years; prayers he'll come to receive the sacraments again.

                        B., violent and frequent epilepsy.

                        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

                        May 1, August 31, December 31
                        Chapter 73: On the Fact That the Full Observance of Justice Is Not
                        Established in This Rule

                        Now we have written this Rule
                        in order that by its observance in monasteries
                        we may show that we have attained some degree of virtue
                        and the rudiments of the religious life.

                        But for those who would hasten to the perfection of that life
                        there are the teaching of the holy Fathers,
                        the observance of which leads to the height of perfection.
                        For what page or what utterance
                        of the divinely inspired books of the Old and New Testaments
                        is not a most unerring rule for human life?
                        Or what book of the holy Catholic Fathers
                        does not loudly proclaim
                        how we may come by a straight course to our Creator?
                        Then the Conferences and the Institutes
                        and the Lives of the Fathers,
                        as also the Rule of our holy Father Basil --
                        what else are they but tools of virtue
                        for right-living and obedient monks?
                        But for us who are lazy and ill-living and negligent
                        they are a source of shame and confusion.

                        Whoever you are, therefore,
                        who are hastening to the heavenly homeland,
                        fulfil with the help of Christ
                        this minimum Rule which we have written for beginners;
                        and then at length under God's protection
                        you will attain to the loftier heights of doctrine and virtue
                        which we have mentioned above.

                        REFLECTION

                        "Whoever you are, therefore, who are hastening to the heavenly
                        homeland..." That "whoever" is the true object all this heartfelt
                        tenderness of Saint Benedict , the one for whom he wrote! He only
                        made one qualifier, that of "hastening to the heavenly homeland." It
                        seems that some of our decisions about who matters and who does not
                        have employed a somewhat more restrictive standard than that of our
                        holy Father Benedict.

                        "Whoever you are..." I don't care who you are or how much I disagree
                        with you, whether I nearly hate your positions or love them blindly,
                        it is you I am called to love, to honor to respect, to cherish as a
                        fellow monastic traveler. You.

                        "Whoever you are..." I surely don't care whether you're Catholic or
                        not, in fact I am relieved and delighted that many of you on board
                        are not! I surely don't care if you are not exactly the same sort of
                        Catholic as I am, it doesn't matter to me. You do. You have to,
                        because this is the Holy Rule I have embraced, that we all have.

                        In the United States, through much of our history, Catholics and Jews
                        shared a roughly equal amount of contempt. Great camaraderie could
                        flourish between the two and still quite often does. Having said
                        that, it has always amused me that many Jews I know get along MUCH
                        better with Catholics than they do with Jews who disagree with them!
                        How like ourselves!

                        When disagreement happens within our family, we hurt more, it is more
                        important to us. The differing opinion of a stranger on the subway
                        would hardly matter at all! Maybe the fact that we CAN get hurt and
                        angry is a good sign, maybe it means we are at least beginning to
                        love, but it is HOW we get hurt or angry that we have to examine
                        very, very closely.

                        The important thing is not opinion or observance or concepts. The
                        important thing is you. Whoever you are. Every time I fail that, I
                        have to get up, apologize and start over. Maybe not right from square
                        one each time, but again each time.

                        If I ever stop doing those things, I have stopped being a
                        Benedictine. Whoever you are, but it's not just me that has to
                        embrace that. You do, too. We all do. I am the only one I can insist
                        upon, however, the only one I can make change, and that might be good
                        to keep in mind, whoever you are.

                        Love and prayers,
                        Jerome, OSB
                        http://www.stmarysmonastery.org




                        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                      • Br. Jerome Leo
                        +PAX In years past, the custom prevailed in many places of welcoming the New Year with a Te Deum of thanksgiving for the year completed and for the new years
                        Message 11 of 29 , Dec 31, 2008
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                          In years past, the custom prevailed in many places of welcoming the New Year
                          with a Te Deum of thanksgiving for the year completed and for the new years
                          dawning. Of course, for those who have a Roman Liturgy of the Hours book that
                          includes the Office of Readings, it would still be the custom: the Te Deum
                          is said with the Office of Readings for New Year's Day, the Solemnity of the
                          Mother of God.

                          However, since many do not have access to the four volume Liturgy of the
                          Hours, or the one volume that has just the Office of Readings, I thought I'd dig
                          up a text in English of the Te Deum. This one is from 1662! It originally
                          appeared in
                          the Book of Common Prayer that year. Hence, its language is a bit archaic, yet
                          it
                          has the lovely ring of Prayer Book English. Enjoy! And please remember us all
                          when you say it!

                          A blessed 2009 to all and thanks be to God for all the gifts of 2008!

                          Love and prayers,
                          Jerome, OSB


                          We praise Thee, O God:
                          we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord.
                          All the earth doth worship Thee:
                          the Father everlasting.

                          To Thee all Angels cry aloud:
                          the heavens and all the powers therein.
                          To Thee Cherubin and Seraphin:
                          continually do cry,
                          Holy, Holy, Holy:
                          Lord God of Sabaoth;
                          Heaven and earth are full
                          of the Majesty: of Thy glory.

                          The glorious company of the Apostles: praise Thee.
                          The goodly fellowship of the Prophets: praise Thee.
                          The noble army of Martyrs: praise Thee.

                          The holy Church throughout all the
                          world: doth acknowledge Thee;
                          The Father: of an infinite majesty;
                          Thine honourable, true: and only Son;
                          Also the Holy Ghost: the Comforter.

                          Thou art the King of glory: O Christ.
                          Thou art the everlasting Son: of the Father.

                          When thou tookest upon Thee to deliver man
                          Thou didst not abhor the Virgin's womb.

                          When Thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death:
                          Thou didst open the kingdom of heaven to all believers.

                          Thou sittest at the right hand of God:
                          in the glory of the Father.

                          We believe that Thou shalt come: to be our Judge.

                          We therefore pray Thee, help Thy servants:
                          whom Thou hast redeemed with Thy precious blood.

                          Make them to be numbered with Thy Saints:
                          in glory everlasting.

                          O Lord, save Thy people:
                          and bless Thine heritage.
                          Govern them:
                          and lift them up for ever.

                          Day by day: we magnify Thee;
                          And we worship Thy Name:
                          ever world without end.

                          Vouchsafe, O Lord:
                          to keep us this day without sin.
                          O Lord, have mercy upon us:
                          have mercy upon us.

                          O Lord, let Thy mercy lighten upon us:
                          as our trust is in Thee.
                          O Lord, in Thee have I trusted:
                          let me never be confounded.


                          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                        • Br. Jerome Leo
                          +PAX Prayers, please, for Alma, for whom we prayed, she has died. Prayers for her happy death and eternal rest and for all who mourn her. Lord, help us all as
                          Message 12 of 29 , Dec 31, 2008
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                            Prayers, please, for Alma, for whom we prayed, she has died. Prayers for her happy death and eternal rest and for all who mourn her.

                            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 1, May 2, September 1

                            Prologue

                            L I S T E N carefully, my child,
                            to your master's precepts,
                            and incline the ear of your heart (Prov. 4:20).
                            Receive willingly and carry out effectively
                            your loving father's advice,
                            that by the labor of obedience
                            you may return to Him
                            from whom you had departed by the sloth of disobedience.

                            To you, therefore, my words are now addressed,
                            whoever you may be,
                            who are renouncing your own will
                            to do battle under the Lord Christ, the true King,
                            and are taking up the strong, bright weapons of obedience.

                            And first of all,
                            whatever good work you begin to do,
                            beg of Him with most earnest prayer to perfect it,
                            that He who has now deigned to count us among His children
                            may not at any time be grieved by our evil deeds.
                            For we must always so serve Him
                            with the good things He has given us,
                            that He will never as an angry Father disinherit His children,
                            nor ever as a dread Lord, provoked by our evil actions,
                            deliver us to everlasting punishment
                            as wicked servants who would not follow Him to glory.

                            REFLECTION

                            The Prologue is the most tender and loving of beginnings. Always,
                            always, always keep this loving Father that writes here in mind as you
                            read the rest of the Holy Rule. This and the epilogue are the key to
                            it all, and the key to the saintly personality of our holy Father
                            Benedict.

                            The Holy Rule can seem so lofty that it sometimes turns people away.
                            They think: "This is for those really holy people, not for me. I'll
                            bet it's easy for saints like them, but I couldn't even dream of
                            trying." Wrong on both counts and St. Benedict makes that clear. We
                            return "by the labor of obedience" and if we are not one of those who
                            has "to do battle" against our own will, he makes it abundantly
                            certain that he is not talking to us.

                            If, in fact, there is anyone for whom the Rule is a cinch, and I
                            doubt that very much, then it was not written for them. It was
                            written for us who struggle, for us for whom it is NOT easy, to help
                            us in a battle that sometimes wears us out.

                            St. Benedict also makes his point that our distance from God is due
                            to our "sloth of disobedience." Yet he doesn't tell the slothful to
                            quit because they are worthless, he tells them they are the very ones
                            for whom he is writing this Rule! This is the Rule for the fallen and
                            beginners, this is an entry level position which can advance to great
                            sanctity, but it *IS* an entry level position!

                            This is the door and gate for all. This is most decidedly NOT a Rule
                            just for monks and nuns in monasteries. Were that so, no provision
                            for Oblates would ever have been made. No, this is a Rule for all who
                            wish to try to become better and because they have made that
                            intention, God "has deigned to count us among His children." There is
                            no more us-and-them here. Just by beginning, we become part of the
                            whole.

                            How many of us who were not in the advanced reading group as children
                            secretly got the suspicion that the whole class was really for the
                            wonder kids, not for us, that we were somehow extraneous and just
                            tagging along to whatever was REALLY going on? Well, the Holy Rule is
                            quite direct about stating that this time, it is not about wonder
                            kids: the center of its focus is the rest of us! Now there's a
                            refreshingly upside down and all too rare world view!

                            Love and prayers,
                            Jerome, OSB
                            http://www.stmarysmonastery.org
                            Petersham, MA

                            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                          • Br. Jerome Leo
                            +PAX Carolyn, for whom we prayed, has died. Prayers for her happy death and eternal rest and for Lynda and all who mourn her. Prayers for the spiritual, mental
                            Message 13 of 29 , Jan 1, 2009
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                              Carolyn, for whom we prayed, has died. Prayers for her happy death and eternal rest and for Lynda and all who mourn her.

                              Prayers for the spiritual, mental and physical health of the following, for all their loved ones and all who take care of them:

                              Leslie, who just found out her beloved uncle died a month ago, after 3 months' hospitalization for a car crash, & whose nephew, 22 months, has been hospitalized; she is also desperate to find a FT job & home

                              Alfred, 53, & his widowed mother, Vee, 85. Critically ill, he needs a lung transplant to survive. His mother has only the 2 sons, & is terribly crippled from decades in a sweat-shop.

                              Lord, help us 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 2, May 3, September 2
                              Prologue (continued)

                              Let us arise, then, at last,
                              for the Scripture stirs us up, saying,
                              "Now is the hour for us to rise from sleep" (Rom. 18:11).
                              Let us open our eyes to the deifying light,
                              let us hear with attentive ears
                              the warning which the divine voice cries daily to us,
                              "Today if you hear His voice,
                              harden not your hearts" (Ps. 94:8).
                              And again,
                              "Whoever has ears to hear,
                              hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Matt. 11-15; Apoc. 2:7).
                              And what does He say?
                              "Come, My children, listen to Me;
                              I will teach you the fear of the Lord" (Ps. 33:12).
                              "Run while you have the light of life,
                              lest the darkness of death overtake you" (John 12:35).

                              REFLECTION

                              Check out the similarities of this section, at the beginning of the
                              Holy Rule, and the readings of early Lent, which stress that "now is
                              the acceptable time." It brings to mind St. Benedict's later chapter
                              which says that the monastic life ought always to have some semblance
                              of Lent.

                              That perpetual Lent chapter is the source of a lot of grumbling about
                              austerity from one camp and cheering about it from another. Both may
                              have missed a salient point. Perhaps the greatest element of
                              perpetual Lent has less to do with austerity- even the monastic fast
                              did not last all year. What IS perpetually in style is wakefulness
                              and self-examination.

                              Monastic life withers in either smugness or a rut. What St. Benedict
                              wants us to do is always to try and stay at that serious moment of
                              taking inventory that many of us feel at Lent's beginning. We need to
                              always be checking what needs to be cleaned up and we need to be
                              prepared, even a bit eager, to start working on it.

                              This is why a daily examination of conscience is so necessary.
                              Compline, the traditional liturgical place for such examens, is a
                              very apt place for same. As we prepare for sleep, which prefigures
                              death, we prepare also for death, by examining our faults and asking
                              forgiveness.

                              The Holy Rule, like Lent, is by no means the gateway to an easier
                              life, but to a holier one. As we actually grow in holiness much of it
                              will become easier, more natural to us. But until that time, it is a
                              struggle and, in unconquered areas, it remains something of a
                              struggle for all of our lives. What's hard about that struggle isn't
                              fasting or penance, but changing ourselves. Austere practices are
                              just a means to that end, not ends in themselves.

                              The whole idea of Lent and the Holy Rule is lasting change for the
                              better. Lent is a seasonal construct to get us to begin anew, the
                              Holy Rule says that beginning anew must be a daily thing. Lent is an
                              attempt to get us to do for forty days what we ought to have been
                              doing all year. The Holy Rule is a way to do what we ought to do all
                              year, every day.

                              Love and prayers,
                              Jerome, OSB
                              http://www.stmarysmonastery.org
                              Petersham, MA




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                            • Br. Jerome Leo
                              +PAX Betty, for whom we prayed, has died, prayers for her happy death and eternal rest and for all who mourn her, especially her Mom, Lib. Lord, help us all as
                              Message 14 of 29 , Jan 2, 2009
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                                +PAX

                                Betty, for whom we prayed, has died, prayers for her happy death and eternal rest and for all who mourn her, especially her Mom, Lib.

                                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 3, May 4, September 3
                                Prologue

                                And the Lord, seeking his laborer
                                in the multitude to whom He thus cries out,
                                says again,
                                "Who is the one who will have life,
                                and desires to see good days" (Ps. 33:13)?
                                And if, hearing Him, you answer,
                                "I am the one,"
                                God says to you,
                                "If you will have true and everlasting life,
                                keep your tongue from evil
                                and your lips that they speak no guile.
                                Turn away from evil and do good;
                                seek after peace and pursue it" (Ps. 33:14-15).
                                And when you have done these things,
                                My eyes shall be upon you
                                and My ears open to your prayers;
                                and before you call upon Me,
                                I will say to you,
                                'Behold, here I am'" (Ps. 33:16; Is. 65:24; 58:9).

                                What can be sweeter to us, dear ones,
                                than this voice of the Lord inviting us?
                                Behold, in His loving kindness
                                the Lord shows us the way of life.

                                REFLECTION

                                This is perhaps my all-time favorite reading from the Holy Rule. Then
                                gentle, loving tenderness of both the Divine Merciful Christ and our
                                holy Father Benedict are here in abundance. One is tempted to merely
                                bask in the warmth, rather than write, but I will try to write!

                                Lest any of us (which, as the Holy Rule would say, God forbid,) tend
                                to pride at undertaking the monastic way, this one deflates that
                                balloon in a hurry. Christ seeks US. What mercy! Our very being is
                                nothing but an act of His love and mercy, all that we have is His
                                love and His mercy, yet, on top of all that, He seeks US! We're
                                talking God here, not some other created being. We're talking the
                                Alpha and Omega, end all and be all, the First Cause, you name it.
                                The very force of life and light and truth and love and mercy in the
                                cosmos, before all time, names us, knows us and calls us.

                                He ALREADY calls us His laborers, even before we answer. He knows
                                intimately and well, from personal experience, the fouled up chaotic
                                mess in which we lived. He has lived in it, too. he tenderly calls us
                                to "true and everlasting life" and assures us that He knows the way.
                                In fact, He *IS* the Way!

                                I can gush a bit writing about the Prologue, so indulge me here as I
                                do so. Beloveds, for so you are to me, our fractured hearts and sin-
                                veiled eyes just cannot see the way, nor can we name the hurts or
                                their cures well. God and God alone can pierce that darkness and He
                                offers to do so before we even ask. This is awesome grace, this is
                                enough for a lifetime's meditation on humility. Hard things to come
                                in the struggle are real, but their harshness is in some way
                                illusory: "Behold, in His loving-kindness, the Lord shows us the way
                                of life."

                                It is solely because of heaven and Christ for all eternity that every
                                suffering, every cross can be diminished into absolute nothingness by
                                the greatness of the reward. Yes, He shows us the way to life, but,
                                as a wonderfully Dominican Doctor of the Church, St. Catherine of
                                Siena, taught us: "All the way to Heaven *IS* Heaven, because He
                                said: 'I am the Way.' "

                                Love and prayers,
                                Jerome, OSB
                                http://www.stmarysmonastery.org
                                Petersham, MA

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                              • Br. Jerome Leo
                                +PAX Prayers, please, for the spiritual, mental and phsyical health of the following, for all their loved ones and all who take care of them: Mother Mary
                                Message 15 of 29 , Jan 3, 2009
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                                  +PAX

                                  Prayers, please, for the spiritual, mental and phsyical health of the following, for all their loved ones and all who take care of them:

                                  Mother Mary Elizabeth, on her feastday and for the happy death and etenal rest of Br. Aelred Seton, on one of his two feastdays. May St. Elizabeth Ann Seton intercede for us all.

                                  An 82 year old woman who is in the hospital after having a mild heart attack shortly after Christmas. She's doing okay, but the family requests prayers for her speedy recovery.

                                  Some young adults who seem to be slowly falling away from the Church. Their mother (a widow) is very concerned about them and asks for prayers for all of them, and for herself, that she will know how to wisely deal with the situation.

                                  Prayers requested for Sr. Mary Joseph all her family and extended family, for graces for them for the coming New Year.

                                  Chris and Shawna, that controversy around needed repairs to their rental home be solved.

                                  Ann, angina and going on retreat soon.

                                  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 4, May 5, September 4
                                  Prologue

                                  Having our loins girded, therefore,
                                  with faith and the performance of good works (Eph. 6:14),
                                  let us walk in His paths
                                  by the guidance of the Gospel,
                                  that we may deserve to see Him
                                  who has called us to His kingdom (1 Thess. 2:12).

                                  For if we wish to dwell in the tent of that kingdom,
                                  we must run to it by good deeds
                                  or we shall never reach it.

                                  But let us ask the Lord, with the Prophet,
                                  "Lord, who shall dwell in Your tent,
                                  or who shall rest upon Your holy mountain" (Ps. 14:1)?

                                  After this question,
                                  let us listen to the Lord
                                  as He answers and shows us the way to that tent, saying,
                                  "The one Who walks without stain and practices justice;
                                  who speaks truth from his heart;
                                  who has not used his tongue for deceit;
                                  who has done no evil to his neighbor;
                                  who has given no place to slander against his neighbor."

                                  This is the one who,
                                  under any temptation from the malicious devil,
                                  has brought him to naught (Ps. 14:4)
                                  by casting him and his temptation from the sight of his heart;
                                  and who has laid hold of his thoughts
                                  while they were still young
                                  and dashed them against Christ (Ps. 136:9).

                                  It is they who,
                                  fearing the Lord (Ps. 14:4),
                                  do not pride themselves on their good observance;
                                  but,
                                  convinced that the good which is in them
                                  cannot come from themselves and must be from the Lord,
                                  glorify the Lord's work in them (Ps. 14:4),
                                  using the words of the Prophet,
                                  "Not to us, O Lord, not to us,
                                  but to Your name give the glory" (Ps. 113, 2nd part:1).
                                  Thus also the Apostle Paul
                                  attributed nothing of the success of his preaching to himself,
                                  but said,
                                  "By the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10).
                                  And again he says,
                                  "He who glories, let him glory in the Lord" (2 Cor. 10:17).

                                  REFLECTION

                                  Ever have that funny feeling of surprise that the world and time and
                                  life and events go resolutely on, even when you are stalled in
                                  heartbreak? It is a strange egocentricity that allows us to feel
                                  that. I remember clearly such a feeling when my father died. I was
                                  not quite eleven. My world was shattered, everything had stopped or
                                  changed or been put on hold.

                                  Child that I was, it stunned me slightly to notice from the car
                                  window on the way to the cemetery that it was just another sunny day
                                  for everyone else. People were working, shopping, going to school.
                                  The world WAS going on, nothing had changed for them. It made me feel
                                  strangely even more alone in my pain: he wasn't as important to the
                                  rest of the world as he was to me.

                                  We can still have these feelings as adults, but hopefully we are at
                                  least more used to them and less inclined to think the world really
                                  DOES stop when we think it should. Tough though they can still be,
                                  they are reality and reality is truth and truth, after all, is not
                                  only humility but also what Jesus called Himself.

                                  What does all this have to do with the Prologue? The same sort of
                                  really unfortunate egocentricity can let us think that we are the
                                  center of the known universe in other ways, can allow us to foolishly
                                  think that our gifts or the tiny packets of virtues we have stashed
                                  here and there are our own. No way, folks! It is grace, it is gift,
                                  ALL is gift, beginning with our very existence!

                                  Everything good, in every way is all from God, not us. We dare glory
                                  in nothing but Him, for we would be less than nothing without His
                                  grace acting in us. Picture a battery operated toy, that someone else
                                  skillfully made, without a battery. Beginning to get the picture?

                                  If a city has clean, wondrous, spring water, no one in their right
                                  mind praises the pipes. No, one praises the purity of the Source. So
                                  it is with us, m'dears, pipes one and all, nothing more or less. God
                                  is the Source, God's mercy and love and grace and gift are the purest
                                  of waters. We are His conduits and we dare not glory, except in the
                                  Lord! "Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Your Name give the glory!"

                                  Love and prayers,
                                  Jerome, OSB
                                  http://www.stmarysmonastery.org
                                  Petersham, MA






                                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                                • Br. Jerome Leo
                                  +PAX Prayers, please, for someone who is depressed, for spiritual, mental and physical well-being. Lord, help us all as You know and will. God s will is best.
                                  Message 16 of 29 , Jan 4, 2009
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                                    +PAX

                                    Prayers, please, for someone who is depressed, for spiritual, mental and physical well-being.

                                    Lord, help us all as You know and will. God's will is best. Allis mercy and grace. God is never absent, praise Him! Thanks so much. JL

                                    January 5, May 6, September 5
                                    Prologue (continued)

                                    Hence the Lord says in the Gospel,
                                    "Whoever listens to these words of Mine and acts upon them,
                                    I will liken to a wise person
                                    who built a house on rock.
                                    The floods came,
                                    the winds blew and beat against that house,
                                    and it did not fall,
                                    because it had been founded on rock" (Matt. 7:24-25).

                                    Having given us these assurances,
                                    the Lord is waiting every day
                                    for us to respond by our deeds to His holy admonitions.
                                    And the days of this life are lengthened
                                    and a respite granted us for this very reason,
                                    that we may amend our evil ways.
                                    As the Apostle says,
                                    "Do you not know that God's patience is inviting you to repent" (Rom.
                                    2:4)?
                                    For the merciful Lord tells us,
                                    "I desire not the death of the sinner,
                                    but that the sinner should be converted and live" (Ezech. 33:11).

                                    REFLECTION

                                    People like me are very prone to regard repentance with the same
                                    eagerness that we ordinarily reserve for cleaning the
                                    refrigerator: "I'll get around to that..." Truth is, I rarely do.
                                    What happens instead is that one of our wonderful Oblates, Richard of
                                    Springfield (who gets this daily reflection,) comes for a weekend and
                                    cleans the icebox. Hallelujah! Saint Richard!! Thank you, Richard!
                                    Richard cleans like a dream and my world looks a lot better whenever
                                    he's been here!

                                    If you are not like me, and your icebox has ALWAYS been clean, is
                                    buffed up every week to shining glory and you carry a damp washcloth
                                    every time you open the fridge just in case, then fine, this portion
                                    was not written for you. However, it should be noted that even
                                    immaculate icebox types may have to check behind the icebox or take a
                                    look at the oven.... I mean, if you want to be REALLY perfect, you
                                    could move the fridge and wax the floor underneath- with paste wax
                                    and a buffer, of course!

                                    Get my point? This is surely written for most of us. Most of us have
                                    some sort of a grungy corner that we'll "get to tomorrow," if ever.
                                    St. Benedict is reminding us again that "Now is the acceptable
                                    time..." St. Isaac of Syria said: "This life has been given to you
                                    for repentance, do not waste it in vain pursuits."

                                    Sadly, people like me hear in St. Isaac's words: "This life has been
                                    given to you for icebox cleaning..." Yeah, right! Oh boy, what a thrill!
                                    Such a gift! Just can't wait to get up each morning! And we shrug and walk
                                    away. Why? Because the typically monastic idea of repentance is very
                                    different from that of our modern Christianity.

                                    We tend to look at repentance as necessary in proportion to guilt.
                                    The early monastics saw it as necessary for everyone, period. We
                                    would almost chuckle at the idea of a virgin martyr of twelve in the
                                    Roman world repenting. "Of what?" we'd incredulously ask. The early
                                    monastic would see no problem there at all. Repentance, from a
                                    monastic and Benedictine view, is needful to for all because all are
                                    fallen, all are incapable of living the Christian life without God
                                    and grace. All of us, left to their own whims, would fall short of the
                                    monastic struggle.

                                    The repentance we speak of here is similar to that of Baptism, but
                                    not identical. Certainly one can be saved without entering the
                                    monastic way (or cleaning refrigerators, for that matter!) What St.
                                    Benedict is speaking of here is the special road of the monastic
                                    struggle. Plenty of saints, in fact most saints, were neither monks
                                    nor Benedictines. Big news there!

                                    What St. Benedict is saying is "OK, this is our approach. There are,
                                    of course, others, but if you want to use ours, you this is what you have
                                    to do." "Repent!" St. John the Baptist cried again and again in the desert,
                                    and somewhere along the way of that preaching, Jesus, the Lamb of God,
                                    stepped into the Jordan. Face it, folks, if He can answer the call to repent,
                                    anyone can! He had no need at all!

                                    What our repentance affirms is that we cannot become monastics with no
                                    trouble: our natures make that impossible. On our monastic way to
                                    God, many, many human things stand in our hearts and in our way.
                                    That's what we repent and shall always have to repent. Whenever our
                                    focus, our purity of heart is fragmented in any way, that's what we
                                    have to repent.

                                    Now, after writing this, you might safely assume that I am off to
                                    clean the refrigerator, but you would be wrong. I mean, after all,
                                    Richard IS visiting again soon and maybe he wouldn't mind starting
                                    the painting a little bit late... LOL! (Richard really does paint,
                                    though. Like a pro! Most of the new paint in the house is his work.)

                                    All joking aside, great thanks are due to many of our Oblates and
                                    guests, all of whom make ours a shared ministry of hospitality. This
                                    great team effort results in people being a lot more comfortable here! Say
                                    a prayer of thanks with me for all of them! All of them help us receive
                                    Christ at our door.

                                    Love and prayers,
                                    Jerome, OSB
                                    http://www.stmarysmonastery.org
                                    jeromeleo@...
                                    Petersham, MA

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