Holy Rule for Feb. 3
Prayers for the happy death and eternal rest of Lib, who died unexpectedly in her sleep, for all her family and all who mourn her, especially her sister, Dot.
Belated prayers for Mary McQ. on her birthday.
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
February 3, June 4, October 4
Chapter 7: On Humility
The sixth degree of humility
is that a monk be content
with the poorest and worst of everything,
and that in every occupation assigned him
he consider himself a bad and worthless workman,
saying with the Prophet,
"I am brought to nothing and I am without understanding;
I have become as a beast of burden before You,
and I am always with You" (Ps:22-23).
It is easy to miss the hardest word in this reading. Our eyes fly
right away to the ones we want to argue with- and these days many
want to argue with them! Slyly stuck into the first line is the
precept that the monastic "be CONTENT with the poorest and worst of
everything." The connection this time is not to obedience, but to
other virtues in humility's service: simplicity, poverty and stability.
Contentedness does not bide its time for a jump to something better,
does not merely endure things, but accepts them rather matter-of-factly.
Contented monastics aren't hunting for or wondering about something
else, usually it doesn't even occur to them. Truly contented people,
in monasteries or in marriage or in the world do not spend a lot of
time on "what if?" or "what next?". In the 70's a lot of people loved
the popular phrase on posters: "Bloom where you are planted." Quite
possibly they never stopped to think exactly what that meant: being
contented enough to blossom in any circumstance. Whoops! A little
more teeth to that version!
I know from sad personal experience: stability with divided attention,
with tons of Plans B, C, and D, simply is not very effective. It is
better than nothing, to be sure, but it is nearly nothing when
compared with its power once all those distractions are dropped. We
cannot drop them all at once, but we must try to stay rooted, ever
more and more rooted.
I knew one great monk who told me, at 83, that he had finally decided
to stay! There was not even a hint of irony in his voice.
On the other hand, I have known monks who were happy as clams and
completely contented in their forties. It is a different struggle for
each of us.
Truly contented simplicity and stability are powerful, counter-
cultural witnesses to offer this age. Materialism, consumerism and
the short attention span rule. A consumerist society is actually
fueled by provoking discontent: how else can superfluous consumption
Every time one person, family or monastery gets even partially free
of those constraints it is a powerful witness to those still bound.
Most of us truly do not "need" more. The Holy Rule can teach us that,
but not if we look at it through the lenses we have hauled along with
us from the 21st century world. Those lenses are completely invested
in our reaching the opposite- and false- conclusion.
Two cautions here. Good ole Gulf coast Florida boy that I am, I can
tell you that when one goes crabbing with a big floating washtub full
of blue crabs tied to your belt, you never have to put a lid on it.
Why? Because whenever one crab gets close to crawling out, the others
will pull it down. Don't be surprised if something like this happens to you!
Lots of people LOVE consumerist enslavement, or at least think they do!
Your efforts to free yourself might be far less than applauded in many eyes,
while some may actually try, like those crabs, to pull you back. Someone
once remarked that we think nothing of people spending themselves, even
dying in the pursuit of sports, bodybuilding, mountaineering and the like,
but our secular culture has a VERY different view of those who spend them-
selves in the pursuit of the spiritual.
The other, equally important consideration is that simplicity is NOT
just a way to save money- though it will free up plenty. The goal is
not to hoard what you have saved, but to spread it around or, as St.
Elizabeth Seton said: "Let us live simply, so that others may simply
live." We can direct our goods ever so much more responsibly toward
the common good, goods we had been tricked into believing we had to
throw elsewhere in the service of greed!
As to the "bad and worthless workman" line, where I expect there'll
be a lot of dissent, well, that isn't St. Benedict or me. You'll have
to argue with Jesus Himself on that one. He said that after we have
done ALL that was commanded us, we should say we are nothing but
unprofitable servants. Being God, I don't imagine He was mistaken.
Love and prayers,
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Prayers, please for the spiritual, mental and physical health of the following, for all their loved ones and all who take care of them:
Dave, recurrent prostate cancer, seeing oncologist on the 18th, and for Elaine, his wife.
Tom, upper erosive esophagitus, a stomach ulcer and hiatal hernia. The current meds are
not helping the problem. Seeing doctor today.
Joyce, who had surgery and several organs are filled with cancer.
The family needs prayers as it is very hard for them to deal with the diagnosis.
Carol, undergoing surgery to repair leg tendons on Thursday... for a safe operation, and a quick, comfortable, and complete recovery.
Prayers for the happy death and eternal rest of Doris, who has gone to God, for all her family and 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
March 13, July 13, November 12
Chapter 35: On the Weekly Servers in the Kitchen
Let the brethren serve one another, and let no one be excused from
the kitchen service
except by reason of sickness or occupation in some important work.
For this service brings increase of reward and of charity. But let
helpers be provided for the weak ones, that they may not be
distressed by this work; and indeed let everyone have help, as
required by the size of the community or the circumstances of the
locality. If the community is a large one,
the cellarer shall be excused from the kitchen service; and so also
those whose occupations are of greater utility, as we said above.
Let the rest serve one another in charity.
The one who is ending his week of service shall do the cleaning on
Saturday. He shall wash the towels with which the brethren wipe
their hands and feet; and this server who is ending his week, aided
by the one who is about to begin, shall wash the feet of all the
brethren. He shall return the utensils of his office to the
cellarer clean and in good condition,
and the cellarer in turn shall consign them to the incoming server,
in order that he may know what he gives out and what he receives
I know some houses have moved away from having table waiters, but
something is lost in that. We have cafeteria style first portions
here, then the waiter goes around to offer seconds and clears the
dishes. It isn't a really big deal, but it does have a great reward,
as the Holy Rule points out. Because we are a small community, only
8, everyone, even the Superior takes a turn at waiting.
Formerly, in some houses (maybe in all, but I am not sure,) the
Abbot would wait tables on Holy Thursday. There was a nice
connection there: he who held the place of Christ waited on all on
the feast of the Last Supper, and washed the feet of twelve in
Church that day.
The connection here is personalist. Waiting on people connects you
very much to them, as any waiter could tell you. Restaurants may
not pursue that connection to any depth, but a home situation, like
a monastery, surely does. There's a great notion here for Oblates
do not live alone: take turns waiting. We can get slumped into Dad
or Mom or husband or wife always being waiter or waited upon.
Switch off, care for each other, in this and many, many other ways!
There are tons of ways of serving another, serving each other, that
have nothing at all to do with tables or dining. There are many,
many, equivalent forms of foot-washing. Hunt for them diligently and
practice them with deep love!
Love and prayers,
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