Prayers, please, for a clergyman who is thinking of leaving his
ministry and his faith. God's will is best! Thanks. NRN JL
February 16, June 17, October 17
Chapter 13: How the Morning Office Is to Be Said on Weekdays
The Morning and Evening Offices
should never be allowed to pass
without the Superior saying the Lord's Prayer
in its place at the end
so that all may hear it,
on account of the thorns of scandal which are apt to spring up.
Thus those who hear it,
being warned by the covenant which they make in that prayer
when they say, "Forgive us as we forgive,"
may cleanse themselves of faults against that covenant.
But at the other Offices
let the last part only of that prayer be said aloud,
so that all may answer, "But deliver us from evil.
The Our Father is THE Christian covenant of peace. If St. Benedict
insists it be said aloud twice a day, it is because he knows well the
tempests- nay, HURRICANES- in teacups that can spring up in any
enclosed home group, be it cloister or family. Things get magnified
inappropriately precisely because those we live with are dear to us.
If they weren't, they would be much less able to hurt or annoy us!
There weren't subways in St. Benedict's time, but there was a world
outside. Picture yourself riding a subway with any or all of these
types: an alcoholic, an abuser, a severely disturbed mental patient,
a tragic drug addict. These are just the ones that we might notice,
too. All of us on the subway ride daily with liars, thieves,
adulterers and worse, we just don't know it. Even though the subway
can offer a bit of a challenge to Christian peace, to forgiveness,
one usually has only to wait for one's stop, hoping meanwhile that a
transit cop will appear. If the situation is really frightening, one
could get off early and catch the next train.
In family or community, sometimes even in the workplace, we may not
change trains. Not only that, but there are often no transit cops at
all. (Even less than in Boston, where one may safely wonder how we
can afford all those parked MBTA cruisers with so few officers ever
in evidence to justify the expense....) Always remember that
Christian life, Benedictine life, is never tested when it is easy.
Alas, it is only through testing that we grow, that our practice
On the subway or bus, or even in the artificially detached situation
of world newscasts, it can be a LOT easier to forgive. It comes at
little or no price at all. It's pretty easy to forgive even horrible
criminals if they have not harmed our home circle, if they have not
directly harmed us. Hate to say it, folks, but the easy stuff is not
where it's at for us. A 50 yard dash may be the beginnings of an
Olympic gold medalist in the decathlon, but it is never the whole
The key to Benedictine peace is forgiveness, which is why St.
Benedict stresses that phrase and calls it a covenant. It truly IS a
covenant of peace. We are daily asking God, twice out loud, but
ideally many more times than that alone, to forgive us in the measure
that we forgive. Whoa! Risky business there! Any chain's strength is
decided by its weakest link, so think of the person you LEAST
forgive. There you will have the model you are suggesting to God that
He use in forgiving you. As Fr. Hugo used to say: "You love God as
much as the one you love least."
Fortunately, for most of us, I don't personally think God feels
Himself completely bound by the terms we offer Him. If He did, I
imagine heaven would be a quite appallingly empty place, indeed.
Nevertheless, I'll bet He will remind us of the terms we offered and
how little mercy they would afford us. That is one very good reason
why Roman Catholics believe in Purgatory- a chance to shower off the
terms we offered God that were so limited they would never cut anyone
Roman Catholicism and most other mainline Christian denominations
have not been known as peace churches, historically. They have not
made the dogmatic necessity of pacifism that the Mennonites or
Quakers have. Still, it is very hard to look at the Gospel itself or
at the daily Our Fathers and understand how wars have happened in
Christian history. The terms we have offered God as to how we would
like to be forgiven have been far less than optimal. "OK, we will
forgive you AFTER we have reduced your country to rubble and your
population by say, 20-30% or more...." If God took (or takes!) us at
our word, we shall be in deep trouble, indeed.
If every monastery refectory, every dining room table and every
workplace lunch room had perfect forgiveness and peace, there would
likely be no war. Wouldn't happen, because genuine peace truly is
contagious. Do you see why we have to start at home, to start small?
It's the only place we have to begin.
Love and prayers,
jeromeleo@... St. Mary's Monastery