Holy Rule for Nov. 29
A blessed and holy Advent to all: it is the Church's New Year today.
HUGE Deo gratias and thankgiving: John, for whom we have prayed and who was unemployed for 51 weeks has been offered a job. God is good!! Thanks to all for their prayers.
Prayers for the spiritual, mental and physical health of Julie's Mom, Bernice, 89, who is perhaps dying and is in kidney failure. Julie and her siblings ask prayers for God's perfect will and the strength to accept it. Prayers for all her 11 children and loved ones, and for all who take care of her. If God wants to call her, prayers for her happy death.
Lord, help us all as You know and will. God's will is
best. All is mercy and grace. God is never absent, praise Him! Thanks so much.
March 31, July 31, November 30
Chapter 49: On the Observance of Lent
Although the life of a monk
ought to have about it at all times
the character of a Lenten observance,
yet since few have the virtue for that,
we therefore urge that during the actual days of Lent
the brethren keep their lives most pure
and at the same time wash away during these holy days
all the negligences of other times.
And this will be worthily done
if we restrain ourselves from all vices
and give ourselves up to prayer with tears,
to reading, to compunction of heart and to abstinence.
During these days, therefore,
let us increase somewhat the usual burden of our service,
as by private prayers and by abstinence in food and drink.
Thus everyone of his own will may offer God
"with joy of the Holy Spirit" (1 Thess. 1:6)
something above the measure required of him.
From his body, that is
he may withhold some food, drink, sleep, talking and jesting;
and with the joy of spiritual desire
he may look forward to holy Easter.
Let each one, however, suggest to his Abbot
what it is that he wants to offer,
and let it be done with his blessing and approval.
For anything done without the permission of the spiritual father
will be imputed to presumption and vainglory
and will merit no reward.
Therefore let everything be done with the Abbot's approval.
Because we read St. Benedict's 1500 year old Holy Rule with modern
eyes, it often seems harsh. To balance our perspective, we need to
see the radical nature of the Rule when written. Face it, folks, this
was most definitely a gentler Rule for European wannabes who could
never hack it in the Egyptian desert in their wildest dreams. His
introductory paragraph points out his plan of adaptation: "...since
few have the virtue for that..." Our founder was most certainly
writing for the struggling plodders of monasticism and he knew it. Keeping
that uppermost in our minds can be informatively humbling.
The Desert Fathers were not terribly interested in mitigation in
most cases. The early message of the desert was: "Get Lent to the max
or get lost!" They went FAR beyond Lenten and they did it all year,
without a break.
If we look carefully at this, perhaps we can
better see that, from the outset, St. Benedict's fatherly heart was
with the underdogs, the also rans, the strays and losers that others
could not be bothered with. He must have felt at some point that
there HAD to be a way for the spiritually challenged to become
monastics. A millennium and a half later, we are still benefiting
from his attempts.
Hence, for us Benedictines, when the Evil One tempts us with his lies
like: "You could never do that! You could never be THAT holy!" we
should remind ourselves that we CAN be, but only with God's grace.
We have no clue of how holy we can be. God alone knows that and
God alone will lead us and show us in ways we are quite unlikely to ever understand.
Whenever the demon of discouragement tells us we are far beneath this
Rule for beginners, we must shrug indifferently and move on, briefly
impressed for once with the Father of Lies' firm grasp on the
Of *COURSE* we are beneath this Rule, beneath any of the earlier
ones. Duh?!? We're Benedictines. Our Order was founded for people
like us. That should never, ever be a cause to stop trying, to give
up or quit. On the contrary, that fact should be a heartening
confirmation that we are EXACTLY where we belong, in the best
possible remedial education program for slow learners like us, right
where God wants us.
Like a mother to a crying child, devoid of hope, who moans "But I
CAN'T, I just can't!" St. Benedict is softly saying, "Well, just do what
you can and that will be OK." Get the picture?
Now, go out and do what you can today... Don't be
surprised if you find that God is increasing, sometimes imperceptibly, that
"what you can" little by little to heights of great holiness, which we will
achieve all but unawares and only with His help. Someday, we really
SHALL "run in the way...with hearts enlarged."
Love and prayers,
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- +PAXPlease continue prays for the recovery of our good Brother Jerome.
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 14, June 15, October 15
Chapter 12: How the Morning Office Is to Be Said
The Morning Office on Sunday shall begin with Psalm 66
recited straight through without an antiphon.
After that let Psalm 50 be said with "Alleluia,"
then Psalms 117 and 62,
the Canticle of Blessing (Benedicite) and the Psalms of praise (Ps.
then a lesson from the Apocalypse to be recited by heart,
the responsory, the verse,
the canticle from the Gospel book,
the litany and so the end.
Ever notice how a loving parent makes allowances so the kids WON'T
slip up or be discouraged? Good teachers do the same thing. Some
things are made so deliberately easy that all of the students can
generally make it through the hoop!
St. Benedict does this with both morning Offices, beginning Vigils
and Lauds with 2 psalms that are said every day. He even stresses
that, at Lauds, the 66th Psalm is to be said slowly, so that the
monastics may have time to gather.
Those two Offices are the time people are most likely to be running
late, either because they had to bound out of bed at the last minute,
or because the "necessities of nature" break between Vigils and Lauds
delayed them unexpectedly. It is worth noting that only with these
two Offices, when tardiness can so easily occur, does the Holy Rule
make such allowance. For a further bit of trivia, these four Psalms
are repeated every day: one could miss them several times in a week
and still have said all 150 Psalms in that week.
Sometimes people (including, alas, ourselves!) can make unrealistic
conditions and demand that others meet them. The concept of failure
is built into those demands. We fence people about with our own
standards that they could not possibly meet, then condemn them for
failing to meet them! What a sad and tragic game.
Take a self-inventory and check to see if there is anyone you dislike so
intensely that they cannot be right, no matter what they do. If there are any
such folks, it's time for you to change, not them! I recall, alas, one pastor
who annoyed me so much that even when he used incense (something I ordinarily
love,) I carped to myself that he didn't do it right. With me, he just could NOT
win. Sigh... When things get that bad, it's ourselves who need the overhaul,
not the presumed "offender."
St. Benedict, by his example, teaches us to be the exact opposite. He
shows us that we should be gentle and loving, that we should not be
about setting burdens on others that are guaranteed to make them fail
or quit or be discouraged. If we have received such kindness, we
should pass it on!
Love and prayers,