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July 31

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  • russophile2002
    +PAX Prayers, please, for Bishop Basil, hospitalized with chest pains and for Fr. Brendan-Benedict. Prayers, too, for Mary, in the last round of a tough
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 31, 2003
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      Prayers, please, for Bishop Basil, hospitalized with chest pains and
      for Fr. Brendan-Benedict. Prayers, too, for Mary, in the last round
      of a tough disability claim approval. God's will is best. Thanks so
      much. NRN JL

      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.


      Monasteries attract kooks like magnets. Don't know why, but they
      always have. Maybe some of the twistedly religious assume that we
      will be the only ones who will appreciate or understand them. That's
      not often true, though a certain amount of polite civility usually
      obtains. Whatever the reason, they show up, not every day, but
      predictably more often than hurricanes in Florida.

      I write this being very aware that we have little or no tradition in
      the West of the Holy Fools who are so reverenced in Russia.
      Charitably, one would have to hope that some of these people are
      actually called to be Holy Fools in a world that has no place for
      them at all.

      Still I often have to wonder at the forms of religion
      assumed by some of them, the outlandish and affected behaviors that
      are flat out guaranteed to heap rejection on a person: weird, florid
      turns of speech and decidedly unusual secular attire, which usually
      mimics the habit in some form, prostrations and floor-kissing in view
      of all.

      Perhaps one thing that troubles me so much about all of this is
      that it SINGULARIZES one, puts one in high visibility. That sets off
      all kinds of humility alarms and humility is pretty basic to
      spiritual growth. I think some of this stuff, prostrations and the
      like are GREAT ideas, but only alone and unseen or performed publicly
      in an environment where they are usual behavior.

      Christian life itself, if really lived, and monastic life even more
      so, will heap plenty of rejection on anyone in the natural course of
      things. One needn't call it forth, it will come. That's why it is
      hard to see why people go out of their way to make themselves MORE
      weird, more rejectable. Christianity alone is, let us face it, weird
      enough by today's standards to be more than adequate as a source of

      One never knows, but I wonder a lot whether such people have a
      spiritual director and whether or not they tell the director about
      these things. Some of them are so external that one would HAVE to
      know, the moment they walked into the room or spoke. Then I wonder if
      the spiritual director is letting all this continue, or whether the
      person involved just will not obey. A stubborn attachment in such
      cases is not uncommon.

      Put another way, we can easily do kooky religious things for reasons
      that have nothing at all to do with religion. There can be all kinds
      of self-motivations to seek out rejection and scorn, some of them
      neurotic or even psychotic. One neatly escapes treatment by blaming
      God for the behavior and embracing it without reserve as a call. One
      cannot judge another's calling, but one can be concerned. Such people
      often give great cause for concern. One must pray for them and try to
      be kind.

      What's important about this chapter is that we have not even our own
      bodies, much less our wills as our own. We have an Abbot who is a
      sure and safe protection against this stuff. Go to your Abbot with an
      off the wall idea and he will quite likely tell you that you cannot
      do it. This has a double protection. One is not one's own master, as
      I fear a lot of kooky types may be, and one can less easily indulge
      in pride. Very often it is precisely the secretiveness of our
      penances which enable us to be smug about them. When someone else not
      only knows, but must give us permission before we can continue, that
      takes a LOT of the edge off pride!

      This has gotten quite long, I fear, but one more important aside.
      Holiness and craziness are not mutually exclusive. One can be crazy
      as a loon and still be very holy. Mental illness is like any other
      illness in this respect. No one would dream of saying one could not
      be holy because one had leukemia or cancer. On the other hand,
      neither are holiness and HEALTH mutually exclusive, so it doesn't
      hurt to get the kinky things that are NOT of God looked at and
      treated. But sometimes that doesn't happen...

      Love and prayers,
      Jerome, OSB
      Petersham, MA
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