Holy Rule for May 9
Please pray for all Advanced Placement students as they continue to take their exams next week, and especially for Carol's AP Chemistry students when they take their exam on Tuesday.
Prayers, pleas, for Vince and Tami and for their daughter, Kathleen, as she graduates from university on Saturday, and for all graduates, that she and they be guided and guarded by God's will, know His protection and Love and respond to His calling in their new professions and personal lives.
Prayers for Colleen and her job interviews and for perseverance and stamina
Also prayers for Baby Allison, who was born with a cancerous cyst in her lung, and had to have her lung removed at 4 days old, and for her parents and family.
Prayers, please, for Fr. Bob, who gave me the job at the wonderful mission I
write about today, and for all the people there. The little Church is now sadly
closed, but what a beautifully important chapter in my life it was and is.
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 8, May 9, September 8
Chapter 1: On the Kinds of Monks
It is well known that there are four kinds of monks.
The first kind are the Cenobites:
those who live in monasteries
and serve under a rule and an Abbot.
The second kind are the Anchorites or Hermits:
no longer in the first fervor of their reformation,
but after long probation in a monastery,
having learned by the help of many brethren
how to fight against the devil,
go out well armed from the ranks of the community
to the solitary combat of the desert.
They are able now,
with no help save from God,
to fight single-handed against the vices of the flesh
and their own evil thoughts.
The third kind of monks, a detestable kind, are the Sarabaites.
These, not having been tested,
as gold in the furnace (Wis. 3:6),
by any rule or by the lessons of experience,
are as soft as lead.
In their works they still keep faith with the world,
so that their tonsure marks them as liars before God.
They live in twos or threes, or even singly,
without a shepherd,
in their own sheepfolds and not in the Lord's.
Their law is the desire for self-gratification:
whatever enters their mind or appeals to them,
that they call holy;
what they dislike, they regard as unlawful.
The fourth kind of monks are those called Gyrovagues.
These spend their whole lives tramping from province to province,
staying as guests in different monasteries
for three or four days at a time.
Always on the move, with no stability,
they indulge their own wills
and succumb to the allurements of gluttony,
and are in every way worse than the Sarabaites.
Of the miserable conduct of all such
it is better to be silent than to speak.
Passing these over, therefore,
let us proceed, with God's help,
to lay down a rule for the strongest kind of monks,the Cenobites.
What are the two major things that St. Benedict dislikes about the
bad types of monk? They have no stability and they follow their own
wills. Obedience is the essence of monastic struggle, and we will be
touching on it throughout the Holy Rule. Stability, while getting
lots of mention, deservedly takes a lesser role in the Rule, even
though it is taken as a vow by Benedictines, so it might pay to take
a closer look at stability right at the beginning of our reading of
The Desert Fathers said: "Stay in your cell and your cell will teach
you everything." Real cinch, right? Wrong! Don't picture staying in
one's cell like a personal day from work, when you sleep as late as
you like, get dressed at noon (if then!) and decide you can eat for
the day without leaving the house to go to the store or, for that
matter, without leaving the couch. That's not what this is about.
Monastics, whether in the world or in the cloister, could tell you
that the cell, the home can be paradise, but it can also be hell, a
furnace of nearly impossible heat. In fact, for many of us, it has
been both at one time or another, and maybe, just maybe, it isn't
done switching roles yet! Times of paradise are nice, they can swell
the heart with gratitude and love, but every spouse, parent, child
and religious knows that we cannot stay on the mountaintop forever,
like Peter, we may not pitch tents there.
The furnace, now there's a fetching little image! But it is
essential, too. Benedictine life seeks to lead us to God. For every
single one of us, that means cleaning out a lot of imperfection. We
may start out eagerly wanting to be like "gold tried in the furnace,
seven times refined," but it's a safe bet that early on, after a time
or two in that inferno, we'll be trying to bargain for less, maybe
four or five times refined at most! It's no debutante's ball in there!
Hate the furnace/gold imagery? Can't blame you there, especially if
you live in the North and furnaces are tricky and expensive worries!
Try a sauna. Still hard, still challenging, still sweats a LOT of
gunk out. However, make sure you jump in the ice cold water right after
the sauna, just so you don't think all this stuff is REALLY a spa!
The fact is, for Benedictines, stability, whether of cloister or
geography or of heart, is a major piece of the puzzle. It's the
ability to stick with it, stay in there, keep trying. It is the
fixedness, not just of place, but of heart and will. It is more than
just not moving around.
A consumerist society is fueled by desire, change and variety. Small
wonder that it encourages us to be always moving, always seeking the
novel, always distracted: it's profit base depends on that and,
whatever else may be said, consumerism is a greedy little devil.
Stability flies in the face of all these falsehoods. It tells us
that "rut" and routine are two very different things for us. The
routine, the mundane, the everyday and predictable are precisely the
arenas in which we must strive and win in the spiritual life.
The summer I left the seminary, I was 36. I lived in an idyllic place,
way out in the country, only a few miles from the West Virginia
border. Gorgeous! Geese and goats right next door, a small garden, a
tiny Byzantine Church on the property that I took care of and where I
That last summer, when I decided not to go back, I fell
in love. Not just a little, a LOT, way head over heels.
The idyllic surroundings became even lovelier,
they sang and all seemed right with the world. I was in Eden.
Or so I thought...
When the romance angle all blew up in my face, I was every bit as
inconsolable as I had recently been ecstatic. The same place looked
ugly and boring and hot, I couldn't care less about the geese and
goats I loved and I let the garden go to pieces. Why? Perception. It
was the same Eden, my eyes and heart had changed.
Stability teaches us that. Our fleeting hells have heaven within them
and our Edens can turn into Dead Seas overnight. Stability forces us
to stick with it, to weather those changes, to know EVERY side of
life and love and heart and place. No wonder St. Benedict loved it
so! It is the courage of which monastics are made!
I failed the test of that lovely rural stability 25 years ago,
but my heart still remembers the nights I sat on the porch and watched the
thousands of fireflies' swirling progress upward on the field beside
me, a nightly Theophany, a manifestation of God. They made me think
of souls, rising on the last day. Awesome! Sure I am that I did not
belong in the priesthood, but oh, how wrong I could be
when disenchanted with that place. My heart goes back there still and
I pray for that community every single day of my life.
Love and prayers,
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Don, for whom we prayed, has died without seeing the Priest. Ardent prayers for the repose of his soul and for his brother, Jim, his wife and family and all who mourn him.
Kaitlin, whose test we prayed for has also been able to get out of the bad real estate deal she was enmeshed in. Deo gratias, and thanksgiving prayers!
Lola, whose back surgery we prayed for, has now developed pain/numbness in her other leg. Unsure of the cause, possibly a bone chip or spur, they are taking her back to surgery this afternoon. Continued prayers, please, and for her brother, Richard and all their family.
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 6, June 7, October 7
Chapter 7: On Humility
The ninth degree of humility
is that a monk restrain his tongue and keep silence,
not speaking until he is questioned.
For the Scripture shows
that "in much speaking there is no escape from sin" (Prov. 10:19)
and that "the talkative man is not stable on the earth" (Ps. 139:12).
OK, if you are a parent, you cannot speak to your children only when
they question you. The therapy bills in later years would be
astronomical. There are many situations in a Benedictine life lived
in the world, among non-monastics, where this has to be altered, but
its kernel of truth must be discovered and maintained.
WHY do we talk needlessly? Quite often it is nothing more than a
trick to change the reality around us. We are bored, or we feel we
are not getting enough attention or we think the mood too heavy, so
we speak to change whatever annoys us at the moment. I should know.
I am infamous for creating my own entertainment when things seem
dull to me. That's not always a great idea...
Some tough moments, some difficult stuff are meant to be endured.
They are part of our necessary learning and growth. Ever notice how
we assess a child's maturity by its ability to be quiet and non-
fidgety in surroundings (like Church!) that do not spoon feed its
attention span? Well, the same is true of us at every stage. We do
ourselves harm if we defuse every single tense moment with a word or
two. We cheat ourselves.
All too often we speak only to remind the universe around us, which
has carelessly forgotten for a second that we are its center, of a
whole bevy of falsehoods: I am the cutest, smartest, or wittiest, I
have the solution to all of this. What folly on the part of the
entire cosmos to forget our importance! Better speak to clear the
Those who know me are thinking: "HE wrote THIS?!?" Yes, alas, I am
guilty of all I wrote. Three times a year the Holy Rule reminds me of
that and each time I am aware that I need to work on it. Thanks be to
God, the Rule IS read three times a year: usually by the time the
next reading comes up, my interest has flagged and I have to start
over. As for the part about the talkative not being "stable on the
earth," well, there have been times in the last 18 years
when God had to nail my feet to the floor to keep me faithful and I am
not dead yet... I have not always been His most willing pupil, but
oh, is He ever patient! And infinitely merciful!
But, as one Desert Father said, that's what we do all day in
monasteries: "We fall down and we get up."
Love and prayers,
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