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Holy Rule for May 9

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  • Br. Jerome Leo
    +PAX 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
    Message 1 of 149 , May 8, 2010
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      +PAX

      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:
      those who,
      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.

      REFLECTION

      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 Rule.

      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
      was cantor.

      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,
      Jerome, OSB
      http://www.stmarysmonastery.org
      Petersham, MA




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    • Br. Jerome Leo
      +PAX 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
      Message 149 of 149 , Jun 6, 2010
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        +PAX

        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).

        REFLECTION

        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
        matter up...

        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,
        Jerome, OSB
        http://www.stmarysmonastery.org
        Petersham, MA



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