Holy Rule for May 13
Prayers, please, for the eternal rest of Erma and for all who mourn her.
Prayers for the spiritual, mental and physical health of Steve's wife, carrying more than one baby (I think it may be twins, maybe more...) One of the babies is showing problems at 22 weeks and she needs prayers badly. Prayers, too, for Steve and the babies' grandmom, Chrissy, as well as for all who take care of them.
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 12, May 13, September 12
Chapter 2: What Kind of Person the Abbess Ought to Be
Let her make no distinction of persons in the monastery.
Let her not love one more than another,
unless it be one whom she finds better
in good works or in obedience.
Let her not advance one of noble birth
ahead of one who was formerly a slave,
unless there be some other reasonable ground for it.
But if the Abbess for just reason think fit to do so,
let her advance one of any rank whatever.
Otherwise let them keep their due places;
because, whether slaves or free, we are all one in Christ (Gal. 3:28)
and bear in equal burden of service
in the army of the same Lord.
For with God there is no respect of persons (Rom. 2:11).
Only for one reason are we preferred in His sight:
if we be found better than others in good works and humility.
Therefore let the Abbess show equal love to all
and impose the same discipline on all
according to their deserts.
Choosing favorites is a terribly risky business for any of us,
parent, abbot or supervisor. Our own self-image (or lack thereof,)
can get very tangled in this process. If we choose wrongly, it
empowers one and strangles the rest, to one degree or another.
Christopher Marlowe (+1593) wrote a great short poem about love at
first sight. Ah, the tragic romantic in me absolutely LOVED
that poem- at first sight! I dog-eared the page many years ago, to
more easily find it on occasions such as this!
"It lies not in our power to love or hate,
For will in us is overruled by fate.
When two are stripped, long ere the course begin,
We wish that one should lose, the other win;
And one especially do we affect
Of two gold ingots, like in each respect:
The reason no man knows, let it suffice
What we behold is censured by our eyes.
Where both deliberate, the love is slight:
Whoever loved, that loved not at first sight?"
(from "Hero and Leander")
Big fan of love at first sight here. Happened to me several times.
All of 'em were wrong. Had I looked more closely "at first sight" to
what Marlowe was saying, even he knew that what we see "is censured
by our eyes." Of course, Marlowe lived in Elizabethan England. Such
loves ruled by fate and impervious to reason were all the rage.
That was exactly the type of love for those under
us that St. Benedict said to avoid. The poem has an entirely
different message when one considers that ALL our brethren and
children and comrades are gold ingots, all are stripped runners,
devoid of fashion or rank. Marlowe may chalk the preference up to
Fate, but Fate has been an awfully handy catch-all through the
One can hang things on Fate that are so embarrassing one
would rather not own up to one's complicity in them at all! Fate,
however, is about as real as the "unseen hand" that keeps free
markets so equitable. Both are lovely fantasies. Neither are good
means of choice.
I only know of two monastic favorites who were actually loved by all
and really were fabulous people. I have lived with (and under!) many
more abbatial favorites who were not, who fooled no one but the
abbot. Of the families I have known , the favored child was not always
the best. In doing that memory work, however, I warmly recall a family of
11 children where no favorites existed. They truly all were gold ingots.
What wonderful parents they had!
St. Benedict lived and wrote over a thousand years before Marlowe,
but he knew well the human bent to love at first sight, to love
without reason or rhyme. He quite rightly points out that this is one
of the many human tendencies we have to conquer. If we don't, it will
harm us and harm those under our care, including the favored one.
Favoritism harms the one in charge, too. Since others can see all too
well what the parent or boss cannot, it diminishes their trust in the
authority figure. If she can be so glaringly wrong about this, why
not about something else? Every person is fallible, but a careless
superior can emphasize her own lack of brilliance by poor choices.
This doesn't make governing or being governed any easier for anyone.
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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