Holy Rule for May 14
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 13, May 14, September 13
Chapter 2: What Kind of Person the Abbess Ought to Be
In her teaching
the Abbess should always follow the Apostle's formula:
"Reprove, entreat, rebuke" (2 Tim. 4:2);
threatening at one time and coaxing at another
as the occasion may require,
showing now the stern countenance of a mistress,
now the loving affection of a mother.
That is to say,
it is the undisciplined and restless
whom she must reprove rather sharply;
it is the obedient, meek and patient
whom she must entreat to advance in virtue;
while as for the negligent and disdainful,
these we charge her to rebuke and correct.
And let her not shut her eyes to the faults of offenders;
but, since she has the authority,
let her cut out those faults by the roots
as soon as they begin to appear,
remembering the fate of Heli, the priest of Silo (1 Kings 2-4).
The well-disposed and those of good understanding
let her correct with verbal admonition the first and second time.
But bold, hard, proud and disobedient characters
she should curb at the very beginning of their ill-doing
by stripes and other bodily punishments,
knowing that it is written,
"the fool is not corrected with words" (Prov. 18:2; 29:19),
"Beat your son with the rod,
and you will deliver his soul from death"(Prov. 23:13-14).
As our world grows more populated and less personalist, "One size
fits all" becomes a favorite chant of marketing. We all know that's
usually not true, and it is surely not true of parenting or
governing, as St. Benedict points out. This chapter firmly
contradicts the lie of such marketing. We are all individuals, all
treasures with different needs. Generic brand parenting will not do.
I was a miserable failure at discipline when teaching high school
sophomore English. I am sure it is an experience neither they nor I
would like to repeat. I tried to treat them like college students or
adults, a point they had not reached. In my naiveté, I expected them
to respond in kind. When they didn't, matters escalated between us, but not
into anything that did much good.
I was terribly at fault: I didn't see who they were, I gave them what *I*
would have liked to have had, but I was already in my mid-thirties with
a lot of life experience. I wasn't serving their needs, because I didn't
know who they were, nor, in that first year, did I even know how to find
out! So, like many before me, I substituted what I would want or need and
proclaimed that one size would fit all. Wrong! NOT!
Any abbess or parent who wants to try my way, not St. Benedict's,
will quickly find that it is as hard on them as it is on their charges.
My year of high school teaching was horrible and I hated it. My
students hated it, too. It was terrible for both of us at many, many
points. The light that entered in from time to time, the genuine
enjoyment of each other was only a flash that appeared rarely, faded
soon. I pray for those kids (and for those who taught me!) every day
of my life.
St. Benedict is not only moderate and balanced, he sees the person
clearly. He is a personalist of the first rank. Practice his
principles of government without the checks and balances of this
portion and you will be very displeased with the results. It
sometimes takes St. Benedict a while to make his point. Cut him short
before he has, and you will often wind up very sorry. Always let him
finish: the whole is a thing of beauty, but the parts may fall far
short of that.
Mercifully, God alone can bring good out of anything, so He can even
use our wrong-headedness to bring others to Him. He can do that with
obedience, too, but if we give Him a bit less chaos by following
Benedict's methods rather than our own, it will be better for all
To a certain point, some people thrive on a lot of leeway, others do
not. Some people need rigid order, others will wither under that. A
superior who is into super control will soon be left with none but
those who need that and a few conflicted types who can at least
A superior who is too easy-going can also do harm. Sad is the
community where the only thing that will ever get all the horses back into
the barn is death, and a few of such exist.
This is not so different from the message throughout the Holy Rule:
concern for the other, not the self, eyes on God for the good of all! And, as
the old-timers would say: "Keep your eyes on your own choir stall." Trust me,
you will ALWAYS find plenty to keep you busy there if you are honest
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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