This is the reading for Sept. 12th. I accidentally sent the 13th on yesterday
and missed the 12th, so here's to catching up. 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.
As usual, this is not just for Abbots, but for all of us!!
Face it, y'all, being human is at once both a thing of ineffable
potential glory, the free gift of God's Divine Mercy or, left to our
own devices, precious little more than the rest of the primate family
we belong to, and often much less! OK, we pulled off food-sharing to
a degree, but the briefest glimpse at hunger in our world will
demonstrate that we didn't do such a hot job on that one.
Then there is speech and cognitive reasoning. Well, these have not been
unqualified successes of virtue or triumphs of good, either! Sigh....
Part of that primate heritage in us in a pretty much life-long
exercise to find where we fit in the hierarchy of the troop. The
answers to this, true or false, can shape our self-esteem for boon or
woe, can make us wonderfully well-adjusted or pathetically hobbled by
crippling senses of inferiority. We could well start with peers, but
really any deciding factor could enter in: wealth, looks, social
standing, intelligence, charm. None of them are infallibly truthful.
Yet, from infancy up, as soon as we begin to relate with other troop
members, we begin to employ the pointlessly false standards of a
primate grouping to estimate our own worth and, sadly, that of those around
us. Should it alarm us that the Gospel and the Holy Rule point us firmly
away from this nonsense? And it IS nonsense, but it is as rooted in our
fallen psyches as original sin itself. Holier primates we may hopefully be,
but there is always that last annoying shred we must be pulling at all the
For Benedictines, in monastery or world, this whole is affair is
quite wisely and deliberately overturned completely. There is one
reason, only one reason for prominence of any kind: good works and
humility in the eyes of God. The addition of humility to that ideal
equation means that the people who really *ARE* on top of the pile
will in no way act as if they are, and, in fact, will probably not be
treated as such, either!
Look for the greatest saints in a community most generally at the
bottom, the ones ignored, discounted, maybe even scorned by
the "upwardly mobile." You will usually also find them indifferent as
to their no-clout condition! There is either a holy indifference or a
firm resignation, but make no mistake, the holiest people in any
group are usually the ones who are scarcely noticed by the power-
trippers and are doing nothing at all to seek to control things. They
live beyond the fringes of all that nonsense. Their Priority has no
competition from the hollow charms of advancement and He takes very
good care of them!
It is a sad truth, but even in monasteries, we sometimes have
the "upwardly mobile." As annoying as climbers can sometimes be to
those who live with them, one thing may help lighten the load:
realizing how terribly pathetic and worthy of pity they are. Whoops!
They have missed the King and married the crown, no wonder they are
frustrated! Pray for them: lots!
For a monastic to seek to climb is all but fatal. Truly, beloveds,
as the Holy Rule teaches us, we ascend by humility, we descend by
pride or self-seeking! Much, much more than half of monastic knowing
is knowing what doesn't matter, and most things don't....seeking to
control a lot of inconsequential odds and ends will spin your wheels
and ruin your life.
Trust me, virtually ALL of the frustrations of my own monastic life stem from
not knowing or from forgetting what doesn't matter. Don't let the small
stuff get you down. It is an utter (and terribly annoying and draining!)
of precious time.
Love and prayers,
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