Holy Rule for Oct. 28
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 27, June 28, October 28
Chapter 21: On the Deans of the Monastery
If the community is a large one, let there be chosen out of it
brethren of good repute and holy life, and let them be appointed
deans. These shall take charge of their deaneries in all things,
observing the commandments of God and the instructions of their
Let men of such character be chosen deans that the Abbot may with
share his burdens among them. Let them be chosen not by rank but
according to their worthiness of life and the wisdom of their
If any of these deans should become inflated with pride and found
deserving of censure,
let him be corrected once, and again, and a third time. If he will
not amend, then let him be deposed and another be put in his place
who is worthy of it.
And we order the same to be done in the case of the Prior.
St. Benedict reverences seniority- a traditional monastic value- in
many places, but he also moderates that tradition, keeping it from
turning into ageism. When considering the appointment of these
deans, their worthy lives and teachings are the criteria, not their
age. Unspoken here, but nevertheless evident, is the demand that seniors
obey such young officials.
There is no room for griping about young "whipper-snappers" here!
Obedience is not about the age or wisdom or human perfection of the
superior. It is about faith that God leads us through such flawed
human beings of every sort. When "X" crosses you or breaks your
heart or stokes your anger, it is imperative to recall that this
often has precious little to do with "X" and his or her
personality. It's is God's gift to your self-study. He wants you to
learn something about yourself and tests you. "X" might not even be
faintly aware of being used as an instrument of His will!
(Recalling this all the time is a LOT harder than it sounds, for some a
A further check here is given by the insistence on personal
holiness. Granted, even in monasteries, the clever and
manipulatively ambitious sort can get around this and sometimes do,
but what if all our offices, in monastery AND Church went to really
holy people? The first objection (usually put forward by the
ambitious who would be overlooked under this system!) is that they
would be TERRIBLE administrators. So? The point there was what?
Next time you want a fun day-dream, try to picture a Church and
Order run entirely by the holy and wise. Wow! Now usually, day-
dreaming is an utter waste of time, but this one is not. After you
have spent some time envisioning all those things, go out and BE
dreamed. Truly live as if the dream had come to pass. Be prepared
to be a little lonely: none of us are likely soon to see a Church
run entirely by saints. But we can all make that dream one person
closer to coming true, by changing ourselves, by incarnating that
ideal as best we can. The only ones we can surely change are
Of course, there will be loud complaints about saints in charge,
too. For one thing, as Dorothy Day observed, saints can be terribly
hard to live with. For another, the problem is our lack of faith,
a problem even good governance will not remove. Only we can remove
problem. It starts with us!
Love and prayers,
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******Somehow I skipped Nov. 28 and ran the 30th yesterday, so here's the
reading for the 28th to catch up.
March 29, July 29, November 28
Chapter 48: On the Daily Manual Labor
From the Calends of October until the beginning of Lent,
let them apply themselves to reading
up to the end of the second hour.
At the second hour let Terce be said,
and then let all labor at the work assigned them until None.
At the first signal for the Hour of None
let everyone break off from her work,
and hold herself ready for the sounding of the second signal.
After the meal
let them apply themselves to their reading or to the Psalms.
On the days of Lent,
from morning until the end of the third hour
let them apply themselves to their reading,
and from then until the end of the tenth hour
let them do the work assigned them.
And in these days of Lent
they shall each receive a book from the library,
which they shall read straight through from the beginning.
These books are to be given out at the beginning of Lent.
But certainly one or two of the seniors should be deputed
to go about the monastery
at the hours when the sisters are occupied in reading
and see that there be no lazy sister
who spends her time in idleness or gossip
and does not apply herself to the reading,
so that she is not only unprofitable to herself
but also distracts others.
If such a one be found (which God forbid),
let her be corrected once and a second time;
if she does not amend,
let her undergo the punishment of the Rule
in such a way that the rest may take warning.
Moreover, one sister shall not associate with another
at inappropriate times.
Lectio divina, sacred reading, is the Benedictine form of
contemplation, more ancient than many later forms, both Carmelite and
Athonite. Being so ancient, it comes with very few directions. Much
of its "method" has been developed and handed down by monastics over
the centuries since St. Benedict.
Even in that embellished form, it remains a very, very simple and
efficient means to contemplative prayer. One simply reads Scripture
or the Fathers (or Mothers!) slowly, reflectively, ruminating (like a
cow chewing its cud!) on each word and verse. As St. Romuald later
observed, one waits like a chick for whatever its mother gives it.
One does not read to get through the book. One reads to see if and
when the Holy Spirit calls us to higher prayer with a word or phrase
that strikes the heart. At that point, one should follow one's heart
and not worry about finishing the page! Cleared for takeoff!
It is interesting that St. Benedict weaves all these schedules of
contemplative reading and prayer together with his manual labor
concerns, without any ado. There's another example of the dignity and
holiness of work in a Benedictine theology. Our work, too, is prayer.
It must be.
We must, somehow, learn to be all prayer. That same
ruminative mindfulness that colors our lectio must color our labor as
well. It is a different form of attention, a different form of
prayer, but it is prayer nonetheless! Just ask any gardener or cook
with a mystical heart or, for that matter, any toilet cleaner or
diaper changer of the same ilk!
The Carmelites prescribe mental prayer, which should, with
recollection, spread throughout one's day. The hesychasts of Mount
Athos, Romania and Russia stress the Jesus Prayer, said vocally until
it becomes automatic in the heart at all times. Both of these are
more explicit methodologies, but the Benedictine aim is the same:
prayer without ceasing, prayer in choir and garden and cell, prayer
at reading and prayer at work. Mindfulness of God at all times is the
contemplative goal of all these systems.
This is just my own opinion, but I am inclined to think that the
Dominican concept of contemplation comes closest to our own, largely
because of their love of study. Study, for the Dominican, is often
very similar to lectio in the Benedictine scheme of things. Why?
Because the Dominican seeks Truth, and Jesus said: "I am the Truth."
A Dominican could be reading virtually anything and still know that
of real, objective truth garnered from that reading would be yet
another shard, no matter how small, in the infinite mosaic of the
face of Christ. That is a mosaic none of us shall ever complete in
this life, but oh, how much more familiar He shall seem to us when we
meet Him because of it!
Maybe I'm just prejudiced, but I think that a Dominican education,
such as I had, is a wonderful preparation for Benedictine life.
Love and prayers,
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