Holy Rule for Oct. 31
Prayers, please, for all the victims of the cholera epidemic in Haiti and for those trying to help them. This is nearly as bad as the earthquake itself was.
Prayers please for a female missing person who left Boston for the Berkshires.
Please pray for Judy, an Oblate. Her time is drawing near to going home, prayers for her happy death. Also prayers are needed for her husband, also an Oblate, her three brothers, her daughter and her son-in-law during this time.
Please pray for Kylia... that the Holy Spirit will enlighten her and that she return to her Church rather than "go it alone".
Prayers, please, for Reed and Lacey as they expect their first child. Lacey is only 18 and feels very unprepared.
Prayers, please, for Laurie, disabled and working three jobs and still below the poverty line, she needs to find a way to finance a sixty dollar car repair so that she can help her mother over 100 miles away.
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
March 1, July 1, October 31
Chapter 24: What the Measure of Excommunication Should Be
The measure of excommunication or of chastisement should correspond
to the degree of fault, which degree is estimated by the judgment
of the Abbess.
If a sister is found guilty of lighter faults, let her be excluded
from the common table. Now the program for one deprived of the
company of the table shall be as follows: In the oratory she shall
intone neither Psalm nor antiphon nor shall she recite a lesson
until she has made satisfaction; in the refectory she shall take
her food alone after the community meal,
so that if they eat at the sixth hour, for instance, that sister
shall eat at the ninth, while if they eat at the ninth hour she
shall eat in the evening, until by a suitable satisfaction she
Let's face it, St. Benedict has a lot to say about excommunication-
a clumsy term, perhaps, because people often assume it means
excommunication from the Church, which is the only sense of the
word we commonly have today. It does not, of course mean that, just
a punishment of exclusion from certain community functions.
Let's face something else, at least in this chapter. Fasting an
extra three hours might not be lovely, but no intoning in choir?
What bad news! Gosh... Even many of us who CAN sing would look at
that as a nice break!
And eating alone? Well, the extra fast wasn't great, but I sure
missed that droning reader and the tedious book we've been reading.
What awful luck!
See the difference in perception a millennium or so can make? That
may be a large part of why the penal code is not followed today:
some of its punishments simply make little sense to modern
monastics, some seem mean, and others (as above,) seem like
The rest of this applies with great ease to family situations,
marital situations and the workplace. Something must be gleaned
from all this legislation for punishment: the one at fault must be
told when something is wrong. That, after all, is the only reason
for punishment, to be a wake up call.
Unfortunately, the monastic hatred of personal confrontation
endemic in our ranks assumes (because it is easiest to do so,)
sufficient brilliance for all to sooner or later figure out that
they are amiss. It just ain't so, folks, sorry! Things fester when
they go ignored
for years. Things that someone should have dealt with gently, but
firmly and even summarily, in formation or childhood, torture the
family in later years.
Look, it is hard, VERY hard, to confront a predictably stubborn or
difficult child or monastic or spouse or employee.
It's easy to see why one would rather not do so. But the Holy Rule
asks many things that are difficult of us, and this one is
for the good of all, both the offender and the offended.
Please take very careful note, however, of the gentleness and real
concern that is essential if such confrontations are to succeed.
Explosive, violent tactics, harsh words and actions at the first
hint of trouble are not the monastic way. There is charity, always
charity first. If we must be sure of that selfless love in ourselves.
Not every correction is morally necessary. When that is the case, we
should often remain silent if we are not loving.
Timing is important, too. Not every day or time is the best time to broach
something difficult. One ought to be careful to avoid instant reactions that
might do little good. One also ought to go to the person alone first, as the
Gospel says. Instant rebukes in the presence of others are not the Gospel's
We must avoid the false charity, (really just cowardice in polite
drag,) that omits making these difficult corrections. It goes a
long way to making everyone's life hellish in the future. Sometimes
that false charity can also be hatred or violence or revenge in
pious disguise, and that is equally terrible, and also goes along
way to making others miserable.
Also, in workplace especially, bear in mind that the authority
figure here is the abbot, not the rank and file. One dare not
assume all those prerogatives as a peer and equal. Fraternal
correction will get a chapter of its own later on, but it is not a
mantle to be assumed lightly. We must beware of the other extreme:
becoming universal policing agents for all and sundry. A tiny spark
of Gestapo flickers in many of our all too human hearts. Do nothing
to fan the flame!
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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