Holy Rule for Nov. 1
Prayers please for Mark, bowel cancer surgery on Monday - not sure what happens after that.
Prayers also for Larry, heart and lung problems - on oxygen part of the time.
Prayers, please for Carol who has had a successful hip replacement (Deo Gratias!) and now requests prayer for her return home for recovery, that it be as quick and pain-free as His will allows, also prayers for her family as they help her in her healing.
A blessed Solemnity of All Saints to all! May all the Saints, especially those
of our own families, intercede to God for us and bring us closer to Him. May we
all rejoice together in the Communion of Saints! JL
Lord, help us all as You know and will. God's will is best. All ismercy and
grace. God is never absent, praise Him! Thanks so much. JL
+++++++++In yesterday's reflection, I said that there were times
when we should NOT correct. Indeed, there are, but I should have
fine-tuned it a bit more. There are situations in which one is
morally obliged to say something, where one's silence could
actually be complicity. Gentleness and courtesy and love are still
the norm here, but one can actually harm another by not mentioning
seriously sinful matters. Careful assessments must be made as to
whom, when and how it is best to approach the matter, but we cannot
excuse ourselves by shrugging it off, saying we are not "detached"
enough to correct. That might be true in monastic issues that are
not seriously sinful, but it is not true in grave moral
issues. When in doubt, ask a pastor or spiritual director or
confessor to help you with
March 2, July 2, November 1
Chapter 25: On Weightier Faults
Let the brother who is guilty of a weightier fault be excluded both
from the table and from the oratory. Let none of the brethren join
him either for company or for conversation.
Let him be alone at the work assigned him, abiding in penitential
sorrow and pondering that terrible sentence of the Apostle where he
says that a man of that kind is handed over
for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in
the day of the Lord (1 Cor. 5:5). Let him take his meals alone in
the measure and at the hour which the Abbot shall consider suitable
for him. He shall not be blessed by those who pass by, nor shall
the food that is given him be blessed.
OK, here's a meditation that fits the feast today: How many of
those Saints we are celebrating today once found themselves under
this stringent punishment and now find themselves in heaven's
bliss? Probably more than one or two! Punishments like this are a
wake-up call. Not everyone will take that call, but no doubt many
who are whooping it up in heaven today would gladly give witness to
the wisdom of doing so!
Saints are perfected, not perfect. The final product is very
different from any point that came before. Punishments like those
today's chapter suggests are dreadful as end points, but they are
not at all so as wake-up calls, as points on the way. On the
contrary, in such cases they can have great beauty. "Amazing Grace,
how sweet the sound!"
We have different ways of giving wake-up calls today. I remember a
priest whose Abbot walked unannounced into his rectory and
said: "Pack a bag, Father, you are going into treatment for alcohol
today at Guest House. Right now!" In his case, as in so many, that
drastic step worked, thanks be to God. That priest died a very
The error, however, and it is often made out of cowardice, is not
to give ANY wake-up calls at all. Dump the penal code in the Holy
Rule and let the failing monastics figure it out for themselves.
This approach is utterly wrong.
In the first place, it woefully fails charity. Genuine love often
obliges us to do unpalatable things. To shirk that demand is
terribly wrong. Secondly, the monastic mired in whatever delusion
of sin or illness of addiction has, more often than not, lost the
ability to see clearly. That's what the community and superior must
do for such a monastic. To fail to help such a one to awaken to the
Light that is there for all is a horrible thing.
We must always remember that Christ came to call the sinners, not
simply the just. We can pay a lot of lip service to that concept
without realizing that it could be rendered as: "Christ came to
call those monastics who need excommunication, not those who
don't." Get the picture? The ones we most roundly judge (in spite
of Jesus' insistence that we never do so!) are the ones for whom He
came. To deny them any opportunity to wake up and get with the
program is awfully short of genuine love.
St. Benedict himself says that he wrote his Holy Rule "for
beginners." Well, folks, check out any skating rink and watch the
beginners there. You won't have any trouble figuring out who they
are. Their arms are awkwardly outstretched in futile attempts at
balance. They wobble, they're clumsy and inept. They fall down a LOT.
To assume that, in our brave new world, all monastics have lost
that clumsy ineptitude of beginners is a tragic mistake. We are all
beginners and we will all die beginners. That's just the way the
monastic struggle is. Daily we begin again... as the title of one
on the Holy Rule says!
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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